REDD+: Protecting tropical forests

Reducing deforestation by making a case for the value of living trees

  • 15% of global carbon dioxide emissions come from deforestation.1
  • 32 million acres of forest per year were cut and burned from 2000-09.2

The process of cutting and burning trees adds as much pollution to the atmosphere as all the cars and trucks in the world combined.3 Therefore, any realistic plan to reduce global warming pollution sufficiently—and in time—must include the preservation of tropical forests.

Forests provide the Earth's climate with critical stability through carbon storage. Unfortunately, forests today are worth more dead than alive. The exploitation of the tropical forests for timber, pasture and cropland is contributing significantly to climate change, jeopardizing indigenous peoples' land, and wiping out biodiversity in the Amazon.

At Environmental Defense Fund, we want to transform the profit motive and make forests more valuable alive than dead. Our goal is to implement a global policy framework we helped pioneer, known as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation, or REDD+.

Benefits of REDD+

REDD+ policies will provide important economic incentives for forest conservation. EDF's economic and policy analysis demonstrates that REDD+ will produce the following benefits:

  • Cuts pollution substantially right away, without relying on new technology developments. With the right economic incentives for forest protection, deforestation can be reduced drastically in the short term.
  • Provides more overall greenhouse gas reductions at a lower cost than policies without REDD+
  • Creates positive incentives for major developing countries to participate in global emissions reductions. The world's sixth largest overall emitter, Brazil, has already slowed its deforestation by 75% and has committed to an 80% reduction from the 1996–2005 average by 2020.4 See more in Brazil national and state REDD+ [PDF]
  • Ensures emissions reductions. REDD+ reductions at the national level are far more certain than one-off "offsets" to achieve global emissions cuts, because REDD+ is tied to a national commitment to absolute reduction in a country's overall emissions. (As critics have pointed out, local forest project "offsets" can be erased by increased emissions elsewhere, including in neighboring forests.)
  • Protects unique ecosystems. Since tropical forests are home to at least half of all plant and animal species, deforestation threatens the biological diversity of the entire world.
  • Promotes development for indigenous communities by creating new sources of income to improve living standards while maintaining traditional ways of life. This is the soundest and most just route forward for the threatened native peoples who inhabit the world's remaining tropical forest lands.
  • Provides greater transparency. Showcasing efforts to stop deforestation into a global reviewed system and a soundly constructed global carbon market will provide greater transparency and protections at both local and national levels. Regulated markets demand the accurate, transparent monitoring and measurement that today's satellite observing technology can deliver.

National- and state-level REDD+

In a national-level REDD+ program, a country that commits to reducing deforestation below an established baseline would receive valuable credits in carbon markets for reducing carbon emissions. Requiring a national baseline eliminates the shortcomings experienced in a handful of local one-off forest projects. Independent satellite observations and spot ground inspections of forested areas would reliably verify that the national commitment is in fact being met.

EDF believes that "jurisdictional"-level approaches, i.e. national and provincial programs, can be an important stepping stone toward national-level REDD+, and we're working to make sure that jurisdictional programs have environmental integrity.

REDD+ programs are getting off the ground around the world, including in the states of Acre, Brazil, and across Mexico. We have partners and staff working in both countries helping them develop their jurisdictional approaches, and both states are working with California to develop good programs that could link with California's cap-and-trade system.

Indigenous peoples and REDD+

Central to the success of REDD+ are the indigenous communities who inhabit and protect much of the world's tropical forested area. Their livelihoods and cultures are put at risk when forests are destroyed, so they have a great deal to gain from the REDD+ approach.

We believe that as stewards of their lands, indigenous peoples must not only play an active role in developing and implementing REDD+ programs, but must also receive the majority of benefits from these initiatives.

Media contact

Raul Arce Contreras (212) 616-1428 (office)
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