10 views on the future of REDD+

Ahead of the UN climate change conference in Paris, experts from across the globe give their take on what's next for REDD+.
What's on the horizon for REDD+ ? Photo: ImAges ImprObables
What’s on the horizon for REDD+ ? Photo: ImAges ImprObables

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It’s been a long and rocky road for the climate change mitigation scheme known as REDD+, or Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation, since the idea was first accepted at the UNFCCC COP13 in Bali in 2007.

The original concept was for a market-based mechanism by which developing tropical countries could earn more money for keeping their forests standing than by cutting them down. But efforts to put the idea into practice have turned up a range of challenges associated with making the scheme function.

Nevertheless, a framework is in place, new rules are expected at the climate change conference in Paris, and 39 countries say they’ll include reducing deforestation in their carbon emission reduction efforts.

So what’s next for REDD+? Ten experts from across the globe give their take.

Louis Verchot

Research Director, Forests and Environment
Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)

We need to take the long view with REDD+ and not throw up our hands and say it’s a failure because it’s taken eight years and it’s still not perfect.

All new ideas go through a phase of hype and excitement, a phase of disillusionment, and then you start dealing with reality. We’re in the proof-of-concept phase now, with the final set of rules expected to be approved in Paris. Countries are either going to figure REDD+ out, or abandon it—but at least some are going to start working on it. That means they actually have to start changing the way their industry works, or the way smallholder farmers can get access to land—and that’s the hard part.

This isn’t a problem we can solve project by project. Climate change is a structural problem in the way we’ve organized our societies, in how we get energy, and what we expect our lives and livelihoods to be like. The climate change problem was created over 150 years, and some entrenched interests have built up in that time, so unraveling them won’t happen overnight. We have to get out of this mentality of quick fixes.

REDD+ is just one tool in the toolbox for tackling climate change. We’re in the real building phase now, we’re past the hype—we need to get past the disillusionment and start doing the hard work.

All new ideas go through a phase of hype and excitement, a phase of disillusionment, and then you start dealing with reality.

Louis Verchot

Nur Masripatin

Director General for Climate Change
Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Indonesia

REDD+ will continue to be very important for Indonesia. We have been working on REDD+ since 2007 when we hosted the Bali COP, and we have spent so much energy and resources preparing for REDD+: from the technical aspects such as the establishment of reference levels, to developing the REDD+ architecture, and mobilizing international support.

We have everything we need now to make REDD+ work.

Nur Masripatin

What is needed is recognition from the international community that REDD+ will continue to play an important role in the post-2020 regime, as well as the need for speeding up the implementation of REDD+ over the next five years to 2020.

I’m optimistic in that we have international guidance, we have 17 COP decisions that lay out how the scheme can be implemented in each country. We have everything we need now to make REDD+ work.

REDD+ is the appropriate mechanism to address the problem of deforestation and forest degradation while still allowing development to continue—but development with appropriate design.

Peter Holmgren

Director General
Center for International Forestry Research

How do we save REDD+? Always a brilliant idea for combining conservation and mitigation ambitions, well nurtured by the multilateral system to date. Now we have a combined challenge of uncertain returns on the carbon investments, complicated engineering of REDD+ actions, and a complex policy context with multiple priorities.

Let us say that REDD+ is a co-benefit of sustainable development.

Peter Holmgren

REDD+ was always about reducing emissions, but has been loaded with other goals, and the bandwagon now struggles to make its way through the landscapes. This may be the time to go back to basics and acknowledge that reducing emissions is indeed the one goal of REDD+. It may be more effective then to view REDD+ as a specific objective together with all those other development ambitions—that often have a higher political or economic weight. In other words, let us take to the higher ground and say that REDD+ is a co-benefit of sustainable development.

Yitebitu Moges Abebe

National Coordinator
REDD+ Program, Ethiopia

Ethiopia has a long history of human habitation and we have lost most of our forests, so the “plus” in REDD+ has a special meaning in our country—we want to restore them, as well as maintain our remaining 17 million hectares of forest cover.

But so far the finances offered by REDD+ are really insignificant. A $5 carbon price is nothing compared with other traditional development opportunities in forest areas. So we are trying to combine approaches for generating resources—domestic funding, development assistance, as well as results-based REDD+ payments.

Even if REDD+ is not on the horizon in the near future, we will benefit from what we have done.

Yitebitu Moges Abebe

In preparing for REDD+ we have established a modern forest monitoring system, as well as identified the challenges and problems in the forestry sector, in terms of institutions and legal frameworks. So even if REDD+ is not on the horizon in the near future, I think we will benefit from what we have done.

But our hope is that the international community will invest in REDD+. If you do it, you help biodiversity. You help local people. If you do it properly you save forests. And you set many countries, like Ethiopia, on a sustainable development path.

Gustavo Suarez De Freitas Calmet

Executive Coordinator
National Forest Conservation Program for Climate Change Mitigation, Peru

The future path of REDD+ will depend largely on how we understand it. If the focus is a series of pilot projects that aim to measure the carbon emissions avoided as a result of certain interventions—a time-consuming and expensive process—the future is not too promising.

If, however, we understand REDD+ as a national mechanism that can be inserted into the broader management of large landscapes—including agricultural activities that are usually the main drivers of deforestation—and in which countries develop a variety of public policies, measures and actions to address deforestation, the future of REDD+ is very interesting.

To achieve this, countries need a nationwide drive to explain this to national, subnational and local governments as well as to the key players in forest landscapes, from indigenous peoples to private owners to large investors. It is only by acting together in a coordinated fashion that we can achieve the transformational changes required to meet the objectives of REDD+ and make results-based payments actually possible.

Pharo Per Fredrik Ilsaas

Director, International Climate and Forest Initiative
Ministry of Environment, Norway

The original idea with REDD+ was to change the way the market works by putting an international price on forest carbon. That looks unlikely to happen, certainly at the scale that was envisioned in 2008. But there could be another set of motives and actors that could still drive the change quite forcefully and powerfully—such as the private sector push for deforestation-free supply chains.

That push is cause for optimism, not because it will solve the problem on its own, but because it broadens the alliance of people and organizations that want to build a public policy framework for reducing and eventually halting deforestation.

The evidence that protecting forests is actually a good idea from a green growth, “enlightened self-interest” perspective is also far stronger today than it was in 2008. A number of tropical forest countries are realizing that and acting on it: Brazil’s remarkable reduction in Amazon deforestation is cause for hope.

Thelma Krug

Senior Researcher
National Institute for Space Research (INPE), Brazil

In principle, REDD+ should be entering its Phase 3. That implies that it should be providing results-based payments for those countries that have fulfilled the REDD+ eligibility requirements (e.g. a technical annex, reference levels, forest monitoring systems, information on safeguards being respected, etc.) and have presented results.

If there is payment for the results presented, I expect that more countries will engage in REDD+.

Thelma Krug

If there is payment for the results presented, I expect that more countries will engage in REDD+. On the other hand, if developing countries feel that their REDD+ efforts are not matched by payments, then REDD+ is doomed to fail in the short to medium term. In my vision, REDD+ payments will be realized mainly through bilateral agreements rather than via multilateral financing mechanisms or market approaches.

Martin Herold

Professor of Geoinformation Science and Remote Sensing
Wageningen University, Netherlands

The fact that 39 countries have included REDD+ in their INDCs (intended nationally determined contributions) indicates that forest and climate change mitigation remain high on the political agenda. If there is an agreement in Paris—and my guess is that there will be—REDD+ will be part of that.

There are still some questions. Most importantly: how does it link to the broader land-use sector? REDD+ will have to evolve toward broader land use and agriculture issues, and link in with issues of adaptation and food security while enhancing forests as a storehouse of carbon and ecosystem services.

More research will be needed to figure out how multiple objectives can be achieved within tropical forest landscapes. Very little is known about how that can actually be done.

The role of forests as a carbon sink is also important. To reduce atmospheric carbon you can reduce emissions—but you can also sequester carbon in growing forests. That will have to get a lot more attention because there is a lot of potential there that is not well quantified and not well understood in the tropical regions.

Dan Nepstad

Executive Director
Earth Innovation Institute

Over the next 3 to 4 years, REDD+ will change in two important and interconnected ways. First, it will become more of a “bottom-up” mechanism, finding its greatest relevance as the pay-for-performance element of regionally tailored, low-emission rural development strategies that are designed and owned by local societies in tropical forest regions. This will force greater flexibility and efficiency of the rules and systems for measuring performance across large political geographies—or “jurisdictions”.

Second, we will see a union between jurisdictional REDD+ and sustainable supply chain initiatives—including corporate deforestation pledges and sustainable commodity standards (e.g. roundtables). Businesses will realize that partnerships with local governments and farm sectors are the cheapest and most efficient pathway to succeed in implementing their sustainability commitments. We will see a “race to the top” among states, provinces and nations, each seeking to attract investment and gain full access to markets. Existing platforms for fostering this collaboration, such as the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force, will be key platforms for brokering these collaborations.

Arild Angelsen

Economics Professor
University of Life Sciences (UMB), Norway

REDD+ has been a remarkable success as an idea, but so far, REDD+ efforts have not been able to change—at any scale—the basic deforestation logic and to make living trees worth more than dead trees. The way forward is for forested countries to assume a stronger role and ownership in the implementation of REDD+, and to incorporate it into their INDCs and in their domestic emission targets.

Corporate efforts—through the greening of supply chains—can play a major role, pushed by consumer pressure and environmental watchdogs, and complemented by domestic policy reforms. The international community must gently nudge countries to stronger pledges and provide finance to nudge and supplement domestic efforts in the poorest countries.

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For more information on this topic, please contact Louis Verchot at l.verchot@cgiar.org.
This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.
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