REDD+ politics in the media: a case from Nepal


This paper analyzes public discourse on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) as it is portrayed in the media and examines how this influences effective and equitable outcomes of REDD+ in Nepal. It draws on analysis of articles in three national newspapers and interviews with radio and newspaper journalists, governmental and non-governmental stakeholders, and technical experts. Findings show that REDD+ coverage has been limited in the Nepalese print media and overall reporting on REDD+ has declined over time. The discourse is currently dominated by a small number of experts and development project implementers who portray REDD+ optimistically as an opportunity to benefit from carbon markets, while contributing to sustainable forest management. There was limited representation of the interests and concerns of marginalized groups and local communities in the public debate, thus underplaying the complexities and challenges of REDD+ development and implementation in Nepal. While the absence of debate on potential negative impacts can be explained partly by the dominance of optimistic voices in the media, it was also attributed to journalists’ limited access to independent knowledge and understanding of the issue. The resulting lack of balanced information in the public domain could undermine both the effectiveness of REDD+ implementation and its equitable outcome.

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  1. 1.

    FECOFUN is a national network of more than 15,000 community forest user groups across Nepal that has the core objective of defending community rights in forest resources.

  2. 2.

    NEFIN is a national-level umbrella organization of indigenous people which consists of 48 indigenous member organizations across Nepal.

  3. 3.

    An official from the REDD-Cell (interviewed in 2011), referred to an internal assessment note of the World Bank, ‘the bank appreciated the Nepal’s R-PP for [its] level of stakeholder participation during its preparation’.

  4. 4.

    In 2015, Kantipur, Gorkhapatra and The Himalayan Times published 3,80,000, 45,000 and 71,000 copies per day respectively.

  5. 5.

    Note that, in the first research phase, we identified and coded articles from 2005 to 2011, and updated the database in early 2016 to cover articles up to the end of 2015. The same methods were applied, and calibration of the coding was conducted by the same researchers.

  6. 6.

    Fifteen interviews were conducted in 2011–2012 that included journalists (9), government officials (1), CSO representatives (2) and experts (3). In 2015, we conducted 11 interviews with journalists (6), experts (2), a government official (1) and CSO representatives (2).

  7. 7.

    During a workshop organized to share finding of this research in December 2013 (ForestAction and CIFOR ForestAction 2013).

  8. 8.

    1 USD was equivalent to 105 Nepalese rupees in 2015.

  9. 9.

    Economics and markets: The topic refers mostly to economic aspects related to industry, commerce, markets (including carbon markets), business groups, business lobbyists, specific products or spokespeople of business interests. It includes economic impacts upon society.

  10. 10.

    Ecology: The topic refers mostly to ecological or ‘green’ issues such as forests, plants, biodiversity, conservation and forest protection, or CO2 emissions/stocks/sequestration in relation to deforestation and forest degradation. This topic is primarily concerned with the natural science aspects reported in the media following the categorization used by Boykoff (2008).

  11. 11.

    Politics and policy making: The topic refers mostly to individuals, processes or claims of governments and other political actors (parties), whether international, national, opposition, the civil service, quasi-NGOs or local authorities. This includes policy design and implementation.

  12. 12.

    Governance: This refers mainly to general governance conditions (corruption, law enforcement, monitoring and verification mechanisms) in a country and their implications for REDD+.

  13. 13.

    Radio Sagarmatha was the first community radio in South Asia to prioritize environmental issues.


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This research is part of the policy component of the Global Comparative Study of REDD+ of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) ( We would like to thank Niru Gurung and Lochana Rana for their contribution in terms of media content analysis. Funding for CIFOR’s research was provided by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, the Australian Agency for International Development, the UK Department for International Development, the European Commission and the US Agency for International Development.

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Correspondence to Dil B. Khatri.

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Khatri, D.B., Pham, T.T., Di Gregorio, M. et al. REDD+ politics in the media: a case from Nepal. Climatic Change 138, 309–323 (2016).

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  • REDD +
  • Nepal
  • Media discourse
  • Policy process