How REDD+ can support a green economy

Suzannah Goss is a program officer coordinating knowledge management across UN-REDD+ units. A version of this story was originally published on the UN-REDD+ program blog. UN-REDD+ will host a session at the Forests Asia Summit in Jakarta on May 5, 2014.

The U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) International Resource Panel (IRP) launched a report: Building Natural Capital:  How REDD+ Can Support a Green Economy to coincide with key events taking place in Jakarta celebrating the International Day of Forests on March 21, 2014.

The planet is currently losing 13 million ha of forest per year – a size equivalent to a football field  is destroyed every three seconds. The most severe consequences of this loss include declining watersheds and the depletion of nutrition, loss of topsoil and valuable genetic resources upon which humanity is dependent. Forest loss and degradation also contributes significantly to climate change.

REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) backed by the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) aims to ensure that forests are more highly valued in decision-making.

REDD+ is a key catalyst in the transformation of development: “Providing a foundation for the global transition to a green economy”.  A green economy is defined by UNEP as “an economy that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.”

groundbreaking report, produced by UNEP’s International Resource Panel (IRP)and the UN-REDD Programme, in collaboration with economists and experts worldwide, reaffirms that a green economy offers new engines of growth, generates jobs and offers a vital strategy for the elimination of persistent poverty.

The authors recommend measures to secure tropical forests across the world, thereby slowing the loss of natural capital and simultaneously reinforcing sustainable development.  The report also seeks to motivate policy makers to create the enabling conditions for increased investments in Green Economy with a focus on building “natural capital”.

The primary conclusion of the report is that “many synergies between REDD+ and the ongoing transition to a green economy are currently under-utilized.”  Enhancing “these synergies will accelerate the transition while maximizing the return on REDD+ investments.”

In addition, the authors of the IRP report conclude:

  • The Green Economy provides a useful framework within which REDD+ can prosper. Improved coordination among governments, international agencies, and the private sector dealing with these issues is essential;
  • Equitable sharing of the benefits of REDD+ is likely to increase the sustainability of its impact by building support among a wider variety of stakeholders;
  • To date, REDD+ activities have focused mostly on reducing carbon emissions from loss and degradation of forests but REDD+ needs to give significantly greater attention to the additional benefits that forests provide.
  • The success of REDD+, therefore depends on the balance between conserving forest ecosystems and maximizing carbon sequestration; this balance needs to be informed by solid science.

Perhaps the largest challenge for REDD+ in coming years will be to generate an estimated $30 billion per year needed for the implementation of REDD+ from 2020 onwards. The report examines possible sources for these payments, insisting that developed countries play their part in raising the $30 billion each year required for future REDD funding.  Additional funding could be leveraged from reassessing current incentives such as fossil fuel subsidies, estimated in the region of $500 billion per annum, to help meet these costs. “REDD+ would require less than 7 percent of these subsidies to be fully funded.”

Furthermore, stronger engagement of the private sector, and revised national incentive frameworks are recommended to meet these challenges.  A green economy approach can support both. REDD+ is a “no regrets” investment, and the $6.27 billion pledged so far is generating multiple benefits far beyond carbon sequestration.

Multiple benefits of REDD+ in the landscape quoted from the IRP Report:

“REDD+ is an effort to create a financial value for carbon stored in forests, incentivizing developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development.  REDD+ goes beyond addressing deforestation and forest degradation and aims to make forest management and land use more sustainable within the landscape, and promote conservation and restoration of forests.

When REDD+ prevents the loss or degradation of forest, this will result in multiple benefits in addition to protecting or enhancing carbon stocks.  These include ecosystem-based benefits such as conservation of forest biodiversity, water regulation, soil conservation, forest foods and other non-timber forest products. Higher productivity across the wider landscape will be essential to ensure food, water and energy security in an increasingly resource-constrained world, where soil fertility and availability is currently dropping fast.”

Such is the dynamic nature of the REDD+ narrative that it can lead to direct economic benefits, such as jobs, livelihoods, land tenure clarification, carbon payments, enhanced participation in decision-making and improved governance. In Kenya, the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project provides a replicable model of how multiple benefits can be achieved through REDD+ activities.

Quite literally tropical forests are invaluable. Here is some food for thought: 60 million indigenous people depend on forests; trade in timber and forest products is estimated at $330 billiontourism generates $77 billion in global annual revenue; 33 of the world’s 105 largest cities obtain their fresh water directly from protected areas; forest plants contribute to the development of at least 25 per cent of all prescription drugs; forest based wild pollinators (such as bees) are worth billions of dollars annually to farmers.

Read more about the UN-REDD Programme projects in the following countries:

Democratic Republic of Congo (T21 model)

Indonesia Greening National Development Plan

Panama (valuation of forest ecosystem services)

- Full report, low resolution (8 MB):

- Summary for Policy Makers (6 MB):


Multiple benefits of REDD+ in the landscape

Forests and the green economy

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