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Barriers to Zero Tropical Deforestation and ‘Opening up’ Sustainable and Just Transitions


The UN Sustainable Development Goals include ambitious targets for tackling deforestation and emphasise the roles of diverse actors and partnerships for transformative change. Initiatives for governing tropical forests take multiple forms, including ‘zero deforestation’ supply chain initiatives, carbon forestry, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), legislative frameworks that intend to cut off markets for illegally harvested timber, and emerging landscape and jurisdictional approaches. Drawing on insights from political ecology and sustainability transitions research, this chapter discusses the barriers to transitioning to ‘zero deforestation’ through consideration of: (1) the contested framing of the problem of deforestation, (2) how sustainable forest governance is translated and enacted across scales, and (3) who is represented in ‘the transition’. This reveals opportunities for sustainable and just transitions for forests. We argue that careful attention must be paid to the influences of power and politics surrounding forest governance and its social and ecological outcomes, and the need to challenge orthodoxies around economic growth that currently underpin policy responses.

Table of Contents: Transitioning to Sustainable Life on Land