Interest in forest-based carbon storage has led to growth in financing for carbon forestry. Most financial strategies rest on strong assumptions which are not valid in many parts of the world. We use cases drawn from tribal forestry in the US and government forestry in India to illustrate how carbon finance relies on the presence of enforceable rights, representative and accountable institutions, clear incentives, and symmetrical power relations. In the absence of these conditions, carbon finance provides perverse incentives that undermine biodiversity and human rights without storing carbon. We suggest that for forest-based carbon storage to be successful, more attention needs to be paid to underlying political reforms, as well as to policies that are not reliant on finance.
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