Inclusive Polycentric Climate Governance and Forest-maintaining Development? The Case of the GCF Task Force

09:00 Thursday 30 May


Room S1


Fronika De Wit (Portugal) 1; Paula Martins Freitas (Brazil) 2; João Ferrão (Portugal) 1

1 - ICS - University of Lisbon; 2 - FAAO Faculdade da Amazonia Ocidental

The Earth System is facing boundaries to high anthropogenic pressures, and to create a safe operation space the Planetary Boundary (PB) Framework has estimated nine global boundaries. Although the PB Framework gives us a ‘planetary playing field’, critics point to its missing social dimension: it describes a safe, but not necessary a just operating space. With the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in 2015, researchers updated the PB Framework and placed it into a more social context. However, they did not provide pathways for just development inside the boundaries. Related to the PB Framework are the Tipping Points: planetary thresholds that, when crossed, may drastically change ecosystems or even lead to their collapse. Planetary boundaries are of great concern for policy-making and require a restructuring of governance arrangements towards more bottom-up approaches with polycentric patterns. An example of polycentric climate governance is the Governors’ Climate and Forests (GCF) Task Force, an international cooperation between 38 subnational governments of ten countries launched in 2008 that works on protecting tropical forests, reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and promoting realistic pathways to forest-maintaining rural development.

This study analyses the potential and pitfalls of polycentric climate governance for just development by using the GCF Task Force as a case study. Using MaxQDA software, we conducted a qualitative data analysis of the reports published by the GCF Task Force over the last 10 years. In addition, we conducted fieldwork in three GCF Task Force member states, two situated in the Amazon (Ucayali-Peru and Acre-Brazil) and one in Europe (Catalunya-Spain). The collected policy documents and semi-structured interviews with representatives of the three subnational governments were analyzed on its implications for development with social justice. Results indicate enhanced societal participation, transparency and accountability and a strong focus on low-emission economic development. However, a lack of a more territorial, interdisciplinary and intercultural perspective might increase inequality and injustice. Tropical forest regions, such as the Amazon, need a new standard of regional development, with a more interdisciplinary and intercultural focus capable of improving the life conditions of their populations and overcoming the threats to their sustainability.