Forests are a crucial component in the fight against climate change. They account for 92% of all terrestrial biomass globally and store approximately 400 gigatons (Gt) of CO2. Different forest types store varied amounts of carbon, depending on the climate present in the particular location of the forest. Unfortunately, deforestation is the biggest culprit of forest loss. Forests are cleared mainly for agriculture, urbanization, and logging, collectively called land use change. This causes not only deforestation but rising carbon emissions, biodiversity loss, and decline in wildlife species. Deforestation is responsible for releasing as much as 5 GtCO2 a year, which is equal to about 10% of the global GHG emissions.
If deforestation in tropical forests were a country, it would rank third in CO2 emissions. All this means that if we don’t end deforestation as early as this decade, we won’t be able to stop climate change from wreaking havoc on our planet. Curbing deforestation is humanity’s biggest chance to immediately reduce carbon emissions. Many agree but others don’t. Still, governments devised various policies to bring financial incentives to conserve forests and avoid forest loss. They’re formally referred to as REDD – Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation.
The history of REDD can be traced back to the international efforts to fight climate change and preserve forests. Two tropical countries brought the concept of REDD to global climate summits known as COP – Conference of Parties. Costa Rica and Papua New Guinea formally placed this topic on the table during the COP11 in 2005. Their idea received huge interest from other countries as a way to conserve forests by prompting performance-based incentives at scale. Monetizing the carbon stored in forests through carbon credits provides local communities revenue for sustainably managing their forests. The income from the credits will deter them away from livelihood that causes deforestation such as illegal logging, crop cultivation, and livestock raising.
The UN COP13 in Bali, Indonesia, in 2007 was a significant milestone in the development of REDD. The conference put forward the importance of REDD in developing countries and emphasized the need for financial support to implement it. The COP13 parties added the “+”, expanding the term to REDD+. The plus simply refers to the co-benefits of protecting forests from destruction. It means the role of “conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries”. The 19th session of the COP in Warsaw, Poland in 2013 formally adopted the framework for REDD+. It laid out key principles, guidelines, and safeguards that REDD+ projects and activities should follow. The framework also rang the bell for financial and technical support needed by developing nations to implement REDD+. Following the Warsaw Framework, many countries have established and developed their national REDD+ strategies and implemented projects on the ground. Several organizations have shown support to REDD+ initiatives through financing and capacity development programs.
At the end of 2022, there are over 620 individual REDD+ projects and programs implemented. Most of them are funded by international donor organizations, such as the UN-REDD and the World Bank. REDD+ countries are now focusing on operationalizing both their REDD+ strategies and proposals for bigger forestry programs. Their ultimate goal is to build investment packages that will result in carbon emissions reductions through results-based finance. Though they only represent a smaller chunk of REDD+ financing, the voluntary carbon markets (VCMs) have been recognized as a good source of investments with REDD+ carbon credits.
REDD+ is a crucial solution in the fight against climate change. It is a program that incentivizes developing countries to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, as well as enhance forest carbon stocks. It provides a way to monetize the carbon stored in forests through carbon credits, which can be traded in voluntary or compliance markets. The income from the credits can be used to fund sustainable forest management practices and deter communities from livelihood that causes deforestation. REDD+ has faced challenges in the past, but with the right implementation, it can be a successful solution in the fight against climate change.