Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation: A Systematic Approach

Policy Brief #08, December 2009. As up to 20 percent of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions result from deforestation, the reduction of emissions from deforestation and degradation of forests (REDD) is a major theme of the ongoing negotiations under the UNFCCC. This briefing looks at the fundamental issues and the challenges involved in current proposals to implement a trading scheme for REDD credits.

Policy Brief # 8, cover

Policy Brief # 8, cover


  • Trees continuously capture and store carbon. However, when destroyed (e.g., by fire), they release carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. With the living carbon storage capacity of much of the world’s tropical forests diminishing at a rapid rate through deforestation and forest degradation, many believe that the reduction of emissions from deforestation and degradation of forests (REDD) must be a fundamental part of overall approaches to climate change mitigation. Avoiding deforestation, however, requires the introduction of financial mechanisms that make the retention of forests economically competitive.
  • Efforts are currently under way to elaborate a scheme whereby credits could be issued for REDD and traded in the same way as carbon credits are traded under the clean development mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol. Any REDD credit–generating system is likely to operate under the principles of the ministerial statement issued at COP14 in Poznan in December 2008. This incorporates: (1) development of transparent, collaborative, balanced, and inclusive international arrangements to support national REDD efforts; and (2) elaboration of a reliable framework to measure, report, and verify (MRV) emission reductions.
  • The main challenges to the implementation of a viable REDD scheme are: (1) how to generate globally consistent emission reference scenarios at the country level from which to derive fully MRV’d REDD credits; and (2) elaboration of a “water-tight” financial mechanism whereby REDD credits, in the same way as carbon credits, could be issued and traded for avoided deforestation.
  • While any REDD actions at national, regional, or project level would be tailored to maximize emission reductions, they should recognize the different ecological and social co-benefits of forests, namely: (1) the conservation of terrestrial biodiversity; (2) their important cultural, spiritual, and recreational roles in many societies; and (3) their contribution to the economic life of hundreds of millions of people.
  • The establishment of an “International Emission Reference Scenario Coordination Center” (IERSCC) as a basis for deriving fully MRV’d REDD credits and an “International Emission Investment Reserve” (IEIR) to finance REDD activities are discussed here, along with the safeguarding of forest co-benefits under a REDD scheme.

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Last edited: 11 April 2016

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