The REDD Game: A didactic tool for designing effective, efficient and equitable policies to deliver REDD in Bolivia
Global warming due to increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the earth's atmosphere is a growing threat to the world's environment, economies and societies. Human activities play a significant factor in the production of greenhouse gases – and emissions arising from deforestation account for up to a fifth of annual global greenhouse gas emissions.
Deforestation is a complex phenomenon, driven by a number of interacting factors. International climate change negotiations have recently focused on the possibility of a global framework to ‘reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation’ – known as REDD+. This concept proposes to put in place financial incentives to reduce deforestation rates thus preventing the emission of biomass-stored carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere.
These incentives could be made at the international level, i.e. government to government, or at a more local level, directed towards landowners or communities living in forest areas. However, many concerns have been raised about how such incentives might be implemented on the ground.
For example, many people living in forest areas do not have title to the land upon which they grow food. Therefore, any scheme that prevents people from clearing forest for agriculture would need to contend with the fact that such people are usually very poor and have few alternative income opportunities. On the other hand, a scheme that tries to incentivise people by paying cash to conserve forest would have to find a way, in the absence of clear title to the land, of identifying those with a valid claim to particular parcels of forest. Complicating the situation is the absence of effective government in many remote forest areas.
In principle, there are a number of different types of the Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation project's policy that might be set up. The choice of policy will depend on the conditions in a particular forest area, and the policy goals of the entity responsible for implementing the policy in the first place. For instance, some proponents of the Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation project want to establish policies that target the poorest forest users. Others want to implement policies that might also protect forest areas containing high levels of biodiversity. The problem is that, under the conditions described above, it might not be possible to have an effective Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation policy that attains different policy goals. The question that follows is how might one go about designing the ‘right’ Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation policy in a particular context?
In this project, the objective was to develop a computer-based simulation tool, known as 'Agent-Based Modelling' that might assist in designing Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation policy on the ground. To be used by policy-makers, the tool combines data and information from different sources and collected in different ways. It can then be programmed to simulate the conditions of a particular forest area. Users can then run the software to simulate what might happen, i.e. scenarios in terms of deforestation behaviour and poverty reduction, when different types of Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation policy are implemented. The idea is that through simulations, policy-makers can learn about what might or might not work in the target forest area, before implementing a policy on the ground.