REDD+: Present and Future

REDD works on the idea of financial compensation for reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries. Here’s a senior climate and biodiversity expert sharing the journey of REDD+ also talking about its future and unresolved issues.

REDD works on the idea of financial compensation for reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries. Here’s a senior climate and biodiversity expert sharing the journey of REDD+ also talking about its future and unresolved issues.

The Agenda of REDD+

Since 2005, the international debates and agreement under the aegis of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) regarding the significance of forests in climate change mitigation have moved the agenda of REDD (reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation) forward to REDD+ to include the sustainable management of forests, conservation, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries.

The concept of REDD+ is premised on the basic idea of financial compensation to developing countries for voluntary participation in forest related mitigation activities aiming at reduction in green house emissions. According to the UNFCCC’s “common but differentiated responsibilities” framework for countries to undertake action to combat climate change (UNFCCC 2002), developed countries are expected to bear the costs, and provide for funds to developing countries willing to undertake the REDD+ actions.

Present Framework of REDD+

 Noting high deforestation rates in developing countries like Brazil, Indonesia, and Bolivia, a new agenda item on ‘Reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries’, known as REDD, was proposed by Papua New Guinea and Costa Rica at COP 11 in Montreal in 2005. This agenda of REDD drew the attention of international community towards global GHG emissions triggered by deforestation (approx. to the tune of 20% of the overall emissions) , and it was argued that forestry sector also needed to be given same focus as other sectors like energy, industry, and transport to check GHG emissions. The Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) of UNFCCC started working on the REDD strategy. In 2006, India put forward the concept of ‘compensated conservation’, and strongly demanded incentivizing the conservation and enhancement of forest carbon stocks efforts under the umbrella of REDD. The Indian approach was supported by China and other countries like Columbia, Bhutan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Congo Basin countries, and Philippines practicing conservation oriented forest management.

After a long discussion of two years, the first decision on REDD strategy (2/CP.13) was presented in the Bali Action Plan (UNFCCC 2007a) adopted by the COP 13 at Bali which recognized the “efforts and actions to reduce deforestation and to maintain and conserve forest carbon stocks in developing countries… in helping to meet the ultimate objective of the Convention (emphasis added)”. The Bali Action Plan (UNFCCC 2007b) also identified the scope of REDD instrument, and launched a comprehensive process to address “Policy approaches and positive incentives on issues relating to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries; and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries (emphasis added)”.
After the Bali conference, countries continued to work on various REDD / REDD+ issues, and the COP 16 (Cancun) decision (1/CP.16) has been able to provide a definite shape to the REDD+ strategy (UNFCCC 2011). The Cancun decision on REDD+ has reaffirmed the scope of the strategy, and states that developing countries can undertake any REDD+ activity (reducing emissions from deforestation, reducing emissions from forest degradation, conservation of forest carbon stocks, sustainable management of forest, enhancement of forest carbon stocks) according to their respective capabilities and national circumstances. The decision states that developing countries willing to participate in REDD+ mechanism should prepare a national strategy or action plan, and determine a national (interim measure- sub-national) forest reference emission level and/or forest reference level against which emissions reduction and/or enhancement of carbon storage respectively could be monitored, reported and verified through a robust and transparent national forest monitoring system. A national monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV) system is also required to be put in place in accordance with the national circumstances. The SBSTA is initiating a work programme to provide guidance on modalities for MRV system.
Recognizing the socio-economic concerns and possible political ramifications voiced by various indigenous and forest dwellers groups, representatives of civil society, researchers, and critiques of  REDD+ agenda; the Cancun decision requires countries to address the land tenure and forest governance issues along with effective participation of all relevant stakeholders and ensuring gender considerations during implementation of REDD+ activities.  The decision also underlines that REDD+ activities should be consistent with the objective of environmental integrity taking into account the multiple functions of forests and other ecosystems, and should be implemented in the context of national sustainable development goals and reducing poverty. Furthermore, the decision requires the countries to define appropriate safeguards for conservation of natural forests and biological diversity, non conversion of natural forests, and consistency with the objectives of national forest programmes during implementation of REDD+ actions. Countries are also expected to develop a system for providing information on these safeguards.

Unresolved Issues and Further Work

Though the REDD+ framework under the Cancun decision clearly identifies the eligible activities and safeguards required to be promoted during implementation, it lacks guidance on financial issues- scale, nature, and distribution of incentives and benefits among countries and within country.

It is yet not clear whether there would be same basket of money for all REDD+ activities or there would be different compartments attaching different values to different activities. There is a remote possibility of maintaining different compartments for different activities as countries like China and India are supporting the same basket approach. Countries are also discussing the quantum of incentives for incremental stocks under conservation, sustainable management of forests, enhancement of forest carbon stocks approach v/s reducing decremental stocks under reduced deforestation and degradation approach - majority seem to be in favour of payments at the same rates.

India is arguing for the provision of same incentives for one unit of carbon saved following reduced deforestation and degradation approach, and one unit of carbon added by undertaking conservation/ sustainable management of forests/ enhancement of forest carbon stocks activities. There is also uncertainty about the possibility of incentivizing maintenance of baseline forest carbon stocks. India has mooted the proposal of incentives for baseline stocks as well arguing that such incentive will work as the insurance for keeping baseline stocks intact.

Although, the Cancun decision urges developed countries to support developing countries in terms of finance, technology, and capacity building to develop national strategies or action plans for implementation of REDD+ activities, there is no dedicated fund or mechanism under UNFCCC to make REDD+ action a reality on ground.

Currently, REDD+ readiness and demonstration activities pilot projects in more than 45 countries are being supported by Forest Carbon Partnership Facility for REDD, UN REDD Programme, and some multilateral and bilateral programmes. 

There have been some discussions of linking REDD+ to Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of Kyoto Protocol but developing country Parties have not bought the idea in view of negative experience with cumbersome CDM technical modalities and procedures. Countries have been discussing the market based mechanism for REDD+ finance yet no agreement has been arrived at. It is important to note that implementation of REDD+ activities would require large scale financial support. It has been estimated that USD17-33 billion per year are required for implementation of this mechanism. The Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the UNFCCC has been given the task to explore financial options for the full implementation of REDD+ actions.


The window of REDD+ mechanism under UNFCCC provides a noble opportunity for developing countries to increase their participation in global mitigation efforts. Through the REDD+ mechanism, 40% mitigation potential of developing countries could be harnessed. However, considering the limited financial and technological capabilities of developing countries, predictable and enhanced support would be required for REDD+ actions. Under UNFCCC, developed countries have also agreed to provide adequate support for REDD+ actions and activities. However, it is unlikely that any fund based mechanism or international public finance alone will be able to mobilize the finance needed for REDD+ actions.

In this scenario, integration or linking REDD+ mechanism to carbon market appears to be one way to generate additional finance. At this point, usual market, social and environmental risks associated with carbon markets need to be taken into account as REDD+ mechanism is looking at forests beyond their carbon value, specifically touching upon issues such as safeguards for conservation of natural forests and co-benefits like biodiversity conservation with the involvement of local communities and relevant stakeholders. 

The careful architecture of REDD+ mechanism involving market based options has significant potential to raise sufficient finance and enable developing countries to commit for full implementation of REDD+ activities beyond demonstration activities and pilot projects. At the same time, capacity building of developing countries and access to technological knowhow related to developing inventories of forest carbon stocks and systems of monitoring, reporting, and verification would pave the way for effective implantation of REDD+ mechanism.

The author, Dr. Renu Singh (IFS), is the Head of Biodiversity and Climate Change Division Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education


UNFCCC, 2002, UNFCCC: Convention on Climate Change, Climate Change Secretariat, Bonn, Germany, reprint 2007.
UNFCCC, 2008a, Report of the Conference of the Parties on its thirteenth session, held in Bali from 3 to 15 December 2007, Decision 2/CP.13 - Reducing Emissions from Deforestation in Developing Countries: approaches to Stimulate Action, FCCC/CP/2007/6/Add.1*
UNFCCC, 2008b, Report of the Conference of the Parties on its thirteenth session, held in Bali from 3 to 15 December 2007, Decision 1/CP.13 – Bali Action Plan, FCCC/CP/2007/6/Add.1*
UNFCCC, 2011, Report of the Conference of the Parties on its sixteenth session, held in Cancun from 29 November to 10 December 2010, Decision 1/CP.16, FCCC/CP/2010/7/Add.1

Image(s) Courtesy:
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Jay Carriker