The notion of REDD
Climate Change – the basics

In 1992, the countries of the world agreed that temperatures and weather patterns were changing at an unusually fast rate. Under the United Nations, they decided to meet every year to discuss why this was happening and what, if anything, should be done about it. By 1997, most scientists had concluded that temperatures around the world were rising much faster than usual and that the main reason for this was increasing levels of Greenhouse Gases in the atmosphere. These gases trap heat from the sun and stop it from escaping back into space, acting like a greenhouse. They occur naturally but are also produced when oil, coal and wood are burned for energy. Therefore, as the world’s population grows, and the more energy we need, the more greenhouse gases we send into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most important greenhouse gas.

                                                                                Photo by: Pham Tien Anh

Bringing Forests into the Response to Climate Change

When we think of climate change, we usually think of melting polar ice caps and rising sea levels. But the impacts of climate change are far-reaching, and will also affect forests, and the livelihoods of people who depend on them.

Forests are unique, because they both contribute to causing climate change and are victims of its impacts. Likewise, they also have the potential to be a double-solution to climate change – by mitigating its causes, and help society adapt to its impacts.

  • Preventing deforestation and forest degradation can mitigate nearly 20% of global CO2 emissions;
  • Standing forests can help us adapt by providing valuable ecosystem services.

Climate change can damage forest health in many ways. Decreased rainfall and rising temperatures can cause drought – increasing the amount of forest fires, and reducing forest resources. A damaged forest will not be able to provide the natural ecosystem services that sustain livelihoods and aid in adaptation to climate change. Forests control soil erosion, provide clean water, and create corridors for wildlife and plants to move to more favorable climates. Losing these services will impact the lives and livelihoods of people who depend on forest resources.

Forests can also contribute to climate change if they are not managed sustainably. When timber is harvested, a tree becomes a source of greenhouse gases as all its stored carbon is released as CO2, and the tree ceases to be a carbon sink – it can no longer absorb CO2 from the atmosphere.


What is REDD?
Providing Rewards and New Perspectives

There is growing recognition in the international community that if forests are to be incorporated into a global climate change solution, developing countries must be rewarded for reducing deforestation (when forests are cleared for other land uses) and forest degradation (when forest resources are damaged). After all, forested land can be valuable – for timber, and for its potential to be converted into commercial plantations or to agriculture to feed a growing population. Financial rewards are necessary to ensure forested land is most valuable as a forest.

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) is a mechanism being designed to provide these rewards. Under this system, countries will measure and monitor the emissions of CO2 resulting from deforestation and degradation within their borders. After a certain time period, they will calculate the amount of emissions that were reduced and receive tradable forest carbon credits based on the reduction. These credits can then be sold on the global carbon market.

Summary: REDD provides financial rewards for avoided deforestation and forest degradation. In doing so, it also provides incentive to manage forests sustainably and equitably for people who live in and around forested areas.

Getting Ready for REDD

The success of REDD is dependent on a country’s capacity to implement it. Many questions about forest tenure and inventory design need to be answered before REDD projects can start. For example, if it is unclear who owns the forest, who will receive the revenues generated through REDD? REDD is not yet part of the global climate change agreement, so, over the next few years, there is time for countries to build their capacity to implement REDD.

Steps to Readiness

1) Reference scenario and inventory
Countries must measure their existing forest resources through accurate national inventories, and then estimate the amount of carbon contained in these forests. They must also make predictions of how this national forest carbon stock will change in the future, based on the best-available evidence, including, for example, historical trends of deforestation and future demand for forest resources and agricultural land. This prediction, or reference scenario, will be used to assess a country’s success in achieving REDD targets.

This is a difficult job. It is impossible to know for certain what will happen to forests in the future, so predictions cannot be treated as fact. Each country’s reference scenario will have to be carefully verified by independent experts. Some countries will inevitably have a more unpredictable future than others, and this level of risk will affect the potential of the country to generate revenue from REDD.

2) National monitoring system
Changes in forest carbon stocks must be monitored over time, so countries will be able to make official claims of emissions reduction. A national accounting system for forest carbon stocks must be developed, which will combine the records from all projects within the country that are working with REDD.

3) National REDD strategy
A National REDD working group must be formed, involving the public and private sector and civil society, which will consult with all forest sector stakeholders in order to develop a REDD strategy that is truly national.