Policy Background

Initiation of the REDD Process in 2005 and Development of REDD Demonstration Activities (Pilot Projects)

Countries that have ratified and/or are signatories to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its related Kyoto Protocol (KP) have been actively involved in developing relevant policy processes that aim at mitigating the effects of climate change. As deforestation and forest degradation are estimated to contribute about 20% of the total greenhouse gas emissions, a group of developing countries initiated a process at the UNFCCC Conference of Parties (COP) 11 in Montreal in 2005 to address this issue within a new policy segment, termed the reduction of emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD), that would be implemented as a post-Kyoto Protocol mechanism.

In order for countries to receive financial compensation for REDD a country needs to estimate emissions and changes in forest carbon stocks from deforestation, forest degradation, have a means to establish reference emission levels and to address the displacement of emissions (UNFCCC Fact Sheet, June 2009). As an important aspect of the process is to establish baseline or reference emission levels, there is a need for robust and cost-effective methodologies to estimate and monitor changes in forest cover and associated carbon stocks and greenhouse gas emissions. Thus more specifically countries will need to know:

  1. the aerial extent of deforestation and forest degradation (hectares),
  2. for degradation, the proportion of forest biomass lost (percentage),
  3. where the deforestation or forest degradation occurred (which forest type),
  4. the carbon content of each forest type (metric tons of carbon per hectare), and
  5. the process of forest loss which affects the rate and timing of emissions (Ramankutty et al 2007).

The role of Earth Observation (EO) in combination with in-situ data has been underscored as an important tool for forest cover and land use monitoring in the REDD methodological developments. Important to note is the development of the REDD Sourcebook which has been compiled by an ad-hoc REDD working group of the Global Observation of Forest and Land Cover Dynamics (GOFC-GOLD), with the aim of presenting guidelines for REDD implementation related to “appropriate monitoring frameworks considering current technical capabilities to measure gross carbon emission from changes in forest cover due to deforestation and degradation on the national level (GOFC-GOLD, 2009).” The EO community who are involved in the development of the Sourcebook are aware that there are many technical gaps yet to be fulfilled for REDD methodologies.

At the UNFCCC Conference of Parties (COP) 11 meeting in Montreal (2005) several developing countries put forward a proposal for the consideration of reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation in developing countries (REDD) as a post-Kyoto Protocol mechanism. Since 2005, countries have taken initiatives to develop REDD demonstration activities (pilot projects) and to work on methodological issues, technology transfer and capacity building which are all required for successful REDD implementation. At the end of 2007, the COP13 in Bali concluded with a Bali Action Plan which outlined clear REDD activities for countries to engage in. The main elements of the REDD decision (2/CP.13) in Bali were as follows:

  • Capacity building and technical assistance
  • Demonstration activities
  • Programme of Work on methodological issues
  • Role of international organizations and stakeholders

COP13 resulted in expanding the scope of RED beyond deforestation to also include incentives for reducing emissions from forest degradation (REDD) as well as preserving and increasing forest carbon stocks (REDD+). The Bali Action Plan (BAP) also noted that estimates of reductions or increases of emissions should be results-based, demonstrable, transparent, verifiable and estimated consistently over time.

Copenhagen Accord (COP15, 2009) called for the establishment of a REDD+ mechanism. During COP 16 (2010), further Specifications of the REDD+ mechanism were developed (Cancun Accord). An important outcome was also that the REDD+ could be implemented in phases, which permitted developing countries to develop their national strategies and technologies for MRV in an evolving manner. The COP17 in Durban (2011) presented overarching guidelines for assessing the Reference Emissions Levels, but more specific technical details were not elaborated.

Establishment of REDD+ as Formal Policy at COP19

The issues raised at COP17 in 2011 and the SBSTA in June 2013, were further discussed at the COP19 in Warsaw, and one of the main outcomes of the meeting was that a complete REDD package was approved. The Warsaw REDD Framework, that was adopted at COP19, provides guidance for ensuring environmental integrity and pave the way towards the full implementation of REDD+ activities on the ground. The REDD decisions include guidelines on the following:

  • REDD+ finance: Work programme on results-based finance to progress the full implementation of the activities referred to in decision 1/CP.16, paragraph 70
  • Coordination of finance: Coordination of support for the implementation of activities in relation to mitigation actions in the forest sector by developing countries, including institutional arrangements
  • National forest monitoring systems: Modalities for national forest monitoring systems
  • Summary of information on safeguards: The timing and the frequency of presentations of the summary of information on how all the safeguards referred to in decision 1/CP.16, appendix I, are being addressed and respected
  • Forest reference emission levels: Guidelines and procedures for the technical assessment of submissions from Parties on proposed forest reference emission levels and/or forest reference levels
  • Measuring, reporting and verification (MRV) of forest-related emissions: Modalities for measuring, reporting and verifying
  • Drivers of deforestation and forest degradation: Addressing the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation

REDD Background

Combating Climate Change

Tropical forests cover about 15% of the world’s land surface and contain about 25% of the carbon in the terrestrial biosphere. But they are being rapidly degraded and deforested resulting in the emission of heat-trapping carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. This loss accounts for around a fifth of global carbon emissions, making land cover change the second largest contributor to global warming. Forests therefore play a vital role in any initiative to combat climate change.

Why were forests not included in the Kyoto mechanism??

Deforestation and degradation are estimated to contribute to about 20% of the total global greenhouse gas emissions.

At the UNFCCC Conference of Parties (COP-11) in Montreal 2005, a group of tropical countries headed by Papua New Guinea and Costa Rica initiated a process to address the issue of reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD), that would be implemented as a post-Kyoto Protocol mechanism.

The basic premise of a future REDD policy would be that countries that are willing and capable of reducing emissions due to deforestation and forest degradation will be compensated financially.

In the subsequent COP meetings, countries were encouraged to develop REDD Pilot Projects in order to assess the viability of such a process nationally.