The newly appreciated role of deforestation and forest degradation as globally significant sources of carbon emissions has focused fresh political attention and large prospective financial flows on tropical forest management. Negotiations at the Thirteenth Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change produced a ‘road map’ toward including compensation to tropical countries for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) in a future global climate agreement. The prospect of a global REDD mechanism has spurred the development of REDD initiatives by national governments, international organizations, and private actors. These new initiatives are facing many of the same forest governance challenges that have stymied past efforts to improve the conservation and management of tropical forests. To be effective, efficient, and equitable, REDD efforts will not only have to reverse the economic incentives that drive forest loss, but will also need to clarify land tenure, link to international efforts to curb illegal logging and trade, and manage trade-offs among competing objectives. They will also need to strengthen the institutional capacity for inclusive REDD design processes, transparent monitoring of carbon emissions and financial flows, and cross-sectoral and cross-scale coordination. At the same time, REDD initiatives could provide opportunities to accelerate the required forest governance reforms. WIREs Clim Change 2010 1 803–810 DOI: 10.1002/wcc.70

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