Since the Warsaw Climate Change Conference in 2013, countries have made tremendous progress in preparing for, implementing, and reporting on their REDD+ actions.
An FAO publication launched in October 2020 provides an update of the results achieved so far.
We need to work with countries to ensure that forest monitoring efforts result in quality forest data, which can drive higher ambitions for forests and the climate.
By Marieke Sandker, Till Neeff, Julian Fox, and Maryia Kukharava
The future vitality of the world’s forests, and the globally significant environmental services they provide, are increasingly under threat from human activities. Deforestation and forest degradation have negative impacts on biodiversity and hydrological services, and contribute to climate change.
Current Global Framework for Forest Loss
Global forest loss is addressed under a range of international agreements and conventions, including the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which has specific provisions for REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries).
In 2007, the international community recognized the importance of forests and land use as a key area for climate change mitigation when the Bali Action Plan called for policy approaches and positive incentives on issues relating to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) in developing countries. In the wake of this important milestone, the year 2008 saw the launch of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility and the UN-REDD Programme, under which countries work through a readiness process towards participation in REDD+. At the 2013 UN Climate Change Conference, countries approved the Warsaw Framework, which detailed the requirements for country participation in REDD+, notably including the requirements for forest reference (emission) level submissions, the 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. An FAO publication launched on 28 October 2020, titled From reference levels to results reporting: REDD+ under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – 2020 update, provides an update of the results achieved so far. Let’s take a closer look at progress as of September 2020.
- 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 ha (33% of global forest area).The countries that submitted a REDD+ FREL/FRL to the UNFCCC are responsible for around 75% of global deforestation (according to FAO’s Global Forest Resources Assessment). In addition, 82% of the FREL/FRLs were national in scale, and 80% used historical average emissions/removals to construct their FREL/FRL.
- Thirteen countries reported REDD+ results to the UNFCCC through 17 results submissions (in the REDD+ technical annex of their biennial update reports). 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 had submitted a modified FREL/FRL, and 33 of these 43 modified FREL/FRL submissions (77%) changed the FREL/FRL value as a result of the technical assessment. The reporting process triggers 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 USD 361 million.
The most frequently mentioned objective in reference level submissions is to gain access to results-based finance. In 2017, the GCF launched the pilot program for results-based payment with a total envelope of USD 500 million.
To date, six countries have been awarded results-based payments, with two more countries (Argentina and Costa Rica) planning to present their proposals at the GCF board meeting in November 2020.
Moving Forward Amid COVID-19
Building on the considerable amount of work on REDD+ over the past decade, significant progress has been observed in recent years. Initiatives like UN-REDD Programme, the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI), the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) have played important roles.
However, with the unexpected challenges that 2020 has brought us, 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 are here not only to avoid potential negative post-COVID realities, they are here to prevent similar catastrophes. The pandemic sweeping across the world is a crisis in which human activities have played a key role. It is up to us to ensure that it does not further negatively impact our planet.
We also need to work with countries to ensure that forest monitoring efforts result in quality forest data, which can drive higher ambitions for forests and the climate. This is fundamental to ensure the integrity of the REDD+ process and for achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The authors of this guest articles are: Marieke Sandker, Forestry Officer, National Forest Monitoring, FAO Forestry Division; Till Neeff, Climate Change Expert, National Forest Monitoring, FAO Forestry Division; Julian Fox, Senior Forestry Officer, National Forest Monitoring Team Leader, FAO Forestry Division; and Maryia Kukharava, Outreach and Knowledge Management Expert, REDD+/National Forest Monitoring, FAO Forestry Division.