It is estimated that deforestation and forest degradation may account for up to 25% of global carbon emissions. Even the most conservative estimates put the figure at 15%. Either way, this represents a significant contribution to global warming and, as such, warrants close attention in any serious discussions on the most effective ways to minimise the impacts of climate change.
The concept of REDD+ (shorthand for Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) originated in discussions among signatories to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. This mechanism – which is continually evolving – creates a financial value for the carbon stored in forests by offering incentives for developing countries to avoid emissions and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development – rewarding them for keeping their forests intact, in other words.
REDD+ gives forests a dollar value based on how much carbon they contain, and the money generated from the sale of so-called carbon credits (basically, permits to emit a defined amount of carbon) is reinvested in the communities that have elected not to destroy their forests.
This has the double benefit of preventing the release of more so-called greenhouse gases while simultaneously safeguarding the forest biodiversity and ecosystem services on which local communities – and ultimately all of us – depend for survival.
REDD+ is being developed through a combination of top-down (jurisdictional) approaches, spearheaded by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the national governments that have signed up to the treaty, allied with bottom-up, project-based initiatives that focus on forest areas under threat. Top-down or jurisdictional approaches to REDD+ architecture need to be matched against grounded lessons from real world projects around the globe; both levels are critical for REDD+ to be effective.
FFI has been at the forefront of REDD+ efforts on the ground for well over a decade, occupying the niche that plays to our strengths in working alongside our partners – including investors, national and sub-national governments, local NGOs, Indigenous Peoples and communities – to develop practical conservation solutions.
Our interventions build on a long history of cooperation with host country partners, enabling FFI to develop innovative and high-quality REDD+ initiatives. We are always responsive to local needs, tailoring our approach to the specific demands of a particular location.
We are working to establish fully operational REDD+ projects in several of the countries where we have extensive experience. In Liberia, for example, FFI is leading development of the country’s first REDD+ project, integrating community incentives for sustainable forest management with gazettement of a strategically vital protected area. A critical site for conservation of the Upper Guinean Forest, the project not only protects the habitat of threatened species such as the pygmy hippo, but also helps to ensure that local communities benefit from their forests.
FFI’s team of forest carbon and socio-economic specialists supports our field teams in identifying, develop and implement REDD+ projects in line with leading carbon standards, including the Verified Carbon Standard, Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standards and the Plan Vivo Standard. This work offers important lessons about the practical realities of implementing REDD+ on the ground.
The idea is that money generated through the sale of carbon credits from these REDD+ projects should be invested in those actually responsible for enlightened forest stewardship. In practice, given the governance challenges faced by tropical forest-rich countries worldwide, figuring out where the money should be directed is no simple task. The long-term success of REDD+ is therefore inextricably tied to efforts to improve forest governance. This includes addressing land tenure rights uncertainties, particularly for Indigenous Peoples and local communities, undoing the perverse incentives contained in many forest and land management regulations, and improving transparency.
REDD+ and community forest management in Liberia and Myanmar
Piloting the implementation of a REDD+ programme in Wonegizi Proposed Protected Area