The director general of a leading tropical forest research center recently told a Yale conference of international forest experts that Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (known as REDD+) was a “good idea [that] didn’t work,” and has now “disappeared” (video clip at 1hr 9min). But far from having vanished, REDD+ is steadily advancing in countries and states around the world.
Emerging REDD+ programs at national and subnational levels
For much of the past decade, REDD+ was a hot topic of global conferences, and a standout success at the UN climate negotiations, where it received explicit recognition in 2015’s international Paris climate agreement.
Now enshrined at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), REDD+ is experiencing a groundswell of action at the national and subnational levels. Tropical forest countries are designing and implementing their REDD+ programs at home, as well as submitting documentation to the UNFCCC and Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) for review and funding.
Here are some examples of REDD+ programs and activities that are demonstrating progress at the national and subnational levels:
- Brazil has taken the lead and submitted to the UNFCCC 1) a national REDD+ strategy, 2) a forest reference level (i.e. a baseline for deforestation), 3) information on safeguards to protect the environment and society, and 4) a national forest monitoring system. These four elements are vital to ensuring that emissions reductions for REDD+ are real, measurable and provide benefits to the environment and society.
REDD+ is experiencing a groundswell of action at the national and subnational levels.
- The Democratic Republic of Congo and Ecuador also submitted their national REDD+ strategies to the UNFCCC.
- 25 countries have submitted their forest reference levels to the UNFCCC, 10 of which were submitted at the end of 2016.
- Chile, Costa Rica, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Mexico all had their REDD+ programs approved by the FCPF in 2016; these programs will begin generating emissions reductions this year. The World Bank plans to sign purchase agreements with some of the programs by the end of 2017.
- The Green Climate Fund approved in 2016 two REDD+ implementation grants worth tens of millions of dollars for Ecuador and Madagascar.
- Germany, UK, and Norway pledged $5 billion for results-based payments between 2016 and 2020.
- The Green Climate Fund will define its criteria for REDD+ results-based payments for approval by April 2017, unlocking another pathway for REDD+ financing.
Results-based REDD+ financing still needed
REDD+’s explicit recognition in the Paris Agreement politically secured its future in the post-2020 climate framework. But for REDD+ to be fully implemented, it needs adequate and sustainable financing to support a results-based payment system that includes:
- The UNFCCC should finish its guidance on International Transfers of Mitigation Outcomes (ITMOs), which will facilitate REDD+ market transactions.
- The Green Climate Fund should complete its REDD+ results-based payments criteria for those countries interested in non-market finance.
- Other potential compliance markets in California and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) need to give their approval to REDD+ offsets.
In conclusion, I do partially agree that REDD+ has “disappeared” in that certain – the parts facets and activities of REDD+ that needed to disappear are no longer. REDD+ activity has – appropriately – shifted from securing recognition in the global agreement to focusing on development and implementation at the national and subnational levels.
Building on the momentum from the Paris Agreement’s entry into force, countries now need to expedite the process of creating the guidelines and standards for the results-based payments to ensure a reliable and sustainable REDD+ finance system.