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UN chiefs strengthen collaboration to achieve zero deforestation

According to the UN, up to 23 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions derive from the Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU) sector
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Originally published at World Agroforestry (ICRAF).

Seven leaders of UN agencies at the Climate Conference in Madrid call for an end to deforestation to address the climate emergency

‘Forests are essential to life on Earth; we cannot afford to destroy them. UN agencies are fundamental in supporting countries to take action.’

Naoko Ishii, Global Environment Facility

Carolina Schmidt, president of the 25th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said that deforestation is the most critical challenge faced by humanity: a bold, new stand is needed against destruction of the world’s forests. She called on the UN and the world to heed the Santiago Call for Action on Forests and work collaboratively to achieve zero net deforestation.

In response, seven heads of UN agencies joined together in the first-ever UN Heads of Organizations Leadership Dialogue, 12 December 2019 at the Climate Conference in Madrid, to strengthen their collaboration in supporting member states achieve zero deforestation.

Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary, UNFCCC; Qu Dongyu, Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); Inger Andersen, Executive Director, UN Environment Programme (UNEP); Achim Steiner, Administrator, UN Development Programme (UNDP); Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary, UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD); Naoko Ishii, Chief Executive Officer and Chair of the Global Environment Facility (GEF); and Liu Zhenmin, Under-Secretary-General, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) explained their agencies’ past actions and commitments to increasing the synergies between each other to provide maximum support to member states, especially developing nations, to stop deforestation.

‘The UN system has enormous capacities around the world,’ said Espinosa. ‘Combined, we have the knowledge, experience and capacities to facilitate actions with governments. This is the first leadership dialogue and it augers fantastically for going forward. Coordination, communication and looking for synergies between our different entities is key. This is such an enormous challenge that no one of us can do it alone. To support developing countries, in particular, we really need to work together. Importantly, when we talk about forests and land use we must bear in mind the social dimensions of the work we need to do in this area, especially the communities in the most vulnerable developing countries.’

Deforestation, degradation and restoration have been included in the Kyoto Protocol, Paris Agreement and other international conventions, said Zhenmin of UN DESA, but loss and degradation of vast areas of natural forests continues, particularly, in the tropical domain where 7 million hectares of forests are lost every year.

‘Zero deforestation can only be achieved through UN member states,’ he said. ‘We must all work together; all should act as one to move forward on a common framework to achieve zero net deforestation.’

He pointed out that the High-Level Forum on Forests has developed a strategic plan for forests, which was adopted in April 2017 by the General Assembly, to tackle the drivers of deforestation and degradation; to find a balance between economic growth and sustainability; and to improve the strength of the forestry sector. The plan has six goals and 26 targets in an integrated framework of action for zero net deforestation designed to unlock the potential of forests to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. If fully implemented, it will stop deforestation, increase reforestation and reduce poverty of forest-dependent people.

He committed his agency to continue support to member states to implement the plan and urged them to speed that implementation. DESA would strengthen collaboration in capacity building of member states and in mobilizing funding for forest management and deployment of technologies.

Dongyu of FAO confirmed that there was a great need to address food security and forests together holistically. Over 20 developed countries have decreased the number of malnourished people and also increased forest area. His key message was that it is possible to reconcile these issues through coordinating a land-use approach across sectors.

The synergy of agencies’ efforts can already be seen in FAO and UNEP leading the Decade of Restoration. Their aim is to massively expand the scale of restoration of degraded ecosystems, including forests. In this process, decisions must be based on evidence and the world must look beyond forests alone and build collective synergy, for example, to reduce the carbon footprints of agricultural commodities.

‘Traditional agriculture has been focused mainly on productivity but now we must look at sustainability, especially, in cash crops,’ he said.

A key to this effort is to ensure that subsidies are not driving deforestation and that enacted policies are in place for food security. Technologies and innovations are also keys to achieving rapid results and must be deployed widely, with a strong focus on environmental functions. He also emphasized that the world needs a strong and flexible set of forest monitoring tools that can readily upload and access data through technology such as mobile phones. To speed the transition to zero deforestation and stronger food security through sustainable agricultural value chains, partnerships are needed between UN agencies and businesses.

Ishii of the GEF stated that the science is clear: 73% of deforestation is driven by conversion to agriculture. How, she asked, are we to deal with the economic forces that are driving this?

‘We need to understand this better and implement all commitments, like the New York Declaration on Forests. We are failing in translating commitments into actions. Why are we failing? The lack of feet on the ground to translate into action is a lesson we have learned from the past. To address this, GEF has created a coalition of countries that have committed USD 430 million to create multistakeholder platforms that bring together ministries of forestry and of agriculture, local governments, businesses and financial institutions.’

The actions, she said, need to be based on land-use planning and adopt both landscape and value-chain approaches. To stop deforestation, protection of forests is needed with sustainability embedded right through to consumption.

‘The challenge is to get all the players together in their countries while also including the global value chains,’ she said. ‘We can do this better working together to be more inclusive of business, governments, financial institutions and communities. Would have a better success rate.’

The USD 9.8 billion in replenishment funds committed to the GEF would help speed progress.

Steiner of UNDP said that, ‘We are underperforming to meet our own objectives with the deforestation figures.’ He went on to agree that FAO has a key role to play but so do all the agencies. ‘We all have a role to play in keeping forests on national agendas.’

Steiner noted that REDD+ is a key mechanism that brought together UNDP, UNEP and FAO through UN-REDD. Norway has backed the boldest experiment in mitigation, adaptation, land use, restoration. ‘Don’t let Norway be the only supporter,’ he urged.

A focus on increasing the ambition of NDCs was needed, with particular emphasis on nature-based solutions. He noted that 100 countries were engaged with the NDC Partnership and called for ‘a far greater focus on forests to address climate/NDCs and biodiversity/CBD’.

‘On the ground, these differences between conventions don’t matter,’ he said. ‘As the UN community, it is a responsibility to bridge the conventions. Next year is the year of nature.’

Thiaw of UNCCD reminded the panel and the audience that ‘we need to feed 10 billion to come without depleting our ecosystems’ and that the UN can do better on science and policy. Land degradation neutrality was important; we need to use land but also conserve it.

Andersen of UNEP stated that 70% of forests were under threat, mostly from commodity production.

‘We are part of the problem,’ said. ‘We need to help that sector flip into sustainable production; we need to clean up our supply chains. Governments and UN leaders need to step up, especially FAO. We need to partner with the private sector. We need to help them towards positive agricultural outcomes.

She also noted that the price for carbon varies greatly (USD 26–35) but the forest carbon price was at USD 5.

‘This is why we need a good outcome for Article 6 [of the Paris Agreement],’ she said. ‘Let’s label products over time. Let’s clean up supply chains. In the context of the European Green New Deal, 2020 is the ‘super year’ for nature.

The Santiago Call for Action has seven core elements:

1) Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and enhance carbon sinks: countries must strengthen efforts in line with Article 5 of the Paris Agreement, expand the scale of actions and increase knowledge;

2) Increase the ambition of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) through Nature-Based Solutions based on forest activities (Including REDD+);

3) Advance NDC implementation through effective and measurable multistakeholder action; including voluntary calls such as the Bonn Challenge;

4) Increase NDC transparency: reinforcing trust in the Paris Agreement. It is important to share how countries will mitigate the impact of the climate emergency and to track progress;

5) Scale-up predictable financial support from all sources, including through REDD+;

6) Build on existing technical support for NDC implementation and reporting; expanding the scale of technical support for reporting, particularly, for developing countries;

7) Actively engage local communities and indigenous peoples, including women and youth: a holistic approach is essential to turn the tide on deforestation.


World Agroforestry (ICRAF) is a centre of scientific and development excellence that harnesses the benefits of trees for people and the environment. Knowledge produced by ICRAF enables governments, development agencies and farmers to utilize the power of trees to make farming and livelihoods more environmentally, socially and economically sustainable at multiple scales.

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  • Time to get serious about evaluating REDD+ impacts

Time to get serious about evaluating REDD+ impacts

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Forests and trees do indeed hold a lot of promise: Protecting and restoring the world’s forests, along with other land-oriented solutions, could deliver a third of the emissions reduction needed to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius by 2030 as agreed under the U.N. Paris Agreement. Unfortunately, forest conservation and reforestation at the necessary scale takes more than casting a magic spell. It is a big and complicated challenge. For more than a decade, REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) has been expected to provide at least part of the solution. Yet, despite the initial excitement over implementation of REDD+ initiatives at national, subnational and local scales, evidence on how, when and under what conditions REDD+ works best is scarce.

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  • Reversing ‘dangerous decline’ of nature requires global initiatives to engage both men and women

Reversing ‘dangerous decline’ of nature requires global initiatives to engage both men and women

A woman works in the fields in the village of Nalma, Nepal. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR
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A woman carries food for her family in Nalma village, Nepal. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

Our planet is in the midst of an ecological emergency, according to several recent reports. Deteriorating biodiversity is putting food security, economies as well as human health and well-being at risk.

Reversing this ecological decline requires restoration initiatives to incorporate the needs, interests and knowledge of both men and women.

This month, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) released a global assessment finding that the health of ecosystems is deteriorating more rapidly than ever.

This is happening despite the efforts of several global restoration initiatives. Scientists say that such alliances would be more successful if they were more equitable.

“Not accounting for gender in restoration is equal to ignoring 50 percent of the population,” said Iliana Monterroso Ibarra, co-coordinator of gender and social inclusion research at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). “On the other hand, restoration processes that include both women and men can learn and benefit from their different knowledge and practices, making the process more efficient.”

Monterroso and other experts from the CGIAR Research Program on Forest, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) shared research on the value of gender-responsive restoration work during a recent workshop organized by UN-Women and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity. The workshop set out to gather input for a new, gender-responsive Global Biodiversity Framework, which is to guide the countries adhering to the Convention on Biological Diversity once the current Aichi targets lapse in 2020.

According to Tanya McGregor, gender program officer at the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, there is substantial interest in, and engagement on, addressing gender issues among country parties and stakeholders involved in implementing the convention.

“We still need to build capacity and clarify what types of objectives and actions may be most appropriate to advance gender-responsive approaches to biodiversity conservation and sustainable use in the context of the new framework,” she said.

Read also: Gender equality in agricultural development starts with understanding complexity

Gender lessons from REDD+

FTA has long-standing experience with research on incorporating gender dimensions into forest landscape restoration. The program’s research has shown that reaching desired social and environmental outcomes from ecosystem restoration hinges on the contribution and cooperation of the women and men who depend on these ecosystems for their livelihoods.

A woman in the village of Nalma, Lamjung, Nepal. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

After more than 15 years of implementation, the REDD+ initiative in particular can provide important clues, according to scientists. Although REDD+ is primarily a mechanism for reducing carbon emissions from forests, it does offer lessons on what implications such a long-term, on-the-ground effort has for gender equality and women’s empowerment.

“The first lesson to highlight is the need to account for different interests, needs, values and behavior of both men and women around land and resources. For example, we have learned that so-called gender-neutral initiatives – really meaning initiatives that ignore the issue – risk perpetuating social differences and creating inequities,” Monterroso said.

Also, excluding either men or women will influence their willingness to participate over time, risking not only opportunities to strengthen their livelihoods, but also the potential for sustainable restoration.

The second lesson is related to putting in place the right safeguards to increase the chances for successful implementation of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. Such measures include understanding whether women and men have secure rights to the land being restored, making sure that restoration work does not rely disproportionately on women’s labor, and finally recognizing existing governance structures that determine how men and women participate in decision-making processes.

“Ensuring the participation of all kinds of groups allows for an implementation that provides more benefits on the ground, not accumulating only for some,” Monterroso said.

Read also: The Gender Equality in Research Scale: A tool for monitoring and encouraging progress on gender integration in research for and in development

Starting points for biodiversity conservation

Understanding and acknowledging the importance of gender-responsive restoration work is only the first step. Second comes the question of how to make these insights operational for the countries tasked with implementing the post-2020 framework.

A Lubuk Beringin villager harvests palm nut on her agroforestry farm in Indonesia. Photo by T. Saputro/CIFOR

“We have to be very careful – not only in the design, but also in the implementation – to understand where gender considerations are important,” said Monterroso.

She explained that REDD+ experiences show that sometimes, communities and customary practices are actually highly equitable, but it is during the implementation of restoration initiatives that implementing institutions – particularly governments – can introduce inequities. Therefore, building the capacity of government officials is important, as is ensuring that they have the right tools to incorporate gender-responsive methods.

Relatedly, operationalization of the post-2020 framework is underpinned by selecting the right indicators. They need to be designed to capture data that shows the different roles and contributions women and men have in the process toward meeting the targets, she explained.

“It is not enough to count how many men and women participate in projects – we need to better understand issues such as unequal access to and control over land and productive resources as well as decision making, not only to be able to assess progress across different dimensions of gender equality but also as part of the moral imperative to leave no one behind” she said.

Finally, governance structures that implement the framework must themselves have gender equitable and inclusive processes. Monterroso: “To dream big, as they say, we need to make sure that these institutions are 50 percent women and are allocating leadership positions to women.”

An inclusive process

The FTA team noted that the recent workshop represents the kind of inclusive, multi-stakeholder process necessary to ensure that appropriate gender lessons can be identified, discussed and included going forward. Governments, multilateral and international organizations, research institutions as well as indigenous and women organizations were active in the workshop dialogue, bringing forth the right evidence and underscoring their commitment.

“The importance of including gender considerations is about more than whether the targets will be met – it’s making sure that we’re making the changes that these broader conventions, like the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Sustainable Development Goals, are calling upon us to promote – to achieve more equitable development that involves everyone in the process.”

By Marianne Gadeberg, communications specialist.

This work is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA). FTA is the world’s largest research for development program to enhance the role of forests, trees and agroforestry in sustainable development and food security and to address climate change. CIFOR leads FTA in partnership with Bioversity International, CATIE, CIRAD, INBAR, ICRAF and TBI. FTA’s work is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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  • REDD+ policy network analysis in Ethiopia

REDD+ policy network analysis in Ethiopia

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  • What roles do sub-national governments play in Nationally Determined Contributions? Between rhetoric and practice in REDD+ countries

What roles do sub-national governments play in Nationally Determined Contributions? Between rhetoric and practice in REDD+ countries

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  • Research and practice place much emphasis on the transformative role that sub-national governments (SNGs) may play in climate change action.
  • Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) are not blueprints for implementation, but they offer some insight into potential priorities. Currently, the role of SNGs in most is limited: of 60 “REDD+ countries”, only 14 explicitly mention a role for SNGs in mitigation, and only 4 of these give SNGs a decision-making role.
  • This failure to assign more precise roles to SNGs may prove to be short-sighted as climate change is a global problem, but solutions such as REDD+ need to be implemented locally and jurisdictionally, and thus require local input.
  • The factors that will affect the realization of the roles assigned to SNGs in NDCs include: political will toward decentralization; the funds required by Parties to achieve their targets; the capacities of SNGs; and the need to align sub-national with national development priorities.
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  • Subnational decision-making needed for climate gains

Subnational decision-making needed for climate gains

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A man walks in Mato Grosso, Brazil. Photo by Icaro Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

Global climate negotiations take place on the international stage, bolstered by countries’ national policies. But preventing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and other land-use changes requires work at the local level.

For those efforts to be effective, it is important to understand who is involved at each level and in every sector, and how they interact, say scientists from CIFOR, who have conducted research about such multi-level governance.

“Land use and land-use change happen in a geographic space that is affected by multiple levels of decision making,” says senior scientist Anne Larson, who heads CIFOR’s Equal Opportunities, Gender, Justice and Tenure Team. “You can’t talk about land-use change or climate change adaptation and mitigation if you don’t take into account all levels, from the global to the ground”.

That means that local and regional governments, as well as local communities, have an important role to play in REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) initiatives – or other, similar efforts, Larson says. “There’s a lot of talk at climate negotiations about bottom-up planning, and that must be done below the national level” she adds, “We can’t expect global decisions to have an impact if we don’t have sub-national governments that can implement and manage plans in local jurisdictions”.

That assumes coordination among various groups with different interests. Depending on the place, they may include government agencies (with different sectoral priorities), private companies, local communities and non-governmental organizations. But sub-national coordination is easier to discuss than to implement, according to researchers who are conducting a global comparative study on REDD+.

Risks and opportunities

One obstacle arises when governments are only partly decentralized. This invariably leads to subnational governments who have “authority” but without resources to carry out their mandate. In some cases, national governments are reluctant to give up control to local or regional governments, even when power-sharing is established by law. In Mexico, the federal government maintains a great deal of decision-making power over forests — something that must be considered when implementing programs at a local level.

Another risk is that local or regional governments could favor the interests of economically powerful private companies over those of local communities that depend on forests for their livelihoods. But in the same instance, local governments may be more willing to protect their interests as they are often more responsive to their citizens.

When there are tensions among stakeholders, it can be tempting to do top-down planning that focuses on technical solutions and faster results. But when that was done in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia’s REDD+ pilot province, local people felt that they were “guinea pigs” in an experiment instead of active participants, studies found.

Processes that ensure the involvement of local people, instead of seeing them as “beneficiaries,” and that protect the rights of forest-dwelling communities may take longer and be more complex, but the outcomes are often more equitable, according to research conducted in Vietnam. In many places, local communities — especially women, young people and indigenous people — have been marginalized from decisions. Giving them a central place in decision making builds their negotiating skills and can create new local venues for discussing local issues, the researchers say. “When decision-making is done at a sub-national level, transparency and accountability are key”, Larson says. “That requires monitoring, but the kind of monitoring depends on your goals”.

Read more: Does the monitoring of local governance improve transparency? Lessons from three approaches in subnational jurisdictions

Different tools for different needs

The Marechal Rondon Highway runs 1550 km from Porto Velho to Cuiabá in Mato Grosso, Brazil. Photo by Kate Evans/CIFOR

When local stakeholders from different sectors are involved in developing monitoring processes, local priotities are discussed- says Juan Pablo Sarmiento Barletti, a postdoctoral fellow at CIFOR working on the global comparative study of REDD+. He and other researchers examining sub-national landscape governance implemented three different types of monitoring tools in Peru, Mexico and Nicaragua.

The Sustainable Landscape Rating Tool (SLRT) uses evidence-based evaluation of conditions as indiactors, to determine sustainability in land-use planning and management, land and resource tenure, biodiversity and other ecosystem services, stakeholder coordination and participation, and community production systems.

The SLRT was developed by the Climate, Community & Biodiversity Alliance and is being used by jurisdictions belonging to the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force. Aimed at fostering governance policies for sustainability, the tool is mainly designed to assess the enabling conditions required. Its success depends on the availability of the information required by each indicator, which can be an obstacle in jurisdictions where data are lacking.

The Multilevel Governance Monitoring Process (MLGMP) grew out of scenario-building processes that assessed carbon emissions in eight landscapes in four countries. The prototype was designed in Peru’s Amazonian Madre de Dios region, where land-use planning and governance is complicated by social conflicts related to overlapping land claims by loggers, miners, farmers, tourism operators and others.

The process brought people together to develop a shared vision for the future and set goals for working toward it. In Madre de Dios, representatives of seven government agencies participated in workshops to identify potential indicators and strategies for monitoring, but the process was hampered by lack of commitment by key regional government officials.

A similar process in Mexico involved national and sub-national government agencies, as well as civil society groups, donors, community representatives and researchers. At workshops in the Yucatán and Chiapas, participants identified and prioritized challenges to good governance, set goals and agreed on indicators for measuring progress.

The tool can be adapted to local needs and priorities, but participants said the one-day workshops were not sufficient to work out details, including how the monitoring would be implemented and by whom. The workshops also revealed differences in levels of participation by women, which should be addressed in monitoring, the researchers said.

A third tool, the Participatory Governance Monitoring Process (PGMP), was designed to better involve local people in forest governance and strengthen women’s participation in decision making in their communities. It was developed as part of a research project in indigenous communities and territories in Nicaragua’s North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region.

Participants gathered together to decide what ‘good governance’ was. Characteristics such as a strong community, good leaders, more participation by women and good forest management were agreed, before a series of ‘yes-or-no’ questions determined whether the requirements were being met.

Using the questions as indicators, the results informed a tool that builds local community participation into both planning and monitoring, says Sarmiento. “This can be used to determine the degree of local participation, especially by women”.

The three tools have different purposes, and the best to use in a particular case depends on the local situation and specific monitoring goals, Larson adds.

Global commitments require local implementation

At the Paris climate summit in 2015, countries made commitments to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. Those commitments, known as Nationally Determined Commitments (NDCs), will be used to measure their progress toward their targets.

In countries whose NDCs include reducing emissions by controlling deforestation and forest degradation, sub-national governments must play a key role, Sarmiento says.Nevertheless, countries with REDD+ commitments do not always highlight the importance of sub-national governance in their NDCs. Of the 60 countries that have REDD+ programs or strategies, only 39 mention sub-national governments. Of those, 21 define a specific role for them, but in only seven NDCs is that a decision-making role, according to a CIFOR study.

“This could be a missed opportunity,” Larson says.  “Climate negotiators hail the Paris agreement as a ‘bottom-up’ accord, but what they consider to be the bottom is usually the national level,” Sarmiento says. “Implementation won’t work without attention to sub-national governance.”

Research like the CIFOR studies reveals both the difficulty of bringing stakeholders from different sectors and levels of government together. They also unearth the opportunities offered by participatory approaches that enable local communities to make decisions together with sub-national governments, with the goal of ensuring equitable solutions for forest dwellers.

“Governance always has a local flavor to it,” Sarmiento says. “That is why its monitoring needs to be informed by local people’s practices and their perceptions of what it means to govern well.”

Read more: Jurisdictional sustainability report assesses outcomes for tropical forests and climate change

By Barbara Fraser, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.

For more information on this topic, please contact Anne Larson at [email protected] or Juan Pablo Sarmiento Barletti at [email protected].

This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), which is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

This research was supported by NORAD and BMUB/IKI.

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  • New book analyzes decade of REDD+ experience

New book analyzes decade of REDD+ experience

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A Brazil nut area, part of GCS REDD+ in Madre de Dios, Peru. Photo by Yoly Gutierrez/CIFOR

In its first 10 years, REDD+ has inspired much enthusiasm and hope for a global transition away from practices that threaten tropical forests, toward lasting climate mitigation.

Despite unexpected challenges and a funding pot that lacked the depth to trigger global mobilization, REDD+ is beginning to deliver on its potential – if more slowly than expected.

A new book, Transforming REDD+: Lessons and new directions, which has launched at this year’s Conference of the Parties (COP) of the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) in Katowice, Poland, takes stock of the efforts taken so far to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and enhance forest carbon stocks (REDD+) at multiple scales.

At the 2007 UNFCCC COP in Bali, Indonesia, REDD+ emerged on the global scene with the promise of building a bridge toward a carbon-neutral economy – quickly, easily and cheaply.

“REDD+ has not taken its planned route from A to B – that is, providing forest-rich developing countries with direct incentives to promote climate mitigation in the forest and land-use sector,” said Arild Angelsen, a professor at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences and a senior associate with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). “But we can learn many lessons from its journey so far.”

Why did REDD+ not turn out as expected? Lack of finance is a major reason, specifically the fact that results-based payment – rewarding developing countries in exchange for keeping and/or improving forest carbon stocks – has not been the driving force it was meant to be. REDD+ was meant to become an integral part of a global carbon market, but this market never materialized. Instead, most funding comes in the form of development assistance from a small handful of donor countries, and some developing countries are shouldering a big part of the costs to put REDD+ into action.

“There are also a lot of different, sometimes conflicting ideas about REDD+,” said Christopher Martius, coordinator of the Global Comparative Study on REDD+ and a co-editor of the book. “Making a distinction between REDD+ as the outcome (reduced emissions) and as a specific framework (the activities) to achieve that outcome could clear up a lot of confusion.

Read more: FTA researchers set to highlight seeds, REDD+ and inclusive finance at landscapes forum

Click to access the book, Transforming REDD+: Lessons and new directions.


Many observers are now asking whether REDD+ has achieved its intended aims of reducing deforestation and forest degradation or if it has improved local livelihoods and forest governance.

To answer these questions, the authors undertook an analysis based on 10 years of research and almost 500 scientific publications from GCS REDD+, and also drew on the wider literature, on partner contributions, and on policy debates at global, national, subnational and local levels.

With more than 350 ongoing REDD+ projects and programs, there are now enough data – albeit far from perfect – to draw first conclusions about the kind of local impacts REDD+ initiatives have had on forests and communities.

“In a nutshell, results are limited and mixed,” said Amy Duchelle, a co-editor and CIFOR senior scientist who leads research on subnational initiatives in GCS REDD+. “Findings from the few studies on forest carbon and land-use outcomes are moderately encouraging.  REDD+ impacts on well-being are mixed – but they’re more likely to be positive when incentives are included. And while there has been some progress in terms of land tenure and the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, local actions need more national policy support to be effective.”

National and subnational forest conservation policies have shown some positive impacts on forests, but no particular policy instrument stands out as a “silver bullet”. Enabling conditions such as political commitment, national ownership, inclusive decision-making and available results-based funding need to be in place and sustained for REDD+ to be transformed.

Many countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions to the 2015 UN Paris Agreement on climate change, and national sustainable development initiatives such as green growth strategies, do recognize the role of forests in mitigating climate change. However, as Pham Thu Thuy, a co-editor, and CIFOR scientist and Vietnam country director, said, these policies and green initiatives will not be successful in achieving their intended goals if they do not have clear and effective policies and measures to address drivers of deforestation and degradations.

Read more: What is REDD+ achieving on the ground?


The authors show that REDD+, once envisioned as a tool for transformational change, has itself been transformed. They point out that, while REDD+ has evolved into a variety of interventions, and stakeholders may differ in their preferred vision of how REDD+ evolves, all can agree that the core objectives must not be substantially altered or diluted.

“Arguably, the world cannot reach the 1.5°C or even 2°C targets without massive reductions in emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and increases in forest carbon stocks,” the authors wrote.

In order for REDD+ to be an effective ‘cure’ for the ‘illness’ of deforestation and forest degradation, it will need to adapt further – to a new global climate change architecture, rapidly shifting global politics, and different expectations from donors, REDD+ countries, the private sector and local communities.

“REDD+ needs a clear theory of change – a road map towards a carbon-neutral economy through a transformation of business-as-usual practices,” Martius said.

The authors lay out key pathways to achieving an effective, efficient and equitable REDD+, including emphasizing the positive side-effects of REDD+, and shortening the road to recovery through experimentation and bold approaches.

Results-based payment will continue to play a large role, but national and subnational policy reforms need to go beyond this approach to focus on issues such as land-use planning, tenure and agriculture and address the variety of drivers and problems in their specific national and regional circumstances. And while international finance can give a nudge in the right direction, ultimately countries must set the economic incentives for state and private actors to align their activities with green development strategies.

A waterfall in a REDD+ Safeguards and Benefit Sharing Project, Jambi, Indonesia. Photo by Icaro Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

“Some reforms can be win-win for the economy and environment, such as cutting subsidies to deforesting crops and adding forest criteria in the fiscal transfers from central to local governments, as India has done,” Angelsen said.

Looking at multi-level governance and coordination, the authors also conclude that some problems simply cannot be solved through better coordination.

“In reality, those who deforest have often been more effective at coordinating their efforts than those who support REDD+ or similar initiatives,” said Anne Larson, a CIFOR principal scientist who leads the research on multi-level governance in GCS REDD+.

“In order to challenge business-as-usual trajectories and address both effectiveness and equity goals, we need to develop a deeper understanding of the underlying dynamics among actors in a given context.”

Read more: CIFOR now hosts comprehensive REDD+ tool ID-RECCO


Brazil, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, India and South Korea have all rolled out bold forest conservation and restoration initiatives, and the authors say more countries need to do the same. Nationwide initiatives with a pro-forest narrative can cultivate the political and intellectual ownership needed to build coordination across ministries and effect long-term impact.

“Change needs to come from both the top and the bottom,” Duchelle said. “Jurisdictional programs for REDD+ and low-emission development at the subnational level also hold promise for protecting tropical forests and securing local rights and livelihoods.”

The authors also call on countries to be brave and assess impacts. Clear data and information are critical to every stage of REDD+, from planning and policy design to implementation and evaluation. But independent evaluations can be risky, as disappointing short-term evaluated impacts in a learning phase could jeopardize future financing. For this and other reasons, there is a persistent lack of data on how various drivers of land-use change affect forest emissions.

“The reality is that powerful agents of deforestation and forest degradation can influence how information on drivers is generated, and how visible it is,” said Veronique De Sy, a co-editor and postdoctoral Researcher at Wageningen University & Research in The Netherlands. “To counteract this, national forest monitoring systems need to address participation, transparency, accountability and coordination.”

Finally, the authors review four emerging strategies that could help achieve the objective of reducing emissions from the forest and land use sector – with some fine-tuning. These are: zero deforestation and other private sector commitments, climate-smart agriculture, jurisdictional approaches to low-emission rural development, and forest landscape restoration. The book devotes a full chapter to each of these approaches, examining evidence of impact and drawing lessons for a more complementary, streamlined approach.

“Our main goal as editors,” notes Angelsen, “is to provide a critical, evidence-based analysis of REDD+ implementation so far, without losing sight of the urgent need to reduce forest-based emissions to prevent catastrophic climate change.”

“Focusing on a positive narrative about how forests contribute to economic development and climate goals can galvanize support and generate new momentum,” he adds.

By Erin O’Connell, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.

This research was supported by NORAD, BMUB, IKI and FTA. This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

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  • Ten years of the Global Comparative Study on REDD+

Ten years of the Global Comparative Study on REDD+

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  • FTA researchers set to highlight seeds, REDD+ and inclusive finance at landscapes forum

FTA researchers set to highlight seeds, REDD+ and inclusive finance at landscapes forum

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Clouds pass over Ribangkadeng village in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by Nanang Sujana/CIFOR

The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) and its partner institutions are set to make a strong showing at the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) Bonn on Dec. 1-2, 2018.

This year’s GLF Bonn will be key in drawing out the next steps toward hitting global sustainability targets, with many participants expected at the World Conference Center in Germany, in addition to a worldwide audience online.

Of numerous discussion forums, FTA is hosting a session on the delivery of quality and diverse planting material as a major constraint for restoration, organized by Bioversity International in collaboration with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF).

FTA Director Vincent Gitz will provide the opening to the session, ahead of a range of speakers including FTA Flagship 1 leader Ramni Jamnadass, as well as FTA’s Christopher Kettle, Marius Ekeu and Lars Graudal, and representatives of numerous key organizations. Additional details are available in the session flyer.

The program is also cohosting a session from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) titled REDD+ at 10: What we’ve learned and where we go next. Looking back at 10 years of REDD+ research, the session will ask how REDD+ has evolved, and where it stands now.

FTA Flagship 5 leader Christopher Martius, who is also team leader of climate change, energy and low-carbon development at CIFOR, will moderate the session, in which CIFOR’s Anne Larson and Arild Angelsen will speak. The GLF will also see the launch of a related book, Transforming REDD+: Lessons and new directions, in the Landscapes Action Pavilion Networking Area.

Another discussion forum of note is Looking at the past to shape the Landscape Approach of the future, organized by CIFOR, the International Climate Initiative (IKI) and FTA, which will bring together a diverse set of panelists experienced in implementing integrated landscape approaches in various contexts.

A major feature of GLF is its schedule of side events, including Territorial development – managing landscapes for the rural future cohosted by Agricultural Research for Development (CIRAD), and Bamboo for restoration and economic development organized by the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR).

The program will have a presence at the event’s pavilions, including the Inclusive Finance and Business Engagement Pavilion where a highlight session titled Making responsible investments work: Bridging the gap between global investors and local end users is set to take place, looking at success factors for inclusive and responsible businesses, which are at the core of both climate finance and responsible investments, as well as financial mechanisms that can adequately address the needs of such businesses.

Visit the Tropenbos International (TBI) and CIFOR booths to find FTA resources and to speak with FTA experts.

For the full details of FTA’s involvement in GLF, please check the event webpage.

Tune into the GLF livestream on Dec. 1-2, from 9am-7.30pm in Bonn, Germany.

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  • Special issue looks at forest governance interventions to promote sustainability

Special issue looks at forest governance interventions to promote sustainability

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A Brazil nut producer looks up into the trees in Madre de Dios, Peru. Photo by Yoly Gutierrez/CIFOR

What can 19 reviews assessing 1,200 research articles spanning over 3 billion hectares of land show about what works in forest governance interventions to promote sustainability?

It is widely agreed that effective governance is key to building and securing sustainability in forested areas, but the jury is still out over what that actually looks like.

There are “literally scores of different governance methods that people have tried to get improved outcomes,” according to Arun Agrawal, a professor at the University of Michigan.

“We don’t have a very good sense of which interventions work well, when they work well, and why they work well,” added Agrawal, a contributing editor on a new special issue of Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability (COSUST).

Each of 19 reviews in the journal aims to assess the degree of effectiveness of the environmental governance strategy they focus on, and the level of confidence information available. These interventions include, among others, REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation), protected areas, community forests, concessions, tree plantation, forests under certification, private acquisition of land for conservation, and sustainable intensification.

Read the article: What is REDD+ achieving on the ground?


The issue provided an opportunity to explore commonalities among the different kinds of interventions – of which there were more than expected, Agrawal said. “Very often we think of these interventions as being quite different from each other, but when we look at what’s associated with the success of these interventions, we find there are a common set of factors.”

As such, in the issue’s introduction, the editors identify four criteria as critical to constructing effective governance for sustainability.

Collaborative relationships between different actors and decision makers is “central,” Agrawal said. Supportive policies, adaptive management, and responsive macro-institutional frameworks are also important.

“It’s so important to look at what is going on as things are being implemented, and learn from the intervention while it’s unfolding – not coming into the process with a fixed blueprint in your mind, but being willing to adapt while you’re implementing the intervention,” he said.

As such, clear monitoring systems and performance indicators are critical. It is also key to integrate learning from different kinds of evidence, and from overlapping interventions.

“Often it was not a single intervention that by itself led to positive outcomes, but it was effective in combination with others,” he said.

What does this mean for practitioners? “It’s not that everybody should follow the same template,” Arawal cautioned. “But keeping these factors in mind when you’re trying new things could well lead to better outcomes.”

Read also: CIFOR now hosts comprehensive REDD+ tool ID-RECCO

A converted agricultural area is seen in Madre de Dios, Peru. Photo by Yoly Gutierrez/CIFOR


 The editors also identify three fundamental means for designing governance interventions related to natural resources: information, incentives, and institutions. In some interventions, actors managing or relying on forests use information to shape outcomes, assuming that with greater awareness, unsustainable behaviors may change.

For example, informing consumers about sustainably-harvested timber and zero-deforestation palm oil – and the degradation and conflict associated with their alternatives – is intended to influence buying behavior, thus increasing demand for sustainably produced commodities and prompting producer shifts towards practices and standards that align with these goals.

Another way of designing interventions is to recognize the cost of adopting more sustainable behavior, and thus provide incentives that aim to absorb this extra cost, and in so doing, enable the behaviors they are seeking to promote. This is the philosophy behind programs like REDD+ and other payments for ecosystem services (PES) approaches. Alternatively, interventions may use institutional change to impose costs and sanctions on people enacting unsustainable behaviors. For example, government agencies may enact fines or prison sentences on those caught cutting down trees in protected areas.

In reality, most forest governance interventions use a combination of all three methods, although with different amounts of emphasis on each.

In one of the review articles led by CIFOR scientist, Amy Duchelle it is clear that while REDD+ programs are centered on incentives, in practice they involve a “customized basket of integrated interventions,” which also require information-sharing and institutional change to promote behaviors that help restore degraded areas and keep forests standing.

Arawal and his colleagues hoped initially to be able to make quantitative claims about the number of hectares successfully protected through each kind of intervention. But given that each situation requires its own bespoke mix of interventions, evaluating impact at wider scales is extremely challenging. What’s more, the reviewers found that in most cases the data that exists is too “patchy” to make generic claims, Agrawal said — a serious concern given the pressing nature of the work involved.

For example, in the REDD+ review, Duchelle was “surprised by the lack of studies on the forest and land use outcomes of REDD+, as well as the rare use of counterfactual approaches to evaluate impacts of any kind.” She and her co-authors concluded that “recent research has not yet measured up to the importance of REDD+ in terms of scope, depth, and analytic sophistication,” and stressed that “as forest-rich countries refine their climate action plans post 2020, there is an urgent need for more reliable evidence on the impacts of REDD+ to date to guide their choices.”

By Monica Evans, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.

For more information on this topic, please contact Amy Duchelle at [email protected] or Arun Agrawal at [email protected]h.edu.

This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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