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The European Union supports a policy target of halting global forest cover loss by 2030 at the latest and a reduction of gross tropical deforestation by at least 50 percent by 2020. Ongoing UNFCCC negotiations on “reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, conservation of forest carbon stocks, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks” (REDD+) could prove an important tool for achieving this goal.

Tree in forest © iStockphoto

REDD+ is a relatively new addition to the repertoire of climate change policies. The earliest version of REDD+ was introduced by the governments of Papua New Guinea and Costa Rica at the 11th Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC (COP 11) in Montreal in 2005. Two years later at COP 13 in Bali the decision was taken to develop national capacities to implement this strategy, and since then the conceptual framework has undergone rapid development.

In addition to the UNFCCC negotiations on REDD+, the EC supports the REDD+ Partnership, the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), and the UN-REDD programme.

Actors and objectives

In the EU context, REDD+ activities are currently undertaken by the EU REDD Facility (managed by the European Forest Institute), through bilateral and multilateral initiatives including FCPF and UN-REDD and through a number of earth observation projects.

Specific objectives of REDD

  • Slowing, halting and sustainably reversing global forest cover and carbon loss (including the enhancement of forest carbon stocks), in order to achieve long-lasting and credible GHG emission reductions, consistent with the agreed objective of keeping global warming below 2°C compared to the pre-industrial temperature;
  • Preserving and enhancing other benefits of forests such as poverty alleviation, biodiversity, restoration and resilience of forests ecosystems and the services they provide, recognizing the linkages between adaptation and mitigation, in line with international commitments and objectives;
  • Enabling broad participation of developing countries, resulting in wide coverage of forests to prevent international displacement of carbon emissions;
  • Anticipating and encouraging further movement towards sustainable land use and resource consumption patterns as a basis for food, water and energy security, raw material supply and rural income in the context of low emission development strategies.

REDD+ and financing

The EU's approach to REDD+ builds on the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan and other on-going initiatives. The European Commission has committed a total of approximately 107 million euros in 2007-2012 to support initiatives that will pilot REDD+ projects in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Almost 64 million will be channeled through FLEGT.

REDD+'s initial focus exclusively on carbon sequestration caused concern that forests would not be conserved in perpetuity or for their intrinsic value, but rather subject to the interplays between fluctuating international carbon or commodity prices and/or political circumstances. This has led to intensive discussion and elaboration of appropriate social and environmental safeguards to ensure the resilience of REDD+, its legitimacy for affected populations and the protection of ecosystems.

Recent and future developments

COP 16 in Cancún (2010) and COP 17 in Durban (2011) have clarified the general REDD+ framework. It should support national development and adaptation strategies. Furthermore, parties acknowledged that concrete results from REDD+ - on which payments to recipient countries will depend - need to encompass both carbon mitigation and non-carbon benefits such as livelihoods, biodiversity and governance.

It is agreed that REDD+ will progress through different phases, starting with development of national REDD+ strategies and capacity building (Phase 1 or readiness phase), then capacity-building and demonstration activities (Phase 2), and finally full-scale implementation (Phase 3). Phase 1 and 2 will be financed through public finance. However, the modalities and procedures for the financing of phase 3 remain unclear and will be the subject of future negotiations.

The European Commission is investigating ways to catalyse private sector investment in addressing the drivers of deforestation and further increase the effectiveness and efficiency of REDD+ financing. The need to scale up financing for REDD+ is implicit in the pledge by developing countries to provide climate finance of $100 bn per year to the developing world from 2020 in the context of developing countries undertaking meaningful emissions mitigation action in a transparent way.