by Vincent Diringer (COP team author)
Amidst an environmental sector fraught with issues stemming from climate change and continued degradation as a result of human development, many biomes find themselves as the subjects of international policy measures. Forests are no different.
Arguably, as one of the more recognisable global environments with different characteristics in each of the world’s different climatic zones, forests play a very important role for local ecology, biodiversity, and the climate. As such, they form the basis for the ‘Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries’ or REDD+ program .
Forests and International Policies
REDD+ is a United Nations backed framework that focuses solely on the sustainable management and conservation of forests and their resources. REDD+ itself is an extension of REDD, which was implemented in 2008 following years of campaigning by groups such as the Rainforest Nations and other stakeholders to protect and maintain forests and their biodiversity . The original programme and its subsequent extensions have been a major talking point within international policy since it was first discussed at the 2005 Conference of the Parties (COP11) in Montreal, Canada.
As outlined by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) following COP16 in Cancun, Mexico, the REDD+ program sets out to :
“Encourage developing country Parties to contribute to mitigation actions in the forest sector by undertaking the following activities, as deemed appropriate by each Party and in accordance with their respective capabilities and national circumstances:
(a) Reducing emissions from deforestation;
(b) Reducing emissions from forest degradation;
(c) Conservation of forest carbon stocks;
(d) Sustainable management of forest;
(e) Enhancement of forest carbon stocks;”
Countries taking part in the REDD+ programme are actively incentivised to stop and prevent deforestation of their forestry resources through funding and investments from partner nations or private entities . Much like a cap-and-trade system, a monetary value is placed on the carbon that forests are absorbing, or are believed to be storing, and nations are able to claim funding for their continued protection of these areas . Additional credits can be allocated to nations who also help protect other facets of the environment, such as water resources, food security, or biodiversity . Funding can be made available for grassroots efforts in conservation, such as sustainable forestry or agrotourism, and can help empower local communities to actively protect their natural resources .
REDD+ and the Paris Agreement
Enshrined within the 2015 Paris Agreement under Article 5 (section of the agreement), the protection of forests and the promotion of programmes such as REDD+ to reach these goals has led to a vast range of projects and developments .
An example of REDD+ in action can be seen in how the Norwegian government underwriting forestry conservation plans in Africa, South America, and South-East Asia. Indonesia recently entered into negotiations with the Scandinavian nation over unlocking some of the $1 billion USD it had put aside for countries capable of enforcing the framework and not cutting down its forests [6, 7]. The total amount of funds that would be released is based on the aforementioned valuations of carbon being absorbed and stored by Indonesia’s rainforest – in this case a price of $5/ton carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). In the end, the South-East Asian country received $56 million as it was deemed that the nation’s rainforest conservation programmes had reduced emissions by roughly 17 million tons of CO2 . Accessing these funds has provided Indonesia with opportunities to invest in restoration efforts in peatlands, mangroves and critically degraded land .
But what can be controversial about these tenets, how can they be implemented practically?
On a more local scale, this has also enabled indigenous groups and local communities to work towards sustainable forestry practices and businesses – promoting sustainable economic development . However, therein lies part of the controversy. The idea of melding economic gains with environmentalism has long been an issue within the sector, and it continues to be pervasive within REDD+. In addition to this, there have been questions asked of the measurement tools used to calculate carbon absorption, the controversial use of offsets, the definition of ‘deforestation’, and even the monitoring processes put in place to manage REDD+ programmes [4, 6, 10].
Controversial or not though, programmes like REDD+ are expected to become more prevalent following COP26. Cap-and-trade schemes are a topic that delegates are expected to find a solution to, while pre-COP summits like the one recently hosted by President Joe Biden have shown an appetite to explore the implementation of more REDD-like projects (protect natural areas through financial incentives) [11,12].
References UNFCCC, “REDD+”, URL: https://unfccc.int/topics/land-use/workstreams/reddplus [Accessed May 10, 2021]
 Vivienne Holloway & Esteban Giandomenico, 2009, “The History of REDD Policy”, Carbon Planet, URL: https://www.google.com/url?q=https://redd.unfccc.int/uploads/2_164_redd_20091216_carbon_planet_the_history_of_redd_carbon_planet.pdf&sa=D&source=editors&ust=1621239718258000&usg=AOvVaw183NoWxLJH0FpVnM-Ekv17 [Accessed May 17, 2021]
 UNFCCC, “Report of the Conference of the Parties on its sixteenth session, held in Cancun from 29 November to 10 December 2010; Addendum Part Two: Action taken by the Conference of the Parties at its sixteenth session”, URL: https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/conferences/past-conferences/cancun-climate-change-conference-november-2010/cop-16/cop-16-reports [Accessed May 10, 2021]
 Lisa Song & Paula Moura, 2019, “An (Even More) Inconvenient Truth: Why Carbon Credits for Forest Preservation may be Worse Than Nothing”, ProPublica, URL: https://features.propublica.org/brazil-carbon-offsets/inconvenient-truth-carbon-credits-dont-work-deforestation-redd-acre-cambodia/ [Accessed May 10, 2021]
 UNFCCC, “Paris Agreement”, URL: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwjc54f6977wAhXKwAIHHRAeDRkQFjAAegQIAhAD&url=https%3A%2F%2Funfccc.int%2Fsites%2Fdefault%2Ffiles%2Fenglish_paris_agreement.pdf&usg=AOvVaw0zlRMrgQd-osmeYln0iP-B [Accessed May 10, 2021]
 Hans Nicholas Jong, 2019, “Indonesia to get first payment from Norway under $1b REDD+ scheme” Mongabay, URL: https://news.mongabay.com/2019/02/indonesia-to-get-first-payment-from-norway-under-1b-redd-scheme/ [Accessed May 10, 2021]
 Norwegian Government, 2020, “Norway will pay 530 million NOK for reduced deforestation in Indonesia”, URL: https://www.regjeringen.no/en/aktuelt/noreg-betaler-530-millionar-for-redusert-avskoging-i-indonesia/id2722135/ [Accessed May 14, 2021]
 Bimo Dwi Satrio, 2021, “Results-based payments in Indonesia: A strategy to move REDD+ forward?”, Forest News, URL: https://forestsnews.cifor.org/70458/results-based-payments-in-indonesia-a-strategy-to-move-redd-forward?fnl=en [Accessed May 14, 2021]
 Gloria Gonzalez, 2014, “Althelia Climate Fund Dives Headfirst Into Kenya Project With Wildlife Works”, Ecosystem Market Place, URL: https://www.ecosystemmarketplace.com/articles/althelia-climate-fund-dives-headfirst-into-kenya-project-with-wildlife-works/ [Accessed May 10, 2021]
 Patrick Greenfield, 2021, “Carbon offsets used by major airlines based on flawed system, warn experts”, The Guardian,URL: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/may/04/carbon-offsets-used-by-major-airlines-based-on-flawed-system-warn-experts [Accessed May 10, 2021]
 UNFCCC, Calls Increase to Use Carbon Pricing as an Effective Climate Action Tool, URL: https://unfccc.int/news/calls-increase-to-use-carbon-pricing-as-an-effective-climate-action-tool [Accessed May 10, 2021]
 Ella Nilsen, Rebecca Leber, Jariel Arvin, Benji Jones, & Umair Irfan, 2021, 4 winners and 4 losers from Biden’s climate leader summit, Vox, URL: https://www.vox.com/2021/4/23/22397532/climate-change-summit-biden-xi-jinping-jair-bolsonaro-winners-losers [Accessed May 10, 2021]