Many developing countries have included REDD+ as a centerpiece of their efforts to reduced land-based emissions.  REDD+ stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation. It is a framework that has been developed through several COP decisions to support developing countries in reducing forest emissions.

Article 5 of the Paris Agreement encourages countries to conserve and enhance their forest carbon sink and stock through, amongst other things, implementing REDD+. 

Decisions from COP19 in Warsaw, often called the Warsaw Framework, specify what REDD+ is and how it should be developed and implemented.

The Phases of REDD+

REDD+ is separated into three phases:

  1. Preparation; where countries must develop a national REDD+ strategy, a Forest Reference Emissions Level (FREL) that will serve as baseline to measure results against, a forest monitoring system and a system to gather and report information on how REDD+ safeguards are being addressed and respected.   Please see the Ambition page ‘Baselines and Reference Levels’ for more detailed information about FRELs.
  2. Implementation; of policies, measures and reforms to reduce emissions.
  3. Results; Measurement and verification of results, possible payments for results.

Information from each country regarding REDD+ is available through the REDD+ Web Platform.

The UN-REDD Programme supports countries in phase 1 and 2. A list of countries participating and their information is available here.

A list of countries in phase 3, and all required information submitted by them, is available at the REDD+ info hub.

REDD+ has a set of safeguards, often called the Cancun Safeguards, adopted at COP16, which took place in Cancun Mexico, that apply to the planning and implementation of REDD+. Key amongst these safeguards are requirements to respect the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs), and to ensure the full and effective participation of relevant stakeholders, like IPLCs, in the development and implementation of REDD+.

Countries are also required to provide a summary of information on how the safeguards are being addressed and respected when reporting on their REDD+ implementation and results, in order to be eligible to receive payments for results. Unfortunately, many countries have been slow to develop a proper system to gather information regarding how safeguards are being respected, with little or no input from non-state actors. As a result, the submitted summary of information has been too general and not reflecting the reality of REDD+ implementation on the ground. These summaries of information has also not faced enough scrutiny before payments for results have been dispersed.

REDD+ National Strategies

  Important questions to ask while analysing the REDD+ national strategy:

  • Does it contain specific measures to end deforestation and forest degradation, by an acceptable date, and are these measures credible and/or desirable? Does it contain measures to protect natural forests from further degradation and fragmentation?
  • Does it contain plans for forest restoration? If so, is it specifically restoring natural forest, or is it planting of monoculture plantations? Does it make sure that restoration won’t be used to “net out” continued deforestation?
  • Does it analyse and address the drivers of deforestation? Is it the right drivers that have been addressed, and do you believe the measures proposed will be effective?
  • Does it properly analyse and address land tenure issues? Does it contain an acceptable plan for how REDD+ benefits, including payments for emission reductions, will be shared amongst stakeholders, and in particular, indigenous peoples and local communities?
  • Does it properly analyse and address the rights situation in the country, especially regarding land issues? Will the strategy improve or worsen the rights situation?  (See the Ambition page on ‘Land Rights’ for more detailed analysis.
  • Does it propose sufficient and credible measures to improve forest governance?  Does it address issues of forest crime, corruption, transparency and efficiency?  Does it specify new enforcement powers, and co-management strategies with indigenous peoples and local communities?
  • Does it properly address the REDD+ safeguards, especially regarding the full and effective participation of relevant stakeholders, like indigenous peoples and local communities?


Results Based Payments

As part of the REDD+ framework, developing countries are promised support from developed countries, both technical and financial. Though financial support exists for both preparation and implementation purposes (phase 1 and 2), most of the financial support in REDD+ has been anticipated to come in the form of payments for results, i.e. emissions reductions that have been measured and verified. Most of those payments are expected to come from carbon markets.  So far, there have been very few ‘results based payments’ made to countries through carbon-market mechanisms.

The fact that REDD+ has been designed as a results-based, market-compatible mechanism, where the only results that really matter are measured emissions reductions, has made it controversial amongst civil society. One reason is that it has meant that a lot of the attention and resources goes towards developing expensive monitoring systems, and relatively less at addressing the root causes of deforestation and land rights violations.  Another is that connecting REDD+ results to carbon markets allows for offsetting of permanent fossil fuel emissions against non-permanent emission reductions from deforestation, through REDD+. CLARA has taken a very strong position against offsetting. 

Jurisdictional REDD+ and REDD+ Projects

REDD+ as it is described here is often referred to as “jurisdictional REDD+”, meaning that it is implemented by a national or sub-national jurisdiction (state, province, regency, etc.). REDD+ is also used as a label by many projects, implemented by NGOs or private actors.  REDD+ projects usually focus on reducing deforestation and the resulting GHG emissions, in a smaller, project-specific area. Such projects have faced a lot of criticism for failures to respect land rights of local communities, and because such projects have no way of preventing leakage of emissions (i.e. deforestation activities moving to another location). They have also been criticized for selling emission reductions, that don’t represent real and permanent emissions reductions, to voluntary carbon markets allowing fossil fuel emission to be “offset” – though in reality no such offsetting has taken place.


Leakage in this context refers to the problem of emissions, or specifically the deforestation or forest degradation, moving from the place where an action is taken to stop it into another area where no such action exists. This a basic problem with REDD+, both jurisdictional and project based, as long as it doesn’t address the large-scale drivers of deforestation at a global level: agricultural expansion driven by overconsumption of meat, dairy and other agricultural products, and an unsustainable industrial agricultural business model.

Though REDD+ has failed to address this, the problem with leakage is generally bigger the smaller the scale of the REDD+ implementation area is.

What to Look For:
  • The NDC should include separate ‘land-based’ targets.  This is important to make sure that changes in forest cover and deforestation are not ‘hidden’ in targets that also include emissions from power generation and transportation.   Separate land-based emission-reduction targets provide the basis for evaluating national effort to end deforestation, and increase forest cover. (For a good example, see Indonesia’s NDC – they have a separate forest target, but unfortunately this uses restoration to “cover up” continued deforestation)
  • That REDD+ is implemented on a jurisdictional level, with no REDD+ credits generated through REDD+ projects, to avoid leakage
  • That baselines (FREL) are historical, based on the last ten years (at most), and not based on projections of future deforestation.
  • No cherry-picking of data or scope when developing baselines (FREL).  That is, the baseline should be a fair representation of overall forest cover and deforestation trends within the last ten years.
  • That baselines and targets includes emissions from deforestation, degradation and below-ground biomass (peat), and only use data from natural forests (i.e. excludes plantations). It’s fine if plantations are discussed in the NDC, but total plantation acreage should be noted separately from total area under natural forests.
  • That NDCs and/or REDD+ plans contain a specific end date to deforestation and degradation, and spells out concrete measures to make it happen that are credible and desirable
  • Separate baselines and targets for deforestation, degradation, peat emissions and restoration, to make sure that sequestration through restoration isn’t used to “net” other emission. This goes for both REDD+ and the NDC, if the NDC has separate land based targets.
  • Clear plans and measures in NDC and/or REDD+ plans for how countries will respect the Cancun Safeguards.  If your country is a signatory of international obligations such as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and International Labour Organization Convention -169 on Indigenous Peoples’ rights, then those international obligations should also be mentioned in your NDC, and preferably be operationalized in relation to any land based climate action.
  • That support arrangements reward meaningful progress in governance and policies, in addition to verified emission reductions, and that emission reductions from REDD+ are not used to offset or ”net out” other emissions, either nationally or between other countries.

It is a requirement of the Paris Agreement that rich countries should support efforts by developing countries to eliminate deforestation.  But rich countries shouldn’t be able to ‘help’ developing countries to prevent deforestation, and then take the credit for the resulting emission reductions.  The page ‘Financial Mechanisms’ explores these questions in more detail.

Further Resources

Library Resources

Phases of REDD+

  • Warsaw Framework
  • Cancun Safeguards
  • REDD+ Web Platform

Case Studies

  • REDD+ in Latin American NDCs
  • REDD+ in the DRC