By Rhett Butler
REDD — reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries — is a proposed climate change mitigation mechanism that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by paying developing countries to stop cutting down their forests. Tropical deforestation is the source of 12-17 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities, a share larger than all the world's cars, trucks, ships, planes, and trains combined.
A properly designed REDD mechanism is widely seen as a cost-effective approach to simultaneously conserve forests, slow climate change, protect biodiversity, foster sustainable development, and maintain important ecological services provided by healthy forest ecosystems. The concept of REDD has won support from a wide range of interests, including conservationists, big business, scientists, governments, development agencies, and some environmental and indigenous rights groups. However concerns still remain over how REDD will be implemented and whether benefits will be fairly shared between stakeholders.
History of REDD
The concept of REDD is not a new idea. Compensating tropical forest conservation was proposed by environmental scientists in the 1980s and 1990s but it wasn't until the later half of the 1990s that the idea gained much currency at the international level, when it was discussed at various United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) events, including COP3 in Kyoto in 1997. Nevertheless technical concerns and opposition from some environmental groups (led by WWF) resulted in forest conservation being excluded from the Kyoto Protocol by 2001.
The concept of 'avoided deforestation' re-emerged on the international stage in 2005 with the formation of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations (CfRN), a group of tropical countries lobbying for the inclusion of forest conservation as a way to mitigate to climate change. Led by Papua New Guinea and Costa Rica, the Coalition for Rainforest Nations presented a draft proposal "Reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries: approaches to stimulate action" at COP11 in Montreal in 2005. Two years of negotiations and technical advancements culminated in the Bali Action Plan of December 2007, which called for "policy approaches and positive incentives on issues relating to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries [REDD], and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stock in developing countries." Support for REDD has deepened and broadened since Bali: REDD was one of the only areas of progress during climate talks in Copenhagen in December 2009.
Since its inception as "avoided deforestation", the forest protection mechanism has expanded to encompass forest degradation (the second "D" in REDD). It later evolved to include sustainable forest management (i.e. reducing impact logging) and reforestation, becoming known as REDD-plus ("REDD+").
Key REDD issues
While there is now substantial support for REDD, many issues remain unsettled, including financing to support the mechanism and provide sufficient economic incentives to stop deforestation; criteria for establishing credible deforestation baselines; technical aspects of monitoring and verifying change in forest cover; concerns over poor governance and illegal logging; international leakage, whereby forest conservation in one country drives deforestation in another; scale of implementation, including the debate over "national" versus "sub-national" projects; equity, including land tenure, ownership, and participation of forest-dependent communities; questions on how to address drivers of deforestation including consumption in rich countries; sustainable forest management (i.e. reduced impact logging) versus protection of primary forests as intact ecosystems; protection of biodiversity and environmental services in non-carbon-rich ecosystems; and controversies over carbon offsets and including forest carbon in market-based trading schemes.
Although an agreement on REDD has still not been signed, projects are already underway in a number of countries and industrialized countries have committed billions of dollars to REDD start-up initiatives via the UN-REDD Programme, the World Bank's Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, and other entities. Once an agreement is finalized, 2013 is the earliest REDD would formally commence, following the expiration of the Kyoto Protocol.
The following overview is from the UN's Reporting REDD.
Once a system is in place, market-based
funding mechanisms such as carbon trading,
and private sector involvement, could be
introduced. Some proposals back a combination
of government and private sector funding.
Carbon trading is based on the idea that
companies and governments may meet
targets for reducing their carbon emissions
by paying for carbon reductions elsewhere
in the global economy instead. REDD could
allow credits to be issued which would
quantify the amount of carbon saved through
'avoided deforestation' — not cutting trees
down. The credits could then be traded on
An advantage of carbon trading is that it could
raise money quickly. A disadvantage is that
flooding existing carbon markets with REDD
credits could further dilute the already low
value of carbon. A low carbon price means
there is less incentive for companies to switch
to technologies that reduce carbon emissions.
Developing countries would voluntarily opt
in to the REDD mechanism, so for it to work
the scheme would have to ensure that there is
more money in protecting forests than in logging
or agriculture. Because those responsible for
commercially driven deforestation often control
the forest area in which they operate, they need
to be involved in REDD schemes. Typically,
this involves paying them to manage the
forest sustainably, or at least not to engage
in large-scale logging or land conversion.
REDD will have to compensate for income lost
as a result of stopping forest clearance — known
as the 'opportunity cost.' While REDD may
be able to match this amount for poor farmers,
matching lost income from lucrative agricultural
production such as soya and oil palm cultivation
or from valuable timber will be very costly.
If payments are disrupted, or the amount falls
short of the value of the timber in the forest
or what could be grown on cleared land,
a return to cutting down trees could quickly
occur. To avert this problem, REDD would
need to ensure a steady flow of funds over
long periods. Negotiators concerned that
fluctuations in the carbon market would be too
erratic advocate a separate REDD fund based
on donations from industrialized countries.
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Key REDD Programs
Some notable REDD Publications
- Angelsen, A. et al (2008). Moving ahead with REDD: issues, options and implications PDF. CIFOR.
- Angelsen, A.; Brockhaus, M.; Kanninen, M.; Sills, E.; Sunderlin, W.D.; Wertz-Kanounnikoff, S.; Abdel Nour, H.O.; (eds.) (2009). Realising REDD+: National strategy and policy options PDF: English (3.9 MB). CIFOR.
- Baalman, P. and Schlamadinger, B. Scaling up AFOLU Mitigation Activities in Non-Annex I Countries. Climate Strategies.
- Betts, R., Gornall, J., Hughes, J., Kaye, N., McNeall, D., and Wiltshire, A. (2008). Forests and emissions. The Met Office Hadley Centre.
- Bond, I. et al (2009). Incentives to sustain forest ecosystem services: A review and lessons for REDD. International Institute for Environment and Development
- Butler, R.A., Koh, L.P., and Ghazoul, J. (2009). REDD in the red: palm oil could undermine carbon payment schemes. Conservation Letters DOI: 10.1111/j.1755-263X.2009.00047.x
- Cotula, L. and Mayers, J. (2009) Tenure in REDD: Start-point or afterthought? International Institute for Environment and Development
- Dooley, K. Griffiths, T., Leake, H., and Ozinga, S. (2008). Cutting Corners - World Bank's forest and carbon fund fails forests and peoples. FERN.
- Eliasch, J et al (2008). The Eliasch Review: Climate Change - Financing Global Forests.
- Franco, M. (2008) Carbon absorption and storage. School of Biological Sciences, Plymouth University.
- Grieg-Gran, M. (2008). The cost of avoiding deforestation. International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).
- Hall, R. REDD myths: a critical review of proposed mechanisms to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation in developing countries. Friends of the Earth. December 2008.
- Hardcastle, P and Baird, D. (2008) Capability and cost assessment of the major forest nations to measure and monitor their forest carbon. LTS International.
- Hoare, A. et al (2008) Estimating the cost of building capacity in rainforest nations to allow them to participate in a global REDD mechanism , Chatham House, ProForest, Overseas Development Institute (ODI), EcoSecurities.
- Hope, C (2008)Valuing the climate change impacts of tropical deforestation. Judge Business School, University of Cambridge.
- Hope, C and Castilla-Rubio, J C (2008) A first cost benefit analysis of action to reduce deforestation. Judge Business School, University of Cambridge.
- Justin Moat, Charlotte Crouch, William Milliken, Paul Smith, Martin Hamilton and Susana BaenaRapid forest inventory and mapping: monitoring forest cover and land use change ,The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
- Kellndorfer, J. (2007). New Eyes in the Sky: Cloud-Free Tropical Forest Monitoring for REDD with the Japanese Advanced Land Observation Satellite (ALOS) [PDF]. The Woods Hole Research Center. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP), Thirteenth session. 3-14 December 2007
- Laporte, N. et al (2007). Reducing CO2 emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo [PDF]. Presented by the Woods Hole Research Center at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP), Thirteenth session 3-14 December 2007 in Bali, Indonesia.
- Madeira, E.C.M. (2008) Policies to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) in Developing Countries. RESOURCES FOR THE FUTURE.
- Miles, L., Kapos, V., Lysenko, I., and Campbell, A. (2008) Mapping vulnerability of tropical forest to conversion and resulting potential CO2 emissions. UNEP/WCMC.
- Mykola Gusti, Petr Havlik and Michael ObersteinerTechnical description of the IIASA model cluster , International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA).
- Nepstad, D. (2007). The Costs and Benefits of Reducing Carbon Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in the Brazilian Amazon [PDF]. The Woods Hole Research Center. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP), Thirteenth session. 3-14 December 2007
- Olander, L., Boyd, W., Lawlor, K., Madeira, E.M., and Niles, J.O. (2009). International Forest Carbon and the Climate Change Challenge: Issues and Options. Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.
- Olander, L., Boyd, W., Lawlor, K., Madeira, E.M., and Niles, J.O.(2009). Including International Forest Carbon Incentives in Climate Policy: Understanding the Economics. Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.
- Olander, L., Boyd, W., Lawlor, K., Madeira, E.M., and Niles, J.O.(2009). The Crucial Role of Forests in Combating Climate Change. Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.
- Parker, C., Mitchell, A., Trivedi, M., and Mardas, N. (2008). Little REDD Book. Global Canopy Programme
- Sajwaj, T., Harley, M., and Parker, C. (2008) Forest management impacts on ecosystem services. AEA.
- Sathaye, J. (2008). Updating carbon density and opportunity cost parameters in deforesting regions in the GCOMAP model. Integrated Environmental Solutions (IES).
- Schwartzman, S., Nepstad, D., and Moutinho, P (2007). GETTING REDD RIGHT - Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Environmental Defense / The Woods Hole Research Center / Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazônia (IPAM).
- Stickler, C et al (2007). Readiness For Redd: A Preliminary Global Assessment Of Tropical Forested Land Suitability For Agriculture [PDF]. The Woods Hole Research Center. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP), Thirteenth session. 3-14 December 2007
- Thoumi, G. (2009) Emeralds on the Equator: An Avoided Deforestation Carbon Markets Strategy Manual. University of Michigan
- Viana, V. Financing REDD: how government funds can work with the carbon market. International Institute for Environment and Development
- Wilson, E. (2009). Company-Led Approaches to Conflict Resolution in the Forest Sector. [PDF 298K] The Forests Dialogue, Connecticut, US
The following overview is from the UN's Reporting REDD.
Extra amount of carbon saved or stored
because of projects carried out through
climate change agreements.
Baseline or Reference level (RL)
Historical reference point (date or year)
against which the rate of greenhouse
gas emissions from deforestation or forest
degradation can be compared.
The right to use carbon credits or offsets
to satisfy limits on greenhouse gas emissions
or to reduce penalties for exceeding the
Ecosystem that accumulates and
Removal of carbon from the atmosphere
and storage in carbon sinks through natural
or human-induced methods.
The process of buying and selling carbon
credits. Large companies or organizations
are assigned targets for the amount of carbon
they are allowed to emit. A company that
exceeds its target will need to buy carbon
credits to offset the extra carbon it has emitted.
A company that uses less than its quota can
sell surplus credits.
The conversion of forest land to non-forested
land through human activity.
Human-induced long-term loss of forest,
characterized by the reduction of tree
crown cover, but not yet considered as
Tribe or community native to a particular
region and sharing a collective identity
who retain some or all of their own social,
cultural and political institutions.
Leakage or emissions displacement
When efforts to reduce emissions in one
area lead to an increase in carbon emissions
in another area.
Obligation on the implementing party to
guarantee that the emissions reduction credited
in the REDD scheme is permanent.
Actions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions
to the atmosphere.
Payment to emissions reduction projects
to compensate for greenhouse gas emissions.
The cost of compensating for financial gains
from deforestation practices such as logging
The following definitions are from the International Institute for Environment and Development.
The acronym stands for ‘reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation’. This issue was first placed on the agenda of the 2005 international climate change negotiations. At that point the agenda item was called ‘reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries and approaches to stimulate action’. As a result, this is the name of the decision on REDD agreed at the 2007 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Bali, Indonesia (decision 2/CP.13). Decision 2/CP.13 acknowledges that forest degradation also leads to emissions and needs to be addressed when reducing emissions from deforestation. The ‘DD’ in REDD now stands for degradation and deforestation.
Along with the separate decision on REDD (see above), REDD is included in the Bali Action Plan (decision 1/CP.13) as a component of enhanced action on mitigation (curbing emissions). Parties to the UNFCCC have agreed to consider policy approaches and positive incentives on issues relating to REDD in developing countries and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries. It is this last clause on the role of conservation and sustainable management that has added the ‘+’ to the REDD discussion.
An expected, or business-as-usual, emission of carbon dioxide from deforestation and forest degradation in the absence of additional efforts to curb such emissions — used as a benchmark against which emissions reductions can be measured.
To deliver real reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, REDD must satisfy the following conditions.
additionality - Proof that any reduction in emissions from a REDD project is genuinely additional to reductions that would occur if that project were not in place.
no leakage - Leakage is a reduction in carbon emissions in one area that results in increased emissions in another. A classic example is where curbing clearfelling in one region of forest drives farmers to clearfell in another.
permanence - The long-term viability of reduced emissions from a REDD project. This is heavily dependent on the forested area's vulnerability to deforestation and/or degradation.
Participants in the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility
UN-REDD Programme - Countries receiving support