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From South America to South-East Asia, countries are making their way through a rigorous process that could soon see them receive financial rewards for reducing deforestation – an outcome that will help combat climate change and bring numerous other ancillary benefits.

The enormous work by countries in their REDD+ preparations bring other benefits, including sustainable forest management, biodiversity protection and conservation, the enhancement of carbon stocks, water regulation, and the resolution of potential land tenure issues.

From South America to South-East Asia, countries are making their way through a rigorous process that could soon see them receive financial rewards for reducing deforestation – an outcome that will help combat climate change and bring numerous other ancillary benefits.

Brazil and Colombia, among others, are in the forefront of some 15 countries that are well advanced in their work to meet the stringent requirements to take part in Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+).

Simply put, preparing for and participating in REDD+ helps developing countries to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by reversing forest loss and degradation, and by removing carbon from the atmosphere through the conservation, management and expansion of forests. And they will eventually be financially rewarded for doing so.

Just one year ago at the UN Climate Change Conference (also known as the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Paris, REDD+ was confirmed as a core element of a new international climate change regime. By reducing deforestation and forest degradation, countries are tackling the second-leading cause of global warming following fossil-fuel use.

Now, as the world’s leaders gather once again for COP 22 in Marrakech, countries are reporting on progress that has been supported by the technical expertise of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), working with numerous other partners including UN agencies and the World Bank.

Preparing for and participating in REDD+ helps developing countries to reduce GHG emissions by reversing forest loss and degradation, and by removing carbon from the atmosphere through the conservation, management and expansion of forests. And they will eventually be financially rewarded for doing so.

The countries most advanced in their preparations, including Malaysia and Ecuador, have already met many of the requirements set by the UNFCCC for participation in REDD+, while at least a dozen other countries are well along the path to move from REDD+ readiness to implementation.

The UNFCCC criteria demand that countries develop and maintain forest monitoring and reporting systems, as well as acceptable measurements of forest reference emission levels (FREL/FRLs). These provide a benchmark for assessing a country’s performance in implementing REDD+.

The work must be transparent and consistent over time for proper measurement and verification. And at the foundation of the REDD+ preparations, countries will have the appropriate national strategies for governance, stakeholder engagement and investment plans for sustainable forest management. These plans can include public-private partnerships. For example, the Development Bank of Latin American (CAF) is developing a risk mitigation mechanism in support of the Initiative 20×20, a country-led effort to bring 20 million hectares of degraded land in Latin America and the Caribbean into restoration by 2020.

Among countries at the forefront of preparations, Brazil is farthest ahead in terms of REDD+ readiness, with all REDD+ elements developed. The South American giant had an early start on meeting REDD+ requirements, thanks to its earlier work in implementing processes for fighting deforestation in its Amazon forests.

Colombia, Ecuador and Malaysia also had a head start because of their earlier work on monitoring systems, as well as other elements for REDD+ participation including consultations with stakeholders. Almost a dozen countries have reached the stage of submitting their forest reference emission level results for analysis and are expected to soon move towards results-based payments. Those countries are: Chile, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Guyana, Indonesia, Mexico, Paraguay Peru, the Republic of the Congo, Viet Nam, and Zambia.

At FAO, we are working with countries to build the comprehensive systems necessary for forest monitoring, mindful of key principles of national ownership and of strengthening of national capacities. In addition, FAO has supported more than two-thirds of all forest reference levels submitted to the UNFCCC. FAO also makes as much use as possible of open-source, freely available data and tools through the FAO-led Open Foris, including Collect Earth. Used in partnership with Google maps, Collect Earth makes it easier for countries to track land-use patterns and their changes over time.

Country support and technical cooperation for REDD+ involves many partners, including UN-REDD, which brings together the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and FAO. Other partners include the World Bank, the African Development Bank, and such donors as the European Union, Germany, Norway and the United States.

Ultimately, the results-based payments are not the only measure of success for participating countries. The enormous work by countries in their REDD+ preparations bring significant other benefits. These include sustainable forest management, biodiversity protection and conservation, the enhancement of carbon stocks, water regulation, and the resolution of potential land tenure issues. Clarifying tenure rights is central to an effective and equitable REDD+ mechanism as it can help identify who the key REDD+ stakeholders are, who should participate in decision-making processes, as well as who should obtain benefits.

The payoff for the global community is also enormous: reduced net emissions due to REDD+ actions will help move the world closer to the target of holding the global temperature rise this century to much less than the threshold of 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels – the goal agreed during COP21 in Paris.

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