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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2017

Problems, causes and solutions in the forest carbon discourse: a framework for analysing degradation narratives

Hajdu, Flora; Fischer, Klara


The term degradation' is often used in the current discourse on carbon forestry. Tree planting projects primarily aimed at mitigating climate change frequently claim that they simultaneously reduce degradation. However, despite the centrality of degradation' in the forest carbon discourse, reference is rarely made to the significant body of literature questioning generalizations about degradation in Africa since the mid-1990s. Many studies have exposed biases and problematic underlying motives in claims of degradation in various African regions. Combining this literature with discourse analysis, we present a framework for analysing degradation narratives in order to explore the extent to which these are based on evidence or opinion. We acknowledge that environmental change is complex, and increasingly so today in the face of climate change, and we stress that narratives cannot be pinned down as true or false'. However, unconfirmed truths' about degradation being acute have resulted in significant, costly and far-reaching actions to halt it. Thus there is a need to scrutinize the empirical evidence using the best available knowledge. Our framework, designed to be easily applicable for practitioners, could facilitate increased engagement with and scrutiny of degradation claims in forest carbon interventions.


deforestation; climate change; degradation; narrative; Africa

Published in

Climate and Development
2017, Volume: 9, number: 6, pages: 537-547