Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+)

Forests have a critical role to play in the fight against global climate change. Forest loss accounts for up to 20% of global carbon emissions -- more than all the cars, trucks, trains, planes and ships in the world. By reducing forest loss, we can reduce carbon emissions and fight climate change. It's that simple.
 / ©: © Kevin Schafer / WWF
Sangay National Park, Ecuador. Sunset over Cloud Forest Andes Mountains, approximately 3000 meters.
© © Kevin Schafer / WWF
Home to much of the world's biodiversity, forests have significant values, both as a provider of goods (food, medicine, timber, construction materials, etc) and services (purifying air, preserving watersheds, stabilizing soil and preventing erosion, etc). 

Today, forests are widely recognised for many environmental services they provide to society. But when they are destroyed or degraded forests can become a major emitter of greenhouse gases such as CO2

Deforestation and forest degradation, particularly in the tropics, contribute up to 20% of global carbon emissions, and have negative impacts on biodiversity, local communities and indigenous peoples, sustainable long-term economic growth, air quality and other environmental and socio-economic goods and services. 

When carbon emissions from deforestation are taken into account, both Brazil and Indonesia leap into the top 10 of the world's major polluters.

Forests are also impacted by climate change - rising temperatures make forests drier, more susceptible to fires, and vulnerable to pests and diseases. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that at least a third of the world’s remaining forests may be adversely affected by changing climate.

Reducing forest-based emissions

Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries and the conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks (called REDD+) hold a great deal of promise as a way to cut global greenhouse gas emissions. WWF’s goal is zero net emissions from deforestation and forest degradation by 2020 – which means we are working to ensure that forests are a key part of tackling climate change. Because forests are valuable for much more than the carbon they store, REDD+ must also benefit people and nature.

Countries need to develop national frameworks to tackle forest-based emissions. There must be sufficient resources provided to address the drivers of deforestation. Developed countries must help by providing resources, including technology transfer. And provision must be made to ensure that as countries with high deforestation rates implement REDD+ initiatives, countries which up till now have low deforestation do not begin to cut their forests. These countries should be given incentives to protect their forests as they are likely to face increasing pressure to deforest to meet demand for forest products.

What is REDD+?

Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries and the conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks (called REDD+), is an effort to make trees worth more standing than cut down by providing developing countries with economic incentives to protect their forests. When done right, in a way that safeguards the rights of local communities and indigenous peoples, REDD+ can not only benefit the climate, but also biodiversity and local livelihoods.

Paying to keep forests standing

Outside of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), there is already a growing market providing economic and financial incentives for offsetting carbon emissions. There is a need to ensure that the so called forest carbon projects are well-designed and do more than just reduce global climate change. There must be social and environmental safeguards to ensure that biodiversity conservation, and the rights of poorer local communities and indigenous peoples are not compromised.

Boosting forest defences against climate change

Forests need to be kept healthy so they can maintain their biodiversity and environmental services, including carbon storage. This includes boosting forests' resilience and resistance to climate change by for example:

  • avoiding forest fragmentation;
  • improving forest connectivity;
  • preventing conversion to high-intensity forestry and encouraging sustainable use;
  • maintaining natural disturbance regimes such as fires;
  • actively managing invasive species; and
  • maximising the size of the forest management unit.
 / ©: Brent Stirton/Getty Images
The Amazon, Borneo-Mekong and Congo forest blocks account for one third of the planet’s forests. These vast expanses of forest play a crucial role in regulating global climate, unpinning local livelihood strategies and protecting the diversity of life on the planet.
© Brent Stirton/Getty Images

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