Forest Biodiversity

REDD+ and Biodiversity Benefits

Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries (REDD+)

Deforestation is occurring at a rate of approximately 13 million hectares per year, an area about 50 times the size of Luxembourg or 180 times the size of Singapore (FAO, 2007). Tropical deforestation is a major cause of biodiversity loss. It also results in the release of carbon dioxide (with small amounts of carbon monoxide and methane), a major cause of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimated emissions from deforestation in the 1990s to be at 5.8 gigatons of carbon dioxide per year or about 20% of annual global greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore reducing and/or preventing deforestation is an important climate change mitigation option.

The topic of reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries was first introduced at the eleventh session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Montreal (December 2005).

The Climate Change Conference in Bali, in December 2007, opened the possibility of developing an incentive mechanism for “reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation; and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries” (REDD+). Subsequently some REDD+ projects have been developed, which already feature in the voluntary carbon markets.

It became clear that a REDD+ mechanism can deliver multiple benefits. In addition to mitigating climate change, REDD+ can support livelihoods, maintain vital ecosystem services and preserve globally significant biodiversity. Therefore, discussions on the linkages between REDD+ and biodiversity conservation increased and a number of research projects and policies were developed around the issue. Parties to the CBD noted that the benefits will not necessarily be automatically achieved. However, if REDD+ is well designed and properly implemented, it would have unprecedented benefits for forest biodiversity.

Specifically, the Conference of the Parties, at its ninth meeting (COP 9), called on Parties, other governments and international organizations to ensure that REDD efforts:

  • do not run counter to the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the implementation of the programme of work on forest biodiversity, but support the implementation of the programme of work;
  • provide benefits for forest biodiversity and, where possible, to indigenous and local communities;
  • involve biodiversity experts, including holders of traditional forest-related knowledge;
  • and respect the rights of indigenous and local communities in accordance with national laws and applicable international obligations (decision IX/5).

At the Climate Change Conference in Cancun in November/December 2010, UNFCCC COP 16 formally included REDD+ into the international climate regime. In decision 1/CP.16, it encouraged developing country Parties to contribute to greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation actions in the forest sector by undertaking REDD+ activities. REDD+ will be implemented in three different phases, starting with the development of national strategies or action plans, policies and measures, and capacity-building, followed by their implementation and evolving into fully measured, reported and verified results-based actions.

Most importantly from a biodiversity perspective, the UNFCCC COP affirmed in decision 1/CP.16 that the implementation of REDD+ activities should include the promotion and support of a number of safeguards, including:

  • consistency with the objectives of national forest programmes and relevant international agreements;
  • transparent and effective national forest governance structures;
  • consistency with the conservation of natural forests and biological diversity, including the avoidance of the conversion of natural forests and incentives for the protection and conservation of natural forests and their ecosystem services and other social and environmental benefits;
  • addressing the risk of reversals;
  • reducing the displacement of emissions.

At the Climate Change Conference in Durban in November/December 2011, UNFCCC COP 17 further elaborated on decision 1/CP.16 and provided guidance on systems for providing information on how safeguards are addressed and respected. In Decision 12/CP.17, Parties agreed that such systems should:

  • be consistent with the guidance identified in decision 1/CP.16;
  • provide transparent and consistent information that is accessible by all relevant stakeholders and updated on a regular basis;
  • be transparent and flexible to allow for improvements over time;
  • provide information on how all safeguards referred to in decision 1/CP.16 are being addressed and respected;
  • be country-driven and implemented at the national level;
  • build upon existing systems, as appropriate.

In the same decision, UNFCCC Parties also agreed on modalities for forest reference emission levels and forest reference levels as benchmarks for assessing each country’s performance in implementing REDD+ activities.

The conferences in Cancun and Durban also explored financing options for the implementation of results-based REDD+ actions. Progress on this issue will be reported to the 2012 Climate Change Conference in Qatar.

In relation to REDD+, the Conference of the Parties, at its tenth meeting (COP 10), requested the Executive Secretary of the CBD Secretariat, collaborating with other organizations, to provide advice, including on the application of relevant safeguards for biodiversity, for approval by the Conference of the Parties at its eleventh meeting. Furthermore, the Executive Secretary was asked to identify possible indicators to assess the contribution of REDD+ to achieving the objectives of the CBD, and assess potential mechanisms to monitor impacts on biodiversity from these and other ecosystem-based approaches for climate change mitigation measures, and to report on progress to the SBSTTA at a meeting prior to the eleventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties (decision X/33).

The CBD Secretariat is working on these requests by conducting studies and workshops. A particular emphasis of this work is directed towards ensuring the appropriate involvement of indigenous and local communities.

Further information

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
UN-REDD Programme
Biodiversity & REDD+ Platform