Deforestation and forest degradation, through agricultural expansion, conversion to pastureland, infrastructure development, destructive logging, fires etc., account for nearly 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than the entire global transportation sector and second only to the energy sector. It is now clear that in order to constrain the impacts of climate change within limits that society will reasonably be able to tolerate, the global average temperatures must be stabilized within two degrees Celsius. This will be practically impossible to achieve without reducing emissions from the forest sector, in addition to other mitigation actions.
Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) is an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development. “REDD+” goes beyond deforestation and forest degradation, and includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.
It is predicted that financial flows for greenhouse gas emission reductions from REDD+ could reach up to US$30 billion a year. This significant North-South flow of funds could reward a meaningful reduction of carbon emissions and could also support new, pro-poor development, help conserve biodiversity and secure vital ecosystem services.
Further, maintaining forest ecosystems can contribute to increased resilience to climate change. To achieve these multiple benefits, REDD+ will require the full engagement and respect for the rights of Indigenous Peoples and other forest-dependent communities.
To “seal the deal” on climate change, REDD+ activities in developing countries must complement, not be a substitute for, deep cuts in developed countries’ emissions. The decision to include REDD+ in a post-Kyoto regime must not jeopardize the commitment of Annex I countries to reduce their own emissions. Both will be critical to successfully address climate change.