Keeping carbon down and forests up

For the past two months, IUCN has explored how REDD+ and sharing its benefits are helping people and the planet. This recap highlights our series and looks ahead to COP21 and beyond.

The many faces of our forests

IUCN & REDD+ series: On the road to Paris and beyond

In the lead up to the Paris Climate Change Conference in December (UNFCCC COP21), IUCN’s Global Forest and Climate Change Programme has published a series of 7 articles highlighting the innovative steps developing countries are taking to equitably share the benefits from reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and enhancing forest carbon stocks – activities commonly known as ‘REDD+’.

Find all articles from the series in the REDD+ section of IUCN’s website and share your thoughts on Twitter @IUCN_Forests.


Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and enhancing forest carbon stocks(REDD+) is a climate change mitigation mechanism that can help countries reduce emissions, sustainably manage forests, and enhance forest carbon stocks. In REDD+, incentives for conserving forests go beyond short-term monetary value and compensation to focus on their value in securing long-term sustainability. This requires consensus-building, with stakeholders seeing the system as fair and legitimate, and the rights of local communities to use and manage the forests being properly clarified and secured.

Under the umbrella of REDD+ come various activities, stakeholders, and key issues such as governance of natural resources and addressing the gender imbalance in community forest conservation. IUCN works on these issues in tropical countries: from Mexico and Guatemala to Ghana, Cameroon, and Indonesia, innovation is at work, reaping some results while underscoring the challenges of tackling climate change now and beyond.

Teaming up with existing initiatives

While REDD+ can appear intricate in structure, with complex incentives and reward schemes, in many cases, REDD+ lends itself to working with existing in-country mechanisms. For example, in Indonesia, Forest Management Units (FMUs) function as decentralized entities charged with planning, management, investment, and monitoring and evaluation of forests under their authority. There is financial coverage for these local-level activities that are also meant to generate sufficient income. REDD+ projects that include securing forests against legal conversion, managing or reducing commercial logging, and planting trees in degraded forests can help FMUs limit carbon emissions and achieve their overarching sustainable forest management goals.

Community participation in the decisions and activities affecting forest resources also helps strengthen local and regional partnerships and sustainable economic benefits in the long run. Such an approach also underpins successful efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in Ghana, which has established more than 25 Community Resource Management Areas (CREMAs) in the past 15 years. In these CREMAs, communities actively participate in land-use planning and management, generating benefits and safeguarding their wealth of natural resources. CREMAs focus on local management of the natural resources is a model that can be applied to REDD+ and other initiatives seeking to motivate smallholders to adopt sustainable agricultural and resource management practices.

Viet Nam’s Payments for Forest Ecosystem Services (PFES) programme aims to compensate individuals and communities for providing and protecting environmental services, benefitting ethnic minority groups and the rural poor. In Lam Dong province, for example, the country’s PFES scheme now covers more than 200,000 hectares of forest, with an average allocation of 20-30 hectares per household. PFES payments do not adequately compensate for the vast resources lost in cleared forest but it is another example of an existing mechanism that can pave the way for REDD+ to open up other potential sources of funding.

Effective subnational and local engagement help ensure that benefits from REDD+ actually “stick.” A community that is actively engaged in managing their own resources sees the rewards that come from managing lands sustainably because there is income, empowerment, strengthened capacity and a forest landscape on which they can continue to depend.

Mexico is creating a national fund to receive payments from international sources to support the deployment of REDD+ activities, and this fund will in turn be used to catalyze action from federal to state level and to local level constituencies. Allocations – monetary or otherwise – can be based on efforts addressing the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, reducing barriers to sustainable natural resource management, and supporting sustainable rural development. The approach can also assist community producers and enterprises in engaging with certification schemes such as the Forest Stewardship Council and Fair Trade to increase their access to better-paying markets. Arrangements and measures are being discussed and will be deployed to incentivize enhanced livelihood and economically beneficial actions that reduce deforestation and forest degradation by communities and landowners, through improved and sustainable practices and production systems.

Tailoring the approach; seeing carbon as a co-benefit

Mexico’s move to design and adapt strategies to local and subnational contexts highlights an important aspect in REDD+ planning. The uses and perceived values of forests and other natural resources can vary in a single community, sometimes according to gender, age or income. Understanding these realities and how communities rely on forests is a critical first step in setting up successful REDD+ benefit sharing mechanisms that provide the right incentives to communities to reduce deforestation and forest degradation.

“Equitable benefit sharing is a precondition for successful delivery and sustainability of REDD+, and therefore should be understood beyond the mere moral obligation,” says George Akwah Neba, IUCN’s REDD+ Programme Officer. “Enabling equity in benefit sharing is critical for ensuring that REDD+ and sustainable forest management delivers tangible multiple benefits to the poor while also achieving environmental sustainability.”  

IUCN has conducted studies in specific communities in Ghana, Mexico and Peru to understand the implications of nature dependency for REDD+ benefit sharing. Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) has the potential to enhance and secure the livelihoods of poor and forest-dependent communities around the world. Therefore, REDD+ must be designed and implemented in a way to improve the way communities access benefit from the multiple ecosystem services such as food, water, medicine and fuel, while also enabling better understanding and improving the economic, cultural and spiritual interlinkages between people and nature.

Engaging the private sector

REDD+ represents an opportunity for the private sector to shift from short-term environmentally harmful benefits to green practices that generate a stream of long-term sustainable benefits. Working with the private sector to determine the multiple entry points and the range of short and long term benefits businesses can derived from their engagement in REDD+ is essential. While some companies may have legitimate concerns about what profits they gain for their engagement in REDD+, IUCN and partners are working to enable them to understand that beyond the immediate profit, sustaining nature as the main capital asset that their businesses and production chains depend on is a must. It is not only a moral obligation for companies, but a requirement for the sustainability of businesses. The question of how companies benefit must be addressed beyond the short term financial gains; in addition, corporate social responsibility alone is insufficient in making the shift needed to reduce emissions and conserve nature. There is a global demand for green production system, and REDD+ provide frameworks of opportunities for companies to innovate and position themselves as suppliers of this emerging demand. Investing in low emissions production systems, and in restoration and management of ecosystems and environmental services provide a set of new opportunities that the private sector need to take advantage of. This requires companies to reexamine their definition of benefits and profit, and the timeframe they set for return on investment.

In Ghana, Portal Limited has developed a REDD+ model, diversifying land uses to meet the needs of a growing population while protecting biodiversity and natural habitats. This approach is bringing nature back to life: the planting of 4,000 black pepper vines has a projected output of 10-12 tonnes per year and rev­enue of US$40,000 annually; and growing 4,500 heliconia flowers, through a gender-based initiative to engage women living nearby, among many other similar initiatives. Ongoing engagement with chiefs and communities has helped reduce con­flicts and women’s active involvement is promoting more equitable bene­fit sharing. In Mexico, Chicza is a network of more than 50 forestry cooperatives aiming to support states in the Yucatan Peninsula with sustainable commercial harvesting of chicle gum traditionally used to make chewing gum and other products, while promoting social welfare such as pensions and health services and conserving forest ecosystems. By joining Chicza, cooperatives receive support in areas ranging from accounting to commercial promotion. Revenue from REDD+, including payments for reducing carbon emissions, will help the network expand and assist other cooperatives and communities in adopting sustainable forest management practices.

Closing the gap – in emissions and gender

A common thread affecting forest resource management remains the frequent gender imbalance. Women are often marginalized from land ownership due to unclear rights to tenure and natural resources, and they are vulnerable to losing access to resources if they are not married, or become widowed or divorced. Women are also frequently underrepresented in forest-related decision making and leadership roles. And most of the world’s poorest people – those living on less than US$2 per day – are women.

In Cameroon, a Gender Task Force has been integrated into the country’s National REDD+ and Climate Change Civil Society Platform, enhancing the task force’s role as a body for gender advocacy. Women now represent 30-40 per cent of REDD+ decision makers in the country.

“The involvement of women in REDD+ and climate change issues is not just an attempt to get women informed, but a means of ensuring their contribution is producing change,” says Ako Charlotte Eyong, REDD+ Officer for IUCN in Cameroon.

Gender considerations have been included in Mexico’s legal and public policy frameworks related to REDD+, which has in turn led to adding further gender references into the country’s national strategy for REDD+ and its Special Program for Climate Change (PECC).

Despite its challenges, REDD+ is an ambitious and worthwhile approach to dealing with climate change. Rights, livelihoods, gender equity, and natural resource management and governance are intimately linked to REDD+. For climate mitigation efforts to work in the long run, they must protect both biodiversity and the rights and interests of the people they impact. It is not enough to just stop deforestation and restore degraded landscapes – it must be done in the right way.

The REDD+ benefit sharing examples and lessons featured in this article series come from country experiences of two ongoing IUCN projects: the REDD+ Benefit Sharing Project funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB); and the Toward Pro-Poor REDD+ (Phase II) project, promoting rights-based approaches to strengthen the conservation, governance and sustainable management of landscapes in Cameroon, Ghana, Guatemala, Papua Province of Indonesia, and Uganda, funded by the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA).

Work area: 
Business
Climate Change
Forests
Climate Change
Forests
REDD+
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