What is the REDD+ programme?

Joe Ronan

Joe Ronan

Death and resurrection - What is the REDD+ program

Deforestation has been an ongoing topic of conversation in climate change news for many years now. The question is, how are we meant to stop deforestation when many countries rely on logging as their main income source? Well, that’s where REDD+ comes in.

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What is REDD+?

‘REDD’ stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation. REDD+ is a climate mitigation solution and pays countries to keep their beautiful forests intact, instead of chopping them down for lumber.

The UN REDD programme is there to assist countries in meeting the requirements for REDD+. So, developing countries get paid to keep their amazing forests. Pretty cool, right?

REDD+ is a United Nations initiative created specifically to impact the climate crisis by reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation. The REDD programme puts value on the carbon stored within the trees. This makes keeping them alive more valuable than cutting them down.

In turn, this encourages sustainable growth and development in the local communities. As well as having a positive environmental impact, there are also beneficial effects on the social and economic aspects of these communities.

When forests are cut down, the carbon stored within the trees is released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide (Co2) and other greenhouse gases. A whopping 7 billion tons of carbon dioxide is released every single year and accounts for 11% of carbon emissions. That’s more than the whole global transportation sector combined, and is second only to the energy sector.

REDD+ and Verified Emission Reductions 

With climate change news becoming more widely consumed, large corporations are facing a new challenge in living up to consumer expectations.

How do they continue to deliver their goods and services whilst taking action to reduce their carbon footprint? How can they reduce their negative impact on climate change and show that they want to do it? By pledging to purchase REDD+ Verified Emissions Reductions (VERs), of course!

By doing so, they create demand and also stimulate investment that goes towards new REDD+ projects.

VERs refer to a market for carbon credits outside of the Kyoto Protocol regime. VERs originate from an organisation’s desire to take an active part in climate change mitigation efforts. They are not mandated by any laws or regulations. Because of this, VERs can’t be used to offset the compulsory emission reductions in legislated schemes. They must be used as an additional tool in the fight against the climate crisis and not as a substitution for active emissions reductions.

REDD+ and the UN-REDD Programme

REDD+ is being developed by Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as a climate change mitigation solution. It is an incentive for developing countries to keep their forests intact as it offers a results-based payment system. Payments are made for actions by the government and local communities to reduce or remove forest carbon emissions.

The UN-REDD Programme is there to assist countries in developing the capacities needed to meet the UNFCCC’s REDD+ requirements. This is so that they can qualify to receive their results-based payments from the programme. The UN-REDD Programme supports the nationally-led REDD+ processes and it promotes the meaningful involvement of all its stakeholders.

This includes indigenous peoples and other communities dependent on forests, such as those who live along the Sepik River in Papua New Guinea.

Fire in the rainforest

History of the UN-REDD Programme

REDD+ originated in Wewak, Papua New Guinea, which is where the man behind the programme, Kevin Conrad, grew up. In 2003 The World Bank offered Papua New Guinea a $17million USD loan to shut down their corrupt logging industry. Whilst this was a step in the right direction, the government received $50million USD in royalties from logging every year. 

The REDD programme, though inspiring, was a little rough around the edges in the beginning. It suffered bad press due to scandalous activities of people involved. In 2009 the director of the climate change department in Papua New Guinea, Theo Yasause was suspended for allegedly printing his own carbon credits.

Carbon Cowboys

There were also reports of “carbon cowboys” in the Amazon, displacing communities to make way for schemes to offset their emissions. In Brazil, villagers living next to the Guaraquecaba Climate Action Project were banned from hunting, fishing, or tending to their forest gardens. They were being blocked by environmental police, known as the green force. 

The objective was always to reduce the impacts of climate change by paying for intact forests. Only now the ideas behind it are clearer after being rebranded in 2010 from REDD to REDD+. This took away the focus on solely reducing emissions and carbon markets, now taking a thorough look at safeguarding the forests and the lives of people who live in them.

carbon cowboys, Shaheed Muhammad, Nijhel "Jimmy" Motley

How Does REDD+ Work?

The REDD+ Programme works by having developed nations pay developing nations for the clean air produced by their trees and forests. It is the UN’s plan to use these forests in the fight against climate change. Instead of chopping them down for lumber, governments are paid through the UN REDD Programme for intact and healthy forests. This means that they’re still receiving a significant amount of cash every year, just without the environmental devastation.

Businesses are given carbon credits. A carbon credit is essentially a permit that allows whatever company that holds it to emit a certain amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. One carbon credit allows the equivalent of one ton of carbon dioxide to be released into the atmosphere.

Companies that are awarded carbon credits due to their pollution are allowed to continue polluting up to a certain limit, which is reduced periodically. If they exceed this limit then the company will be fined. Companies can also sell their carbon credits if they have an excess that they don’t need. The ultimate goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, thus reducing the impacts of climate change.

The Pros and Cons of Carbon Credits

Pros:
  • They aid rapid growth of renewable technology. Individuals or entities can balance their carbon footprint by funding projects aimed at reducing the emission of greenhouse gasses. Some of these projects include installing solar panels and wind turbines.
  • They improve older businesses by limiting their contribution of greenhouse gasses. If a business emits more than the set limit then they have to tackle problem areas to achieve more efficiency and reduce emissions.
  • Engaging with carbon offsetting will bring challenges to business on how to spend money. Whether that be through paying for carbon offsets or funnelling money into the business and reducing emissions internally.
Cons:
  • Investment in clean, renewable energy. Buying carbon credits may seem like a way to get out of minimising carbon emissions without investing in cleaner energy.
  • It’s complicated. Once you’ve got people on board, you’ve then got to get them to pledge their commitment to reducing their carbon emissions. Then there’s buying the carbon credits which could require involvement from third parties.
  • Project developers struggle to get necessary permits. This often takes months, so only larger projects are likely to fund development costs.
Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation Graphic

How is REDD+ funded?

The UN-REDD Programme is funded by developed countries that pay developing countries to keep their forests intact. Financing is considered in the international climate change negotiations and is a key component in the financial discussions.

Voluntary funding is one of the ways in which countries can be paid. This is like the existing official aid given by one country to another or cash could be linked to carbon markets. The second way is the plan for an international auction of emissions allowances. 

Thirdly there is a proposition of REDD+ credits, which would be tradeable alongside the pre-existing Certified Emissions Reductions (CERs). The companies and governments that are unable or unwilling to meet their obligation to reduce emissions would have to buy further credits at the market price.

Is the REDD+ Program Achieving its Goals?

In short, the answer is: YES! There has been much success with projects in Brazil, Ecuador, Guatemala, Colombia, and Chile. In recent interviews, those implementing the REDD+ programme have already begun conditional payments or other livelihood enhancements to households and communities in the project areas.

Despite the overall success, there are still areas that need improvement. A new study conducted by a Delhi-based non-profit, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), revealed that REDD+ has, for the most part, failed to achieve its objectives

While this may seem bad, this report only relates to the implementation of REDD+ in India, Kenya, and Tanzania. It isn’t representative of the UN REDD Programme as a whole.

Glass Globe in Forest

The Future of REDD+

Despite all of the challenges and pitfalls associated with starting something as groundbreaking as the REDD+ Programme, there is a bright future for REDD+. Since 2009, the UN-REDD Programme has managed to create visibility for REDD+ internationally and has expanded from 9 to 64 partner countries around the world. This includes Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. 

Since its inception in 2003, more than 300 REDD+ initiatives have taken off globally. It has emerged as the most prominent global mechanism incorporating forests in the fight against climate change and has since been enshrined in the Paris Agreement of 2015.

The implementation of REDD+ is transitioning from smaller projects to larger programmes with further support. With the move onto bigger projects, we hope to see further growth of the UN-REDD Programme and more support for REDD+ from governments and businesses around the world. The program helps the United Nations to make a better world and environment, and act on climate change as a part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

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