Since Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation “Plus” (REDD+) starting gaining traction in the UN climate negotiations in 2007, its architects and scholars have grappled with its community-level justice implications. On the one hand, supporters argue that REDD+ will help the environment and forest-dependent communities by generating payments for forest carbon services from industrialized countries seeking lower cost emissions reductions. Critics, by contrast, increasingly argue that REDD+ is a new form of colonization through capitalism, producing injustice by stripping forest communities of their rights, denying them capabilities for wellbeing, and rendering forest peoples voiceless in forest governance. This paper argues that current REDD+ debates are too focused on relatively simple visions of either distributive or procedural justice, and pay too little attention to the core recognitional justice concerns of REDD+ critics, namely questions of what values, worldviews, rights, and identities are privileged or displaced in the emergence, design, and implementation of REDD+ and with what effects. This paper examines the tensions that emerge when designing institutions to promote multi-scalar, multivalent justice in REDD+ to ask: what are the justice demands that REDD+ architects face when designing REDD+ institutions? Complexifying the concepts of justice as deployed in the debates on REDD+ can illuminate the possibilities for a diversity of alternative perspectives to generate new institutional design ideas for REDD+.
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