The future of the world’s forests are increasingly under threat from human activities. Deforestation and forest degradation have negative impacts on biodiversity and contribute to climate change. A number of international agreements and conventions address global forest loss, including the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which has specific provisions for REDD+. The international community has increasingly recognized the importance of forests and land use as a key area for climate change mitigation, putting into place frameworks and requirements for measuring forest reference emission levels and benchmarks for assessing each country’s REDD+ performance.
Results of Countries’ REDD+ Efforts
Since the Warsaw Climate Change Conference in 2013, countries have made tremendous progress in preparing for, implementing and reporting on their REDD+ actions. This progress is captured in a recently published report, “From reference levels to results reporting: REDD+ under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – 2020 update,” launched by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in October, 2020. The report represents the fourth installment of an annual review of countries’ progress in REDD+ reporting to the UNFCCC. The UN-REDD Programme has been a key technical support provider in this progress toward a transparent REDD+. Let’s take a closer look at the results achieved so far:
Fifty countries submitted 60 FREL/FRLs to the UNFCCC for technical assessment. These forest reference (emission) level (FREL/FRL) submissions collectively cover a forest area of approximately 1.35 billion hectares, or 33% of global forest area. The countries that submitted a REDD+ FREL/FRL to the UNFCCC are responsible for approximately 75% of global deforestation
Thirteen countries reported REDD+ results to the UNFCCC through 17 results submissions. Results have been reported for all REDD+ activities, although no single country covered all REDD+ activities. The majority of all reported results came from reducing emissions from deforestation (98%). The combined REDD+ results reported total 9.03 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2eq). Most of these (90.4%) are emission reductions reported by Brazil.
The UNFCCC published 45 FREL/FRL technical assessment reports and 14 technical analysis reports of REDD+ results. For 43 of the 45 finalized technical assessments (96%), countries submitted a modified FREL/FRL, with 33 of these 43 modified FREL/FRL submissions (77%) changing the FREL/FRL value as a result of the technical assessment. What this means is the reporting process has triggered methodological improvements that help countries move towards more robust sample-based approaches. With these improvements, countries also increase the reporting of uncertainty, which is crucial for transparency.
Finally, six funding proposals for REDD+ results-based payments were approved by the Green Climate Fund (GCF). The fund approved results-based payment proposals from Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Indonesia and Paraguay totaling $361 million US.
The most common objective in reference level submissions is to gain access to results-based finance. In 2017, the GCF launched a pilot programme for results-based payments with a total of $500 million US. To date, eight countries have been awarded results-based payments (RBPs) through the GCF RBP pilot programme.
Moving Forward Amidst COVID-19
Building on the considerable amount of work on REDD+ over the past decade, significant progress has been made in recent years. Initiatives like UN-REDD Programme, the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI) and the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) have played important roles.
However, with the unexpected challenges of 2020, we need to ensure that we stay on track. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, moving REDD+ forward will be more important than ever, as the pandemic may result in even greater pressure on forest resources. REDD+ actions will help avoid potential negative post-COVID realities, as well as prevent similar catastrophes.
We also need to work with countries to ensure that forest monitoring efforts result in quality forest data, which can drive higher ambitions for forest restoration and preservation. This is fundamental to ensuring the integrity of the REDD+ process and to achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).