Forest carbon projects in the Ukrainian Carpathians: an assessment of potential community impacts and benefits
Reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD+) is a frequently promoted climate change mitigation strategy. As forest carbon projects proceed, we are learning how they affect local sovereignty and resource access, particularly in developing economies. Central and Eastern Europe’s temperate forests offer potential for projects, yet little is known about how the sociopolitical context of these transitional economies may influence project success. In this article, we enhance understanding of potential community impacts and explore opportunities for fair benefit distribution in Ukraine’s Carpathian Mountain region. Through a thematic qualitative and interpretive analysis of interviews and observational data, we: (1) describe what community-level forest uses and tenure rights may be affected by forest carbon projects; and (2) explore the opportunities and obstacles of fair benefit distribution and community engagement in projects in the region. Our data show that local communities in the region are important forest-dependent stakeholders, relying on the forest for fuelwood, non-timber forest products, recreation, and other intangible benefits. This indicates the need for strong social safeguards in developing forest carbon projects. While no mechanisms exist for direct revenue sharing, communities could derive other benefits that improve the local social, economic, and ecological situation. Our results further suggest that lessons from projects in developing economies can be informative to project development in post-socialist, transitioning economies.