It's been 30 years since the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations launched the Tropical Forestry Action Plan, the first global intergovernmental initiative to halt forest loss. Since then, deforestation has continued unabated, and the latest international effort to stop it — an initiative known as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) — looks no more likely to be effective. Far from protecting the world's forests, the most notable outcome of these two agreements has been, ironically, the production of reams of expensive consultancy reports.

REDD+ was created as part of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the agreement governing its implementation is expected to be finalized during the U.N. Conference on Climate Change in Paris. But if world leaders are serious about halting forest loss, they should instead abandon REDD+ and replace it with a mechanism that addresses the underlying drivers of large-scale deforestation.

The flaws in REDD+ are evident in how it approaches the problem it is meant to solve. The vast majority of its projects treat forest peoples and peasant farmers as the main agents of deforestation. REDD project developers seem to be especially fond of projects that focus on restricting traditional farming practices, even as they shy away from efforts to tackle the true causes of deforestation: the expansion of industrial agriculture, massive infrastructure projects, large-scale logging, and out-of-control consumption.