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.
Emissions from rainforest logging average 16% of those from deforestation|
(04/08/2014) Carbon emissions from selective logging operations in tropical rainforests are roughly a sixth of those from outright forest clearing, finds a new study that evaluated 13 forestry concessions in six countries. The study analyzed carbon losses from elements of logging operations, including timber extraction, collateral damage to surrounding vegetation, and logging infrastructure like roads and skid trails.
Study warns of possible REDD+ land grab
(03/30/2014) A UN program to reduce global carbon emissions may be putting indigenous communities at risk, jeopardizing local land rights and laying the groundwork for large-scale “carbon grabs” by governments and private investors, argues a new report.
Indigenous communities demand forest rights, blame land grabs for failure to curb deforestation
(03/25/2014) Indigenous and forest-dependent peoples from Asia, Africa and Latin America have called for increased recognition of customary land rights in order to curb deforestation and ensure the survival of their communities. The Palangkaraya Declaration on Deforestation and the Rights of Forest Peoples calls on governments to uphold forest peoples’ rights to control and manage their customary lands and to halt rights-violating development projects being carried out without consent from local communities.
U.N.: We can save world's forests at a fraction of cost of fossil fuels subsidies
(03/21/2014) Investing $30 billion a year in forest conservation — less than seven percent of the $480 billion spent annually on fossil fuels subsidies — could help stop deforestation while accelerating a transition toward a greener global economy, asserts a new report published by the International Resource Panel (IRP) and the UN REDD Programme.
Community's push to clear forest for plantation challenges efforts to conserve in Indonesia
(03/20/2014) In the swampy peatlands of Basilam Baru in Sumatra's Riau Province a conflict between a community and a woodpulp company is illustrating some of the intractable challenges of conserving forests and addressing deforestation in Indonesia. On first glance the story seems depressingly familiar. One actor wants to preserve the forest, which serves as critical habitat for endangered Sumatran tigers and clouded leopards. The other wants to clear it for a plantation.
West Sumatra joins Indonesia's REDD+ program
(03/12/2014) West Sumatra has officially joined Indonesia's effort to cut forest loss as a pilot province under the country's REDD+ program.
New web tool aims to help indigenous groups protect forests and navigate REDD+
(03/12/2014) A new online tool, dubbed ForestDefender, aims to help indigenous people understand and implement their rights in regard to forests. The database, developed by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), brings together vast amounts of legal information—both national and international—on over 50 countries.
Microsoft buys Madagascar carbon credits
(02/15/2014) Technology giant Microsoft has bought the first carbon credits generated under a rainforest conservation project in Madagascar, reports Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), which organized and backed the initiative.
REDD+ should finance corridors between protected areas, argues study
(02/14/2014) The Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) program should finance protection of corridors linking existing protected areas in order to better safeguard biodiversity while simultaneously helping mitigate climate change, argues a study published last month in Nature Climate Change.
Reduced impact logging failing to cut emissions in Indonesia
(02/10/2014) Advocates for reduced impact logging in tropical forests often make a case that better forest management cuts carbon emissions relative to traditional forms of timber harvesting. While the argument for altering logging approaches to limit forest damage makes intuitive sense, a new study suggests that the carbon benefits may not bear out in practice.
Next big idea in forest conservation? Incentivizing keeping primary forests intact
(02/07/2014) Much of Dr. Corey Bradshaw's work has a singular aim: to keep primary habitats and functioning ecosystems intact. According to Bradshaw, the existing system of carbon trading rules needs to be changed so that primary forests are given a higher value than other forms of land use. 'Nothing, can replace primary vegetation, both in terms of biodiversity value and other ecosystem services.'
REDD+ could fail without near-term financial support
(02/06/2014) An ambitious plan to save the world's tropical forests by valuing them for the carbon the store may fail to reduce deforestation unless governments and multilateral institutions significantly scale up financial commitments to the program, argues a new report published by the Global Canopy Programme, the Amazon Environmental Research Institute, Fauna & Flora International, and UNEP Finance Initiative.
How “insect soup” might change the face of conservation
(01/23/2014) Much of what we know about patterns of biodiversity has come from extensive fieldwork, with expert researchers sampling and identifying species in a process that takes thousands of man-hours. But new technologies may revolutionize this process, allowing us to monitor changes in biodiversity at speeds and scales unimaginable just a decade ago.
Rainforest news review for 2013
(12/26/2013) 2013 was full of major developments in efforts to understand and protect the world's tropical rainforests. The following is a review of some of the major tropical forest-related news stories for the year. As a review, this post will not cover everything that transpired during 2013 in the world of tropical forests. Please feel free to highlight anything this post missed via the comments section at the bottom. Also please note that this review focuses only on tropical forests.
Indonesia appoints head of REDD+ agency to implement forest conservation plan
(12/20/2013) Indonesia has selected the first chief of its new REDD+ agency: Heru Prasetyo, an administrator and former private sector management consultant, reports Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's office. Prasetyo will take up the challenging task of implementing Indonesia's REDD+ program, which aims to steer the Southeast Asian nation away from business-as-usual management of its fast dwindling forests. The REDD+ program is part of the broader government plan to cut Indonesia's greenhouse has emissions by at least 26 percent from a projected 2020 baseline.
REDD+ program to cut deforestation gets final approval in Warsaw
(11/22/2013) Negotiators in Warsaw have reached formal agreement on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+), a program that aims to compensate tropical countries for protecting their forests. After seven years of discussions, countries approved the final REDD+ text on Friday at the COP17.
Govts pledge $280M to slow deforestation for agriculture
(11/21/2013) The governments of Norway, Britain and the United States pledged $280 million toward a new initiative that aims to reduce emissions associated with forest conversion for agriculture, reports Reuters. The money will come out of previously committed funds for climate change. The initiative, called the BioCarbon Fund Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes and administered by the World Bank, focuses on the 80 percent of deforestation that is driven by agriculture.
Why is Amazon deforestation climbing?
(11/17/2013) The 28 percent increase in deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon over last year that was reported this week is bad news, but it is not surprising. It is bad news because the decline in deforestation since 2005 has given us the single largest contribution to climate change mitigation on the planet, far surpassing the reductions in emissions achieved by any Annex 1 country under the Kyoto Protocol. Brazil’s achievement is particularly noteworthy because it did not come at the expense of agricultural production; beef and soybean production continued to grow.
Prize exploring the next big idea in rainforest conservation announced
(11/16/2013) Mongabay.org, a non-profit that aims to raise awareness about social and environmental issues relating to tropical forests and other ecosystems, has announced the first winner of its environmental reporting prize its Special Reporting Initiative (SRI) program. The prize sought proposals to explore the question of what's the next big idea in tropical biodiversity conservation. After a two-month application window and a month of deliberations, this week an independent panel of journalists and tropical forest specialists selected environmental journalist Wendee Nicole as the first recipient of the Mongabay Prize for Environmental Reporting.
Zero net deforestation is the wrong target, warn experts
(11/14/2013) Environmental initiatives that target zero net deforestation may miss their mark when it comes to slowing climate change and protecting biodiversity, warns a commentary published in this week's issue of the journal Science. While zero net deforestation may seem like a worthy target in efforts to curb forest loss, Sandra Brown and Daniel Zarin argue that the goal is at best, ambiguous, and at worst, may lead to perverse outcomes for the world's forests.
Redeeming REDD: a conversation with Michael Brown
(11/11/2013) In Redeeming REDD: Policies, Incentives and Social Feasibility for Avoided Deforestation, anthropologist Michael Brown relays a constructive critique of the contemporary aims, standards and modalities for mitigating climate change by reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD). Brown advocates for REDD as a viable mechanism for the long-term pro-poor conservation and restoration of tropical forests as well—but only if local forest dwellers and Indigenous. Peoples can join the negotiating table and act as forest stewards. Local people must first be empowered to make 'socially feasible' decisions that are necessary for their livelihoods and well-being. In other words, there can be no environmentalism without credible local leadership, which requires investment in capacity building at the local level for sustainable institutions.
With training, local communities can accurately and cost-effectively measure forest carbon
(10/29/2013) Provided two to three days of training, forest communities can accurately and cost-effectively measure biomass and other data needed to assess REDD+ projects, finds a new study published in the journal Ecology and Society.
40% of Brazil's rural area owned by 1.4% of landholders
(10/16/2013) Forty percent of the 509 million hectares of land classified as 'rural property' in Brazil is owned by 1.4 percent of rural households, finds a new analysis conducted by a group of Brazilian NGO's.
3 Peruvian states join sub-national push for REDD+
(10/11/2013) An initiative that is developing a framework for REDD+ programs at state and provincial levels gained three more members last week.
Credits from first African government-backed REDD+ project go on sale
(09/17/2013) Carbon credits generated from protecting thousands of hectares of endangered rainforest in northeastern Madagascar have now been certified for sale, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the project's main organizer. The development represents the first time that credits generated by African government-owned project have been put on the voluntary carbon market.
Indigenous people of Honduras granted one million hectares of rainforest
(09/12/2013) One-hundred and fifty years after a treaty with England granted the Miskito people rights over their land--a treaty which was never fully respected--the government of Honduras has officially handed over nearly a million hectares (970,000 hectares) of tropical forest along the Caribbean Coast to the indigenous people. The Miskito are found along the eastern coast of both Honduras and Nicaragua and number around 200,000.
Amazon rainforest tribe sells REDD+ credits to Brazilian cosmetics giant
(09/10/2013) The Paiter-Suruí, a rainforest tribe that in June became the first indigenous group to generate REDD+ credits under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), has now closed their first deal. As reported by Ecosystem Marketplace, Brazilian cosmetics giant Natura Cosméticos has purchased 120,000 tons of carbon offsets from the the Surui Forest Carbon Project in Rondônia, Brazil.
Indonesia finally establishes REDD+ agency to tackle deforestation
(09/07/2013) Indonesia has finally established an agency to implement the country's Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) program. The REDD+ agency, established by a decree from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Friday, is a ministry-level body that will coordinate a national REDD+ strategy between various ministries that influence and control land use policy across the sprawling archipelago.
$450/ha tax on deforestation could help curb forest loss in Bolivia, suggests new simulation
(09/01/2013) Levying a $450 per hectare tax on deforested lands could help curb forest clearing in Bolivia, suggests a new game-based simulation developed by researchers.
UN REDD program failing to build capacity for indigenous people in Panama
(08/22/2013) The U.N.'s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (UN-REDD) program may be faltering in Panama due to its failure to build capacity for indigenous people who should play a central role in the initiative, argue researchers writing in the journal Nature.
Ecuador shelves big idea for saving the Amazon
(08/16/2013) The fate of the most biodiverse rainforest on Earth has been decided: it will be drilled for oil.
Researchers produce the most accurate carbon map for an entire country
(07/22/2013) Researchers working in Panama have produced the most accurate carbon map for an entire country. Using satellite imagery and extremely high-resolution Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) data from airplane-based sensors, a team led by Greg Asner produced a detailed carbon map across the Central American country's forests. The map reveals variations in forest carbon density resulting from elevation, slope, climate, vegetation type, and canopy coverage.
California's next innovation: performance-based rainforest conservation (Commentary)
(07/22/2013) Californians are known as innovation leaders, and once again, we are on the verge of demonstrating critical leadership. Only this time it isn’t about the Internet, social networking, reality television, venture capital or electric cars. It is about stopping tropical deforestation and supporting local communities. 'What!?' you say? How is the great state of California, home of bankrupt and massive, thirsty desert cities and Silicon Valley, a place that elected such juggernauts of history as Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger, about to lead in avoiding tropical deforestation?
Deforestation rate falls in Congo Basin countries
(07/22/2013) Deforestation has fallen in Congo Basin countries over the past decade despite a sharp increase in the rate of forest clearing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to a new study published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B as part of a set of 18 papers on the region's tropical forests. The special issue, which was put together by Oxford University's Yadvinder Malhi, covers a range of issues relating to the rainforests of the Congo Basin, including deforestation, the impacts of global change, the history and key characteristics of the region's forests, and resource extraction, among others.
Developer of Indonesia's first REDD+ project confirms status of forest conservation initiative
(07/19/2013) Infinite Earth, the developer behind Indonesia's first approved REDD+ project, has refuted an NGO's claims that the project has not been approved by the Indonesian government.
Panel lays out best practices for REDD+ credits in California's carbon market
(07/19/2013) A panel of scientific experts has released a final report outlining how carbon credits generated from tropical forest conservation could be used under California's cap-and-trade system while minimizing risks to forest-dependent communities and wildlife.
80% of rainforests in Malaysian Borneo logged
(07/17/2013) 80 percent of the rainforests in Malaysian Borneo have been heavily impacted by logging, finds a comprehensive study that offers the first assessment of the spread of industrial logging and logging roads across areas that were considered some of Earth's wildest lands less than 30 years ago. The research, conducted by a team of scientists from the University of Tasmania, University of Papua New Guinea, and the Carnegie Institution for Science, is based on analysis of satellite data using Carnegie Landsat Analysis System-lite (CLASlite), a freely available platform for measuring deforestation and forest degradation. It estimated the state of the region's forests as of 2009.
Billions lost to corruption in Indonesia’s forest sector, says report
(07/17/2013) Corruption and mismanagement in Indonesia’s forest sector have cost the government billions of dollars in losses in recent years, including over $7 billion in losses from 2007-2011, Human Rights Watch said in a report released yesterday. The report also blasted the country’s 'green growth' strategy, saying that despite recent reforms, Indonesia’s forestry policies as they are implemented today continue to allow widespread forest clearing and threaten the rights and livelihoods of forest-dependent communities.
Australia terminates landmark REDD+ project in Borneo
(07/03/2013) Australia is ending its major forest restoration project in Indonesian Borneo, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.
Smoke over Sumatra: Why Indonesia's fires are a global concern
(06/26/2013) During the smoky season, or 'musim kabut' as it is called in Indonesia, skeletons of leaves fall from the sky and disintegrate like melting snowflakes in children’s hands.
Why Panama's indigenous pulled out of the UN's REDD program
(06/25/2013) This week in Lombok, Indonesia, the Policy Board of the United Nations climate change program known as UNREDD is addressing the first major test of the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples of the United Nations, which recognizes the right of Indigenous People to stop projects in their territories that could endanger their traditions and livelihoods. The National Coordinating Body of the Indigenous People of Panama pulled out of UNREDD’s national program in February and have called on the United Nations to close the program.
Peru opens deforestation data to the public, shows drop in Amazon forest clearing
(06/13/2013) Peru has made its comprehensive deforestation data available to the public.
Indonesia's first REDD project finally approved
(05/30/2013) Rimba Raya, the world's largest REDD+ project, has finally been approved by the Indonesian government and verified under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), a leading certification standard for carbon credits.
Indigenous carbon conservation project gets verification, will start generating credits
(05/30/2013) An effort by an Amazonian tribe to protect their rainforest home against encroachment and illegal logging has finally been validated and verified under a leading carbon accounting standard, enabling it to begin selling carbon credits.
Market for REDD+ carbon credits declines 8% in 2012
(05/30/2013) The market for carbon credits generated from projects that reduce deforestation and forest degradation — a climate change mitigation approach known as REDD+ — dipped eight percent in 2012 according to an annual assessment of the global voluntary carbon market.
Indigenous association to sue to shut down Panama's REDD+ program
(05/17/2013) Panama's largest association of indigenous people will sue the Panamanian government to shut down the country's Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) program.
Analysis: Indonesia renews moratorium on logging, palm plantations
(05/16/2013) Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono made a bold and courageous decision this week to extend the country’s forest moratorium. With this decision, which aims to prevent new clearing of primary forests and peat lands for another two years, the government could help protect valuable forests and drive sustainable development.
Indonesia officially extends forestry moratorium
(05/15/2013) The Indonesian government has officially extended its moratorium on new logging and plantation concessions in 65 million hectares of forests and peatlands for another two years. The move, which had been expected, was announced Wednesday by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Microsoft puts price on carbon, buys credits from forest conservation project
(05/09/2013) Microsoft is 'offsetting' some of its greenhouse gas emissions by buying credits generated by a forest conservation project in Kenya.
Brazil's satellite monitoring reduced Amazon deforestation by 60,000 sq km in 5 years
(05/08/2013) Brazil's advanced satellite monitoring system, coupled with increased law enforcement, was responsible for nearly 60 percent of the 101,000 square kilometer-drop in deforestation observed between 2007 and 2011, argues a new study published an international think tank.
Debate heats up over California's plan to reduce emissions via rainforest protection
(05/07/2013) As the public comment period for California's cap-and-trade program draws to a close, an alliance of environmental activists have stepped up a heated campaign to keep carbon credits generated by forest conservation initiatives in tropical countries out of the scheme. These groups say that offsets generated under the so-called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) mechanism, will undermine efforts to cut emissions as home, while potentially leading to abuses abroad. However supporters of forest conservation-based credits say the program may offer the best hope for saving the world's beleaguered rainforests, which continue to fall at a rate of more than 8 million hectares per year.
Indigenous tribes say effects of climate change already felt in Amazon rainforest
(04/30/2013) Tribal groups in Earth's largest rainforest are already being affected by shifts wrought by climate change, reports a paper published last week in the British journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. The paper, which is based on a collection of interviews conducted with indigenous leaders in the Brazilian Amazon, says that native populations are reporting shifts in precipitation patterns, humidity, river levels, temperature, and fire and agricultural cycles. These shifts, measured against celestial timing used by indigenous groups, are affecting traditional ways of life that date back thousands of years.
Featured video: local communities successfully conserve forests in Ethiopia
(04/17/2013) A participatory forest management (PFM) program in Ethiopia has made good on forest preservation and expansion, according a recent article and video interview (below) from the Guardian. After 15 years, the program has aided one community in expanding its forest by 9.2 percent in the last decade, while still allowing community access to forest for smallscale logging in Ethiopia's Bale Mountains.
Conservation policies that boost farm yields may ultimately undermine forest protection, argues study
(04/17/2013) Rising agricultural profitability due to higher prices, improved crop productivity, and forest conservation itself could make it increasingly difficult for conservation programs tied to payments for ecosystem services to succeed, warns a study published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Fighting deforestation—and corruption—in Indonesia
(04/11/2013) The basic premise of the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) program seems simple: rich nations pay tropical countries for preserving their forests. Yet the program has made relatively limited progress on the ground since 2007, when the concept got tentative go-ahead during U.N. climate talks in Bali. The reasons for the stagnation are myriad, but despite the simplicity of the idea, implementing REDD+ is extraordinarily complex. Still the last few years have provided lessons for new pilot projects by testing what does and doesn't work. Today a number of countries have REDD+ projects, some of which are even generating carbon credits in voluntary markets. By supporting credibly certified projects, companies and individuals can claim to "offset" their emissions by keeping forests standing. However one of the countries expected to benefit most from REDD+ has been largely on the sidelines. Indonesia's REDD+ program has been held up by numerous factors, but perhaps the biggest challenge for REDD+ in Indonesia is corruption.
6 lessons for stopping deforestation on the frontier
(04/09/2013) In 1984, at the tail end of the Brazilian dictatorship, I took up residence in a frontier town called Paragominas in the eastern Amazon. I went to study rainforests and pasture restoration, but soon became captivated as well by the drama of the frontier itself. Forests were hotly contested among cattle ranchers, smallholder communities, land speculators and more than a hundred logging companies, sometimes with fatal results. If we are to meet rising global demand for food, conserve tropical forests, and mitigate climate change at the pace that is necessary, we must become much better at taming aggressive, lawless tropical forest frontiers where people are making a lot of money cutting forests down.
REDD+ and Business Sustainability: A Guide to Reversing Deforestation for Forward Thinking Companies – book review
(04/08/2013) Brian McFarland has published a concise, yet comprehensive, DōShort book titled REDD+ and Business Sustainability.
Can we meet rising food demand and save forests?
(04/03/2013) A few weeks ago the Skoll World Forum hosted an online debate on how increased global consumption can be balanced with sustainability. The debate asks how a rapidly growing world that is ever consuming can hope to feed everyone, and at the same time address the deforestation that is emitting massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere and destroying the world’s greatest tropical forests. Many contributors made very strong points—even contradicting one another in their approaches and ideas.
Improving the rigor of measuring emissions from deforestation, agriculture
(04/03/2013) While much has been written about the potential of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by protecting tropical forests, a proposed program to do just that has been challenged by a number of factors, including concerns about the accuracy of measuring for carbon reductions. Failure to properly account for carbon could undermine the effectiveness of the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) program as a tool for mitigating climate change and securing benefits for local people. To help address the technical issues that underpin carbon measurement, the University of California, San Diego (UC San Diego) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) have launched a new Certificate in Advanced Terrestrial Carbon Accounting.
Conservation gets boost from new Landsat satellite
(04/03/2013) Efforts to monitor the world's forests and other ecosystems got a big boost in February with the launch of Landsat 8, NASA's newest earth observation satellite, which augments the crippled Landsat 7 currently orbiting Earth (technically Landsat 8 is still named the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) and will remain so until May when the USGS turns control of the satellite over to NASA). Landsat 8/LDCM is the most advanced Earth observation satellite to date. It is the eighth Landsat since the initial launch in 1972.
Disney buys $3.5M in REDD credits from rainforest conservation project in Peru
(03/20/2013) The Walt Disney Company has purchased $3.5 million dollars' worth of carbon credits generated via rainforest conservation in Peru, reports Point Carbon.
Panama's indigenous people drop REDD+
(03/19/2013) The National Coordinator of Indigenous Peoples in Panama (COONAPIP) has announced it is withdrawing from the United Nation's REDD+ program following a series of disagreements. The exit of COONAPIP from the negotiating table with UN officials and the Panamanian government will likely be a blow to the legitimacy of REDD+ in the central American country. REDD, or Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, is a program to reduce emissions by safeguarding forests.
Strong ‘no deforestation’ commitments save forests and feed people
(03/12/2013) As a global community, we have so far failed to answer this most pressing question; we have yet to build our cloud. Deforestation rates are down in some places, but overall, our forests continue to disappear much as they have for the past 50 years, driven principally by increasing global demand for food. Can we feed the world and save our forests? Yes, we can, and the solution lies in the global supply chain and the message some companies are now sending their suppliers: 'If you cut down trees, I won’t buy your product.' This has the power to silence bulldozers. It’s already doing so and now it’s time to go to scale.
The need to jump-start REDD to save forests
(03/08/2013) At least US$7.3 billion has been pledged for REDD+ over the period from 2008 to 2015, with $4.3 billion pledged for REDD+ readiness during the fast-start period alone (2010-2012). In addition to these funds, private investors, private foundations, and others have been channeling financial support to developing countries for REDD+ and related programs for several years now.
A promising initiative to address deforestation in Brazil at the local level
(03/05/2013) The history of the Brazilian Amazon has long been marked by deforestation and degradation. Until recently the situation has been considered out of control. Then, in 2004, the Brazilian government launched an ambitious program to combat deforestation. Public pressure—both national and international—was one of the reasons that motivated the government to act. Another reason was that in 2004, deforestation contributed to more than 55 percent of Brazil’s total greenhouse gas emissions, making Brazil the fourth-largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world.
Can saving forests help feed the world?
(02/28/2013) As world population climbs from 7 to a projected 9 billion people and emerging and developing economies demand ever more of the food and fiber that drive deforestation, many environmentalists ask with increasing urgency whether and how tropical forests can survive. But the question may actually be whether and how the world’s increasing, and increasingly rich, population can be fed unless tropical forests survive.
World Bank's forestry investments failing to meet conservation, rights, and anti-poverty goals, finds internal audit
(01/30/2013) The World Bank's investments in forestry over the past decade have failed to meet key objectives of reducing poverty, preserving forests, slowing climate change, or benefitting local communities, according to a report developed by its internal auditing body.
Large blocks of Sumatra's endangered rainforest may be put up for mining, logging
(01/28/2013) The Indonesian province of Aceh on the western tip of the island of Sumatra may be preparing to lift the protected status of key areas of lowland rainforest potentially ending its bid to earn carbon credits from forest conservation and putting several endangered species at increased risk, according to reports.
Experts outline how REDD+ credits could fit into California's cap-and-trade program
(01/27/2013) Carbon credits generated by forest conservation activities in tropical countries could play a role in California's cap-and-trade program, helping mitigate climate change and providing benefits to local communities, said a panel of experts on Friday.
World Bank REDD+ forest carbon fund gets $180m injection
(01/11/2013) The World Bank's forest carbon fund got a $180 million injection from Finland, Germany and Norway, reports Point Carbon.
The year in rainforests
(12/31/2012) 2012 was another year of mixed news for the world's tropical forests. This is a look at some of the most significant tropical rainforest-related news stories for 2012. There were many other important stories in 2012 and some were undoubtedly overlooked in this review. If you feel there's something we missed, please feel free to highlight it in the comments section. Also please note that this post focuses only on tropical forests.
Norway to send Guyana $45m for maintaining low deforestation rate
(12/24/2012) Norway will pay Guyana $45 million for maintaining its low deforestation rate under a climate partnership between the two countries.
DR Congo gets first validated and verified REDD+ project
(12/20/2012) The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has its first Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) project validated and verified under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS).
Indonesia's big REDD+ project announcement "premature", but moving forward
(12/18/2012) The Indonesian government's announcement at climate talks in Doha that it had approved the country's forest conservation project under its Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) program was premature, argues a new report from an Indonesian environmental group.
Brazil sues to block unlicensed REDD deal between Irish company and indigenous group
(12/17/2012) Brazil's Attorney General Office has filed a lawsuit against an Irish company and an indigenous group for unlicensed sales of carbon credits generated from an reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD+) project, reports Reuters Point Carbon.
REDD+ should pave way for more research into genetic studies of tropical species
(12/10/2012) Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+), the UN program to conserve tropical forests by paying developing nations to keep them standing, should go hand-in-hand with increased genetic studies of imperiled tropical biodiversity, according to a new opinion article in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conversation Science.
Reducing the risk that REDD+ will shift conservation funding away from biodiverse forests
(12/10/2012) One of the major concerns about the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degrdatation (REDD+) program is that it could prioritize conservation of high carbon ecosystems like peatlands over high biodiversity landscapes, effectively shifting conservation funding away key wildlife-rich areas. A new paper, published in Tropical Conservation Science, analyzes the issue and suggests approaches that could reduce the potential detrimental impacts of REDD+ on biodiversity.
Climate Summit in Doha characterized by lack of ambition
(12/09/2012) Ahead of the 18th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Doha, Qatar a variety of reports warned that the world was running out of time to avoid dangerous climate change, and that there was a widening gap between what nations have pledged to do and what the science demanded. A landmark report by the World Bank painted an almost apocalyptic picture of a world in which global temperatures have risen 4 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, including unprecedented heatwaves and droughts, rising sea levels, global agriculture crises, and a stunning loss of species. In addition, scientific studies released near the two week conference found that sea levels were rising 60 percent faster than predicted, forests around the world were imperiled by increasing drought, marine snails were dissolving in the Southern Ocean due to ocean acidification, and ice melt in Greenland and Antarctica was on the rise.
Norway payments to Brazil for reducing deforestation reach $670 million
(12/06/2012) Norway will deposit another $180 million into Brazil's Amazon Fund after the Latin American giant reported a third straight annual drop in deforestation, reports Bloomberg. The payment comes despite a high-profile dispute over who verifies reductions in emissions from deforestation — Norway believes emissions reductions should be measured by an independent third party, but Brazil disagrees. The disagreement sidelined discussions over the REDD+ mechanism during climate talks in Doha, pushing negotiations over the program out another year.
Indonesia approves first REDD+ project in Borneo
(12/05/2012) The Indonesian government has approved its first REDD+ project to reduce emissions from deforestation and peatlands degradation, reports President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's office.
Mongabay.com seeks to raise interest in and appreciation of wild lands and wildlife, while examining the impact of emerging trends in climate, technology, economics, and finance on conservation and development (more)
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