REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation in developing countries)

By Rhett A. Butler

This article presents the state of REDD+ as of 2012. There are regular updates on REDD+ in the news feed below.

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.

Smallholder deforestation in Borneo

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+").

Soy and Chaco forest

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.

REDD timing

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.

REDD Funding

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 carbon markets.

    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.
Drained, cleared, and burned peat forest in Indonesia. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.

REDD Resources

Official documents

Key REDD Programs

Some notable REDD Publications

REDD Glossary

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.

Carbon rights
The right to use carbon credits or offsets to satisfy limits on greenhouse gas emissions or to reduce penalties for exceeding the limit imposed.

Carbon sink
Ecosystem that accumulates and stores carbon.

Carbon sequestration
Removal of carbon from the atmosphere and storage in carbon sinks through natural or human-induced methods.

Carbon trading
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 complete deforestation.

Indigenous peoples
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.

Opportunity cost
The cost of compensating for financial gains from deforestation practices such as logging or agriculture.

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.

REDD baseline
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.

REDD conditions
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.



    REDD+ projects falling far short of claimed carbon cuts, study finds (25 Aug 2023 14:44:12 +0000)
    - New research reveals that forest carbon credits are not offsetting the vast majority of emissions that providers claim.
    - A team of scientists looked at 26 REDD+ deforestation-prevention project sites on three continents, leading to questions about how the developers calculate the impact of their projects.
    - The researchers found that about 94% of the credits from these projects don’t represent real reductions in carbon emissions.
    - Verra, the world’s largest carbon credit certifier, said the methods the team used to arrive at that conclusion were flawed, but also added it was in the process of overhauling its own REDD+ standards.

    Can community payments with no strings attached benefit biodiversity? (13 Jun 2023 13:26:57 +0000)
    - A recent study published in the journal Nature Sustainability examines the idea of a “conservation basic income” paid to community members living in or near key areas for biodiversity protection.
    - The authors argue that unconditional payments could help reduce families’ reliance on practices that could threaten biodiversity by providing financial stability and helping them weather unexpected expenses.
    - But the evidence for the effectiveness of these kinds of cash transfers is scant and reveals that they don’t always result in outcomes that are positive for conservation.

    Forest conservation efforts in Peru are failing across the board, study says (25 May 2023 16:00:26 +0000)
    - Forest conservation initiatives in Peru in the past decades have had little to no effect, as deforestation continues to skyrocket in the country, according to a new study by the International Forestry Research Center, CIFOR.
    - Peru has attracted millions of dollars in forest conservation initiatives and has 254 public and private parks and protected areas, yet deforestation has been rising steadily since 2001 by more than 326,000 acres per year. In 2020, forest loss peaked, reaching 502,000 acres of tropical forest, the equivalent of 379 football fields.
    - CIFOR’s research includes a literature review of 17 studies evaluating the impact of conservation initiatives in the country over the years. REDD+ mechanisms consistently performed poorly, having the least effect both on forest cover and community economic situations.
    - Researchers call for strengthening government agencies and creating a better dialogue with academics who are studying and monitoring conservation mechanisms and their impacts.

    Do tiger-dense habitats also help save carbon stock? It’s complicated (30 Mar 2023 14:43:02 +0000)
    - A new study centered on Nepal’s Chitwan National Park attempts to identify whether there’s a relationship between successful tiger conservation and habitats with high levels of carbon locked away in the vegetation.
    - It found that within protected areas, high-density mixed forests had the most carbon stock sequestered in vegetation; however, tiger density was highest in riverine forests.
    - This represents a trade-off that conservation planners need to tackle between tiger and carbon conservation.
    - Researchers have cautioned against generalizing the findings, saying that more studies and data are needed to better understand the issue.

    Mobilizing Amazon societies to reduce forest carbon emissions and unlock the carbon market (commentary) (13 Mar 2023 14:46:57 +0000)
    - Brazil could generate $10 billion or more from the global voluntary carbon market over the next four years through the sale of credits from Amazon states’ jurisdictional REDD+ programs; some states are already finalizing long-term purchase agreements.
    - This funding would flow to those who are protecting the forest – Indigenous peoples and traditional communities, farmers, businesses, and government agencies – and the prospect of this funding could mobilize collective action to reduce emissions from illegal deforestation and degradation.
    - Rapid progress in reducing emissions from Amazon deforestation and forest degradation – which represent half of Brazil’s nation-wide emissions – would also position Brazil to capture significant international funding for its national decarbonization process through the regulated carbon market that is under development through the UN Paris Agreement.
    - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of Mongabay.

    Forest carbon offsets are a tool, not a silver bullet (commentary) (07 Feb 2023 17:52:40 +0000)
    - The Guardian recently published an article questioning the effectiveness of forest carbon offsets, immediately followed by another in Die Zeit about ‘phantom offsets.’
    - These criticisms are not without precedent: carbon offsetting is often presented either as a panacea or as corporate greenwashing that distracts from the difficult task of reducing actual greenhouse gas emissions.
    - But as two leaders from CIFOR-ICRAF argue in a new commentary, “It is neither one nor the other. It is a tool. No particular policy instrument stands out as a ‘silver bullet,’ but improving the coherence and complementarity of the policy mix across government levels can enhance the effectiveness of policies.”
    - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of Mongabay.

    Changing circumstances turn ‘sustainable communities’ into deforestation drivers: Study (01 Feb 2023 22:59:11 +0000)
    - Subsistence communities can drive forest loss to meet their basic needs when external pressures, poverty and demand for natural resources increase, says a new study unveiling triggers that turn livelihoods from sustainable into deforestation drivers.
    - The impact of subsistence communities on forest loss has not been quantified to its true extent, but their impact is still minimal compared to that of industry, researchers say.
    - Deforestation tends to occur through shifts in agriculture practices to meet market demands and intensified wood collecting for charcoal to meet increasing energy needs.
    - About 90% of people globally living in extreme poverty, often subsistence communities, rely on forests for at least part of their livelihoods—making them the first ones impacted by forest loss.

    COP27 boosts carbon trading and ‘non-market’ conservation: But can they save forests? (22 Nov 2022 20:06:23 +0000)
    - For the first time ever at a climate summit, the final text of this month’s COP27 included a “forests” section and a reference to “nature-based solutions,” — recognizing the important role nature can play in curbing human-caused climate change. But it’s too early to declare a victory for forests.
    - By referencing REDD+, the text could breathe new life into this UN framework, which has so far failed to be a game-changer in the fight against deforestation as many hoped it would be.
    - COP27 also took a step toward implementing Article 6.4 of the Paris agreement, a mechanism that some see as a valid market-based climate solution, though others judge it as just another “bogus” carbon trading scheme.
    - Many activists are pinning their hopes instead on Article 6.8, which aims to finance the protection of ecosystems through “non-market approaches” like grants, rather than with carbon credits.

    In new climate deal, Norway will pay Indonesia $56 million for drop in deforestation, emissions (01 Nov 2022 06:18:13 +0000)
    - This year, Norway will pay Indonesia $56 million for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.
    - Both countries struck a new climate deal in September, in which Norway will provide support for Indonesia’s bid to curb deforestation and forest degradation, with the aim that Indonesia’s forests will turn into a carbon sink by 2030.
    - Norway was supposed to pay the $56 million in 2020 under its previous climate agreement with Indonesia, but the Nordic country failed to pay, resulting in Indonesia terminating the original agreement.

    Australian oil and gas firm Invictus awarded carbon offset project in Zimbabwe (12 Oct 2022 12:13:48 +0000)
    - The REDD+ project covers three national forest reserves near Hwange National Park and comes as Invictus has begun to drill for oil and gas in the north of the country
    - Invictus says based on estimates still to be verified, the offset project could sequester 1 million metric tons of carbon per year, making its oil and gas drilling carbon neutral.
    - Conservationists question the logic behind leveraging state forest reserves for REDD+ projects, saying they favor instead a “wildlife economy approach” to restoring landscapes.

    Podcast: Could Brazil’s election decide the fate of the Amazon? (20 Sep 2022 19:04:28 +0000)
    - In a new podcast dialogue with Mongabay’s top tropical forest news commentator (and CEO), Rhett A. Butler, we catch up on the biggest trends and news, like the upcoming Brazilian presidential election, which could alter the outlook for the Amazon going forward should Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva win: with 2022 looking like the worst year for Brazilian Amazon deforestation in 15 years, Lula’s campaigning on Amazon conservation and has a long track record on the topic.
    - We also discuss Norway and Indonesia, which just renewed a previously canceled REDD+ agreement, in which Norwegians will pay to keep Indonesian forests standing.
    - And the European Parliament voted in favor of a bill banning the import of 14 commodities linked to deforestation, setting a policy precedent requiring entities to track the supply chain of common goods derived from both legal and illegal deforestation into the EU.
    - We discuss how these trends and new/renewed initiatives could change the prospects for global tropical forests amid the context of tipping points that some experts say we may have already passed.

    Indonesia and Norway give REDD+ deal another go after earlier breakup (12 Sep 2022 15:04:46 +0000)
    - Indonesia and Norway have embarked on another REDD+ scheme that will see the latter pay the former to keep its forests standing, after a previous attempt failed because of lack of payment.
    - Indonesia is home to the third-largest expanse of tropical rainforest in the world, and the bulk of its greenhouse gas emissions comes from land-use change, forest degradation, and deforestation.
    - Officials from both countries say it’s of mutual benefit to both countries, and to the world, to preserve Indonesia’s forests boost their capacity to sequester carbon from the atmosphere.
    - Under the new deal, payments still outstanding from the previous agreement, which was terminated in 2021, will be honored.

    ‘That’s a scam’: Indian firm’s REDD+ carbon deal in the DRC raises concern (14 Jun 2022 16:17:09 +0000)
    - Environmental and human rights advocacy organizations say an Indian company has misled communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo, convincing them to sign away the rights to sell carbon credits from the restoration, reforestation or avoided deforestation of locally managed forests.
    - These forests, managed under a structure known by the French acronym CFCL, provide communities with control over how land is managed while giving them access to the resources the forests provide, proponents of the initiative say.
    - But the contracts, the implications of which were not fairly or adequately explained to community members, may restrict their access to the forests for generations to come, the advocacy groups say.
    - These organizations and the communities are now calling on the Congolese government to cancel the contracts.

    Does citizen ownership of natural resources hold the key to realizing deforestation commitments? (commentary) (06 Jun 2022 20:51:45 +0000)
    - The approaches to COP26’s global commitment to stop deforestation by 2030 may be inadequate, as they can only partly address the major drivers of deforestation.
    - An additional approach based on transparent economic data disclosure and mobilization of public awareness could be a promising addition to that commitment.
    - Such approaches that emphasize citizen ownership of natural resources, and which quantify net owner shares, losses, and the very large prospective societal returns, could work, a new op-ed argues.
    - This article is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily of Mongabay.

    NGOs alert U.N. to furtive 2-million-hectare carbon deal in Malaysian Borneo (17 Mar 2022 04:28:21 +0000)
    - Civil society organizations have complained to the United Nations about an opaque “natural capital” agreement in the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo.
    - The agreement, signed behind closed doors in October 2021, involved representatives from the state government and Hoch Standard Pte. Ltd., a Singaporean firm. But it did not involve substantive input from the state’s numerous Indigenous communities, many of whom live in or near forests.
    - The terms ostensibly give Hoch Standard the right to monetize carbon and other natural capital from Sabah’s forests for 100 years.
    - Along with the recent letter to the U.N., the state’s attorney general has questioned whether the agreement is enforceable without changes to key provisions. An Indigenous leader is also suing the state over the agreement, and Hoch Standard may be investigated by the Singaporean government after rival political party leaders in Sabah reported the company to Singapore’s ambassador in Malaysia.

    Podcast: Are ‘nature based solutions’ the best fix for climate change? (09 Mar 2022 23:22:03 +0000)
    - On today’s episode of the Mongabay Newscast, we discuss mangrove restoration and other nature based solutions to climate change.
    - We speak with Alfredo Quarto, co-founder and program and policy director of the Mangrove Action Project, who tells us about the ongoing destruction of mangrove forests around the world, why it’s so important to restore these coastal ecosystems, and what makes for successful mangrove restoration projects.
    - We also speak with Norah Berk, a policy advisor on climate change and forests at the Rainforest Foundation UK, who tells us that nature based solutions have, in many cases, been co-opted by corporations that are using them as part of carbon offset schemes, and discusses why she thinks land titling for Indigenous and local communities is the solution to climate change that we should be focusing on.

    Indigenous-led report warns against ‘simplistic take on conservation’ (08 Mar 2022 04:19:48 +0000)
    - To deal with climate change and biodiversity loss effectively and equitably, conservation needs to adopt a human rights-based approach, according to a new report co-authored by Indigenous and community organizations across Asia.
    - Unlike spatial conservation targets such as “30 by 30,” a rights-based approach would recognize the ways in which Indigenous people lead local conservation efforts, and prioritize their tenure rights in measuring conservation success.
    - Without tenure rights, strict spatial conservation targets could lead to human rights abuses, widespread evictions of Indigenous communities across Asia, and high resettlement costs, the report warned.
    - Also without tenure rights, the inflow of money into nature-based solutions such as carbon offsets and REDD+ projects could also result in massive land grabs instead of benefiting local communities.

    Climate change a threat to human well-being and health of the planet: New IPCC report (28 Feb 2022 14:32:29 +0000)
    - The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report on the impacts of climate change on people, detailing areas of vulnerability and steps for adaptation to the changes brought about by Earth’s warming temperatures.
    - The report, the second of three that will be part of the IPCC’s sixth assessment, highlights the importance of Indigenous and local knowledge in grappling with climate change and its effects on weather, water availability and food sources.
    - It also notes that some segments of society, especially the most vulnerable, will bear a disproportionate burden as a result of climate change.
    - The authors of the report and other climate researchers emphasize that urgent action is needed, both to address the causes of climate change and improve the capability of people to adapt to it.

    Malaysian officials dampen prospects for giant, secret carbon deal in Sabah (10 Feb 2022 20:33:18 +0000)
    - The attorney general of the Malaysian state of Sabah has said that a contentious deal for the right to sell credits for carbon and other natural capital will not come into force unless certain provisions are met.
    - Mongabay first reported that the 100-year agreement, which involves the protection of some 2 million hectares (4.9 million acres) from activities such as logging, was signed in October 2021 between the state and a Singapore-based firm called Hoch Standard.
    - Several leaders in the state, including the attorney general, have called for more due diligence on the companies involved in the transaction.
    - Civil society representatives say that a technical review of the agreement is necessary to vet claims about its financial value to the state and its feasibility.

    Indigenous leader sues over Borneo natural capital deal (17 Dec 2021 10:06:53 +0000)
    - An Indigenous leader in Sabah is suing the Malaysian state on the island of Borneo over an agreement signing away the rights to monetize the natural capital coming from the state’s forests to a foreign company.
    - Civil society and Indigenous organizations say local communities were not consulted or asked to provide input prior to the agreement’s signing on Oct. 28.
    - Further questions have arisen about whether the company, Hoch Standard, that secured the rights under the agreement has the required experience or expertise necessary to implement the terms of the agreement.

    Participants in the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility as of 2012
      Argentina, Bolivia, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Democratic Republic of Congo, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Indonesia, Kenya, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Liberia, Madagascar, Mexico, Mozambique, Nepal, Nicaragua, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Republic of Congo, Suriname, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda, Vanuatu, and Vietnam.
    For a more current list, see

    UN-REDD Programme - Countries receiving support as of 2012
      Bolivia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Tanzania, Viet Nam, and Zambia.
    For a more current list, see