REDD stands for “reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation”. It is a crucial part of any climate change mitigation strategy, as Greenhouse gas emissions due to deforestation and forest degradation account for nearly 20% of global GHG emissions.
As global understanding of climate change has evolved, however, so have the strategies to combat it.
This leads us to the comprehensive REDD+.
The “plus” goes beyond deforestation and acknowledges the “role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries”.
Who Started REDD+?
The framework, first introduced in 2013, was created by the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP) to help guide activities in the forest sector. The Paris Agreement advanced it further, linking individual forestry projects to the REDD+ strategies of their host countries.
The Paris Agreement codified the contribution of forests to mitigating climate change. It became the duty of all rainforest nations to give REDD+ due importance by supporting its implementation in line with all UNFCCC decisions.
Implementing REDD+, however, has been challenging. As a large-scale funding mechanism, it needs hundreds of billions of dollars of investments to carry out REDD+ strategies and to pay rainforest countries and communities for avoided forest emissions. The activities behind REDD+ are voluntary and vary based on the circumstances and capabilities of any given nation.
What are REDD+ Strategies?
REDD+ strategies refer to a set of policies and programs meant to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation while enhancing carbon uptake from other forest protection activities.
- Direct and indirect drivers of deforestation
- Baselines and forest monitoring systems
- Reference emissions levels
- Social and environmental safeguards
These strategies have become a catalyst to help countries analyze and reform wider forestry, land tenure and sustainable development policies. It has boosted the engagement of a wide range of stakeholder groups in forest and land management and community leadership, including indigenous peoples, women and other forest-dependent communities.
But there’s another important question that stakeholders demand an answer – is REDD+ sustainable?
Sustainability of REDD+ Programs
REDD+ relies on incentives for altering the way forest resources are used and managed, cutting carbon emissions by incentivizing actions that avoid forest loss or degradation.
These transfer mechanisms often include payments via carbon offsets. These offsets are paid for both by preserving forests as well as lowering the historical amount of emissions.
Some studies showed that outcomes from REDD+ programs are even more competitive than what logging provides.
REDD+ attaches benefits to cutting carbon emissions that support communities in other ways, increasing overall quality of life.
Where logging primarily brings income to companies and their owners, REDD+ projects contribute directly to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This means tackling climate change as a way to reduce poverty, improve health, alleviate hunger, and strengthen institutions.
Technology has advanced forest monitoring tremendously, bringing hard data to REDD+ goals. Teams can now produce exact forest carbon stock data, keep track and respond to risks, and show the forest regeneration rates. This has mitigated uncertainties in calculating carbon offsets from forestry projects.
As countries adapt REDD+ strategies to fit their needs, there’s a shared underlying principle. The strategies must result in measurable and long-term benefits mitigating climate change while aligning with the national development strategies of those countries.
What are REDD+ Countries?
REDD+ countries are developing nations located in a subtropical or tropical area that have signed a Participation Agreement to participate in the Readiness Fund. Together they form the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility or FCPF.
There are 47 developing countries that were initially selected to join the FCPF – 18 are in Africa, 18 in Latin America, and 11 in the Asia-Pacific region.
The FCPF created a framework and processes for REDD+ readiness. This helps countries understand the requirements behind REDD+. At the readiness stage, that means formulating national strategies that prioritize key drivers of deforestation and degradation. It also involves proposing realistic means to fix barriers to become a REDD+ country.
- Their ultimate goal is to build investment packages that will produce emissions reductions and results-based finance.
Carbon markets have been recognized as a good source of finance where REDD+ carbon offsets come in.
As of 1st quarter of 2022, more than 398 million REDD+ offsets have been issued on the voluntary carbon market (VCM). That amount represents a quarter of total voluntary carbon offsets issued.
When it comes to its performance, here’s how REDD+ carbon offsets price has grown. It’s part of the nature-based avoidance offsets .
Given the high potential of REDD+ in avoiding emissions and delivering other impacts, governments and companies are interested in investing in REDD+ strategies. But how can they help fund these projects?
How REDD+ is Funded?
There’s a national REDD+ mechanism that serves as a fund coordination and distribution platform for those who are willing to financially support the implementation of REDD+ strategies. Donors or contributors can commit resources that support everything from technical assistance to capacity building to executing REDD+ strategies on the ground.
While there are many channels for the funds to support forestry projects, carbon offsets have been among the most popular tools..
To date, REDD+ offsets on the VCMs are from individual projects. This is when REDD+ activities are focused on a specific area of forest where a baseline of deforestation is established. The reference data covers only the nearby forested areas, not the national level.
The number of offsets issued depends on how much deforestation has reduced relative to the baseline. So far, individual projects are the successful approach in getting REDD+ carbon offsets to the VCM.
Analysis shows that REDD+ projects yield many offsets with verifiable, additional, and long-term carbon emission reductions, as well as measurable co-benefits.
However, there are a couple of challenges to individual project-level REDD+. These include:
- inflated baselines,
- underreporting of deforestation,
- forest loss causing permanence risk, and
- risks caused by land tenure and rights
No matter the type of REDD+ program, and no matter the challenges, a unified, financially legitimate approach to fighting climate change can undoubtedly bring other benefits. Carbon offsets still need to be of quality. The factors that determine quality are diverse and can be complex, whether you approach them at the local, national, or intentional level. As a buyer of the offsets , you should perform due diligence on any offsets you buy, and collaborate with institutions you can trust.