People and biodiversity: does REDD+ benefit both?

A global webinar this week – attended by 160 people from 44 different countries – marked the launch of a user-friendly manual that enables REDD+ project proponents to carry out cost-effective social and biodiversity impact assessments (SBIA).

Fauna & Flora International (FFI) has been part of a unique collaboration to develop this SBIA Manual alongside Forest Trends, Rainforest Alliance and the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA).

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD)


Forests are known as ‘carbon sinks’ because the plants within them take in and store carbon dioxide (one of the main greenhouse gases)

When a tree is cleared, greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere; currently emissions from deforestation and degradation account for around 20% of global (man-made) emissions.

REDD projects aim to reduce these emissions by creating financial incentives for communities and governments to preserve the carbon stored in forests. REDD+ projects go a step further, striving not only to reduce emissions but also to conserve or sustainably manage forests and enhance these vital carbon sinks.

In many developing countries, local communities depend on timber and other forest products for their livelihoods, and for housing, food and warmth. This means that in order for REDD+ projects to succeed, local communities must benefit from them.

New tools for designing a win-win REDD+ project

To help ensure positive outcomes for local people and biodiversity, the CCBA has developed some voluntary Climate, Community & Biodiversity (CCB) Standards. These standards assist in the design of land management activities that simultaneously minimise climate change, support sustainable development and conserve biodiversity.

What was missing, however, was a credible impact assessment method. The SBIA Manual addresses this, promoting a participatory approach that integrates project design and impact assessment throughout the lifetime of a project.

This approach generates reliable monitoring plans, and helps project managers to develop strategic designs that can achieve both social and biodiversity objectives. It also ensures that stakeholders can understand the project and participate effectively.

Tanzania SIA Training Workshop 2010

What’s more, the approach outlined in the manual promotes adaptive project management, ensuring that leaders can respond to results of the on-going impact assessments.

Safeguards to prevent negative social and biodiversity impacts also figured prominently in the REDD+ Agreement from the 16th Conference of the Parties (COP) at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) held in Cancun in 2010.

Further details on these safeguards are expected at this month’s UNFCCC COP in Durban, where REDD+ will feature prominently.

Webinar launch: insight from the experts

The webinar was coordinated by Joanna Durbin, who leads the CCBA. Michael Richards (Forest Trends) and Steve Panfil (formerly CCBA, now with Conservation International) gave presentations about the manual and how to use it.

Jeff Hayward from Rainforest Alliance gave an auditor’s perspective, commenting that the new SBIA manual and toolkits will give auditors better guidance as to what is required to establish a high-class project.

FFI’s Environmental Markets Community Specialist, Jane Dunlop, also joined the panel and explained the importance of the manual for professionals working on REDD+ projects: “As conservationists, we often see that the people living in and around the areas where we work both impact on and are affected by the environment we seek to conserve.

“Understanding the complex inter-relationships between people and their environment, building on local knowledge, and developing strong relationships of trust with local communities are all key for REDD+ to succeed.”

FFI is already using the CCB standards and SBIA Manual in its REDD+ projects to ensure that they deliver tangible biodiversity and community benefits that are based on sound science and responsive to community needs.

Learn more

To learn more, you can watch the recorded webinar online or download a copy of the manual: