Interventions designed to reduce emissions of atmospheric heat-trapping gases from tropical forest degradation are more likely to succeed if based on previous experiences and if they are clearly linked to other on-going conservation and development initiatives. Links between forest management certification, climate change mitigation, and forest product legality assurance already being made on the ground by forest auditors should be recognized and enhanced. Similar synergies are also important at the international policy level, but we focus at the forest level and on the decisions of individual workers and the effectiveness of forest auditors. We stress how designs of linked conservation interventions should be based on theories of change that recognize the complexity of issues at stake across the hierarchy of actors and re-contextualize the processes so as to direct them towards emission-reductions and other desired outcomes. We posit the need to invest in building the capacity of both those responsible for and affected by forest loss and degradation for more efficient and accountable implementation of REDD+ and related conservation interventions.