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REDD+ is maturing as countries build the necessary systems to reap the results-based rewards of participation.

Collectively dubbed AFOLU -- agriculture, forestry and other land use – these activities accounted for approximately 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2010, compared with between 10% and 12% from forests and other land use (FOLU) alone.

We need integrated approaches to land use that will balance agricultural needs for production and food security with the sustainable management and conservation of forests, and, at the same time, make the most of any climate change mitigation potential.

The forest is no place for impatience.

From a great oak tree rising out of a tiny acorn, to tropical palm cover spreading across the Amazon basin, forests need time to grow. So does the successful climate-change mitigation programme Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+). Make no mistake: REDD+ is maturing as countries build the necessary systems to reap the results-based rewards of participation. But, much work and fresh challenges lie ahead as countries move from readiness to implementation.

Developing countries are learning through REDD+ to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by reversing forest loss and degradation, and by removing carbon from the atmosphere through the conservation, management and expansion of forests. As expected, REDD+ work is proceeding at a different pace in different countries, depending on local circumstances and capacities.

The REDD+ team at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) supports countries in this work. Mindful of key principles of national ownership and of strengthening national capacities, the REDD+ team and its partners are working with countries to build the comprehensive systems and provide essential technical tools, training and support for forest monitoring. Through steadily improving technology — such as better resolution in the satellite imagery used remotely – REDD+ continues to provide solutions and support for countries in collecting and understanding their forest data.

With these systems, countries can measure, verify and report on their specific forest reference (emission) levels as required by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Such detailed data is also key to other national and international environmental and developmental policy processes required by many international agreements. Consequently, demand is rapidly rising for reliable and up-to-date national forestry data as well as stronger analytical capacities at the country level.

The drivers of land use, land-use change, forestry and agriculture are activities known to be major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.

There is another benefit to collecting this detailed information. It also contributes to understanding a growing and complex challenge: the drivers of land use, land-use change, forestry and agriculture – activities that are known to be major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. Collectively dubbed AFOLU — agriculture, forestry and other land use – these activities accounted for approximately 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2010, compared with between 10% and 12% from forests and other land use (FOLU) alone.[1] In low-income countries with little industry, FOLU can account for as much as half of total national emissions.

A much deeper understanding of AFOLU is therefore essential for a thoughtful response to the often complex forces – environmental, socio-economic, institutional, and technological – that drive land-use changes, and to formulate responses that can unlock their mitigation potential. Already, almost 100 countries see mitigation potential in AFOLU and have directly mentioned[2] a mitigation role for these activities in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and greenhouse gas inventories. In fact, a recent analysis of NDCs published in the magazine Nature suggested that countries expect FOLU (excluding agriculture) to provide a quarter of their pledged mitigation efforts by 2030.[3]

It is clear that we need integrated approaches to land use that will balance agricultural needs for production and food security with the sustainable management and conservation of forests, and, at the same time, make the most of any climate change mitigation potential. Another challenge lies in meshing this with the potential in REDD+. Later this year, the world’s leaders will gather for COP 23 in Bonn, Germany, where more countries will report their accomplishments in mitigation efforts under REDD+. Brazil is farthest ahead in translating its potential into significant mitigation action, as the first country to submit its Biennial Update Review for the International Consultation and Analysis (ICA) process. In so doing, the South American giant is demonstrating the significant mitigation potential of REDD+.

Let us hope that everyone who participates in COP and in REDD+ projects can find the patience, the curiosity and the will to better understand and unlock all potential for climate change mitigation.

References

[1] Notes from the forty-sixth sessions of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI 46) and Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA 46) as well as the third part of the first session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA 1-3); Bonn, Germany; 8-18 May 2017

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

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