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Focal Study 5: Forests, Global Carbon Markets and Socio-ecological Inequalities in Peru

This focal study investigates the interactions between social inequalities in Peru and REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation). REDD is a mechanism that integrates tropical forests into global carbon markets; it is a means to compensate industrial carbon emissions by paying to maintain and expand forests as a natural carbon sink. For forest-rich countries such as Peru, REDD offers very attractive source of revenue. However, for forest-dwellers, particularly for smallholders in Amazonia, implementation of REDD is ridden with risks. REDD’s emphasis on conservation may threaten the livelihoods of smallholders and curtail their access to land. Moreover, given the information and power asymmetries among the different actors in the forest sector, it is unclear whether smallholders will benefit from global carbon markets.

While the inhabitants of the Amazon region have been linked for generations to global markets (e.g. though rubber or oil), the introduction of REDD—a global regime that is also negotiated at national and local scales—raises new questions. This project is focused on three main questions: (1) what are the distributive effects of voluntary carbon markets and REDD readiness proposals? (2) what is the role of smallholders as agents of deforestation? and (3) what is the possible role of smallholders in a sustainable and inclusive economy?

We ground this work on an analysis of the policies and actions of the Peruvian state (e.g. Ministries of Agriculture and Environment), and of private actors (e.g. environmental NGOs and carbon entrepreneurs). A literature review, complemented by interviews with key actors, is designed to understand how these policies emerge, and how they change and structure access to land, forests, and financial resources. Ultimately, our goal is to show under what conditions a global mechanisms such as REDD either exacerbates or helps reduce socio-ecological inequalities in Peru.

Researcher: Alejandro Guarín


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