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New study finds little private finance in REDD+ efforts, suggests blended finance as way forward

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Products dry in the sun in Jambi, Indonesia, as part of a REDD+ safeguards and benefit sharing project. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR
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People and produce are transported in the port of Huicungo, Peru. Photo by M. del Aguila Guerrero/CIFOR

The average annual financing for REDD+ of US$323 million might sound like a lot on its own, but compared to the US$41 billion spent on agricultural subsidies and biofuel, it is just a drop in the bucket.

This is one of many findings elucidated in a forthcoming study on funding for reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+).

The study was led by the international consulting group COWI, along with the Öko-Institut and scientists from the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry’s (FTA) lead center, the Center for the International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

The team studied REDD+ funding from 2008 to 2015 to see where it went and how it was spent. A preview was given at Does money go to trees?: Assessing finance flows to maximize the impact of REDD+, an official side event at the recent Bonn Climate Change Conference.


CIFOR team leader Christopher Martius, who is the leader of FTA’s research theme on climate change adaptation and mitigation, presented some of the study’s findings, starting with the fact that there are two types of funding related to REDD+: indirect funding, which is dedicated to deforestation efforts at large; and direct funding, which goes solely to REDD+ efforts.

The study found that donors commit and disperse much more indirect than direct funding, as the former covers a wider set of issues and tools. Indirect funding also came from a diverse mix of sources – grants, official flows, loans and equity investments – while 99% of direct funding came from official development assistant (ODA) grants. Viewed as aid rather than profit-producing investment, these grants do not make REDD+ attractive from the business world’s point of view.

REDD+ projects go through three stages: readiness, implementation and payment for results. Funding is still needed for the first two stages to get to the third.

“Support for readiness is going down,” said Martius. “People want to go to payments. But we are not there yet.”

Many developing countries with high emissions reduction potential but low capacity not only rely on funding for readiness and implementation, but also need support that is tailored to their needs, and that balances effectiveness and equity.

What’s more, funding is not everything. It also requires functional systems in place to ensure proper governance, accountability and transparency.

The study found it difficult to determine how much private finance REDD+ efforts receive. Despite growing private sector responsibility and recent commitments to reduce deforestation and improve transparency, the scale and flow types are still opaque.

Martius, however, said that fixating on fund flows and their size alone can distract from looking instead for larger ‘triggers for transformational change’. He instead stressed the importance of mainstreaming climate objectives across financial sectors.

“We need to integrate participation, development and climate objectives for conflict-free, lasting results,” he said.

Read more: Unlocking private finance for climate and sustainable development

Products dry in the sun in Jambi, Indonesia, as part of a REDD+ safeguards and benefit sharing project. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR


Rather than relying on funds from single revenue streams, countries can – and should, the scientists said – look to diversify their capital sources, in what is known as blended finance.

Peter Minang, a principal scientist at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and the leader of FTA’s research theme on landscape dynamics, spoke about how this has manifested in Cameroon. In a performance-based payment experiment where donors are funding community forest enterprises, data is showing positive results for emissions reductions and other benefits such as job creation and capacity building.

However, legal compliance costs such as environmental impact assessments added up, costing thousands of dollars – a large toll for small enterprises to pay.

Minang said that it can often take five years for investors to see returns, and this affects how – and what – they decide to finance. “It is possible to get to Phase 3 [results-based payments], but REDD+ finance flows are insufficient, so it has to be blended.”

Teferu Mengistu, National Forest Sector Development Program Coordinator in the Ethiopian Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, agreed, saying that Ethiopia receives most of its funding from bilateral pledges and commitments.

“Ethiopia is going through phase two [implementation] in the REDD+ process, but there is still a gap between demand and supply for REDD+ finance,” he said.

Read more: Collecting gender-disaggregated data, and what to do with it 


Asger Strange Olesen, the Global Topic Lead on Land Use and the Bioeconomy at COWI, concluded the session by returning to the research’s analysis of how much funding different global regions received from 2008 to 2015. Africa, he found, received less funding overall – and specifically in key areas, such as drivers and risks; Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) capacity; and forest governance – than the Americas, Asia or Oceania. Governance and safeguards were among the only areas reasonably well-financed.

“Decision-makers see REDD+ as one tool out of many,” Olesen said. “Deforestation is probably one of the hardest problems to tackle in a consumer-based democracy.”

On the ground in Africa, the Network of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities for Sustainable Management of Forest Ecosystems of Central Africa (REPALEAC) champions a traditional approach to forest management, representing 230 organizations in eight countries.

“Elders have the knowledge, but now they are translating it to the younger generation,” said the organization’s spokesperson, Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim.

This has attracted US$750,000 from the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility capacity-building program, but three of the REPALEAC’s countries – Chad, Burundi and Rwanda – are not FCPC members and therefore remain uncovered. This could become a large problem, so REPALEAC is working to have these countries included in the program.

“We need equity for global impact and protection of the indigenous peoples and local communities of our subregions,” she said.

Ibrahim’s point – and one that underpinned the event as a whole – was that REDD+ not only needs more funding, but also proper processes and procedures to ensure money arrives where it’s supposed to, and supports sufficient participation and equity among local stakeholders.

“There is much to work on, before we will see more green results with REDD+ money,” summarized Martius after the event concluded.

By Christi Hang, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

For more information on this topic, please contact Christopher Martius at

The forthcoming research mentioned in this article is part of CIFOR’s Global Comparative Study on REDD+

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

This research was supported by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), the European Union (EU), the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB), and COWI.

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  • Collecting gender-disaggregated data, and what to do with it 

Collecting gender-disaggregated data, and what to do with it 

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A man holds sirih leaf in Indonesia. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR
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A man holds sirih leaf in Indonesia. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

Collecting robust sex-disaggregated data on forests and climate is one thing, but analyzing it and making it available to the right players is another.

Under the umbrella of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the 48th session of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI 48) took place from April 30 to May 10, 2018, in Bonn, Germany.

An in-session workshop at SBI 48, focused on differentiated impacts of climate change and gender-responsive climate policy and action, featured a number of prominent speakers, including CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) gender equality and social inclusion team member Markus Ihalainen, who is also a gender researcher at FTA’s lead center, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

The workshop was mandated in Marrakech as an element of the extended and enhanced Lima work program on gender, SBI 48 chair Emmanuel Dlamini stated in opening the workshop. The topic of the workshop was elaborated last year, in a decision that established the first gender action plan under the UNFCCC, he added.

In the workshop’s first panel discussion, speakers addressed the why and how of sex-disaggregated data in identifying differentiated impacts and informing climate policy and action. Collectively, the discussions aimed to help bring to life the gender action plan, with Ihalainen speaking specifically on sex-disaggregated data in relation to policy and action on REDD+, forests, trees and agroforestry.

Ihalainen’s presentation, based on a submission from CIFOR that was made on behalf of FTA and in partnership with colleagues from the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and Bioversity International, explained by means of background that the agriculture, forestry and other land uses sector (AFOLU) is responsible for roughly a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, half of which results from deforestation and forest degradation, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

In light of this, Ihalainen stated, forest- and tree-based mitigation action holds a lot of potential, but the ecosystem services provided by forests are also critical for adaptation and for reducing social vulnerability – such as by providing safety nets to communities if crops fail, offering protection against extreme weather, regulating water flows, and enhancing soil nutrient retention.

Data shows a clear division of labor in terms of ‘who does what?’, Ihalainen explained, regarding the links between gender, climate change and forest- and tree-based landscapes. This can translate to gender-differentiated perceptions and knowledge in terms of natural resources or climate change.

“Just like in the agricultural sector, there are rampant inequalities in access and control over productive assets, including land, trees, credit, information and extension services,” he said. “As well as inequalities in decision-making power.”

A couple goes fishing in Indonesia. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

These inequalities result in differentiated vulnerabilities and adaptive capacities. Research illustrates that in order to ensure programmatic interventions reach both women and men:

  • Gender constraints regarding time use, resources and labor need to be considered.
  • We need to move beyond male and female binaries and collect and analyze more socially disaggregated data on vulnerabilities.
  • We need to understand that gender relations are dynamic, and change over time.
  • We need continuous efforts to collect and analyze data to understand how gender relations are affected by climate change or responses to it.

So how can sex-disaggregated data support policy and action in the forest sector?

“In looking at the forest sector, we can see that gender considerations have largely been absent in policymaking,” said Ihalainen, nothing a lack of systematic data, especially at national levels.

Many climate policies and programs in AFOLU aim to change land-use practices, for example with climate-smart agriculture, large-scale agroforestry, or land and forest restoration. These policies are often informed by a cost-benefit analysis at either community or farmer level.

“The logic is that costs incurred by communities or farming households due to this land-use change should be outweighed by immediate or future benefits, to incentivize land-use change,” said Ihalainen.

“But what’s often overlooked is that households are made up of many different members who might experience different costs or benefits from these changes. In order to accurately assess and attribute costs and benefits that are associated with different policy options, robust intra-household level data is critical.”

Thus, understanding how and by whom land is used and is critical for mitigating adverse impacts.

Mismatches between costs and benefits at the intra-household level can risk increasing inequalities within households, decreasing women’s wellbeing and serving as a disincentive for women’s participation. This shows that gender-blind policies and actions can sacrifice efficiency and long-term sustainability, while also jeopardizing gender equality and women’s wellbeing.

On the other hand, “when climate policy is gender-responsive, there is evidence to show it can help level gender equalities while generating better institutional and environmental performance,” said Ihalainen.

But these synergies cannot just be assumed, he warned. Instead they must be built on thorough gender analysis and robust data.

“If we lack an understanding of the differentiated opportunities and constraints that women and men face, we risk tasking women with saving the environment without addressing any of the structural constraints,” he added.

A dwelling is constructed in a forest in West Kalimantan. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

He admitted that tradeoffs do exist between different objectives, but that incorporating gender-specific targets and conducting thorough gender analysis can help to identify and mitigate potential tensions.

During the workshop, participants – consisting of Party delegates and representatives from observer organizations – stressed the lack of national-level sex-disaggregated statistics.

Indeed, a recent UN Women report found that only 10 out of 54 gender-specific indicators in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were produced with sufficient quality and regularity to allow for reliable monitoring on the global level. However, while it is indeed important to address challenges on the statistical front, a lack of national-level sex-disaggregated data should not hinder gender-responsive policy altogether.

“We should not think that the lack of national-level sex-disaggregated data on a number of climate-related issues means we can’t do evidence-based gender-responsive climate policy,” Ihalainen said following the event. “A lot of data and knowledge already exists, and it’s often more about establishing ways for that knowledge to inform policy. Where there are data gaps, partnerships can be established with research institutions and other stakeholders so that they can be addressed effectively.”

“National surveys are very expensive, and in some cases only occur every 10 years or so. Policy needs to move faster than that – 2030 is when we are supposed to have achieved the SDGs, not the deadline for getting our data and monitoring systems in order. So while it’s important to address national data gaps, policy making needs to focus on what we already know and make sure there are mechanisms for evidence and expertise from different stakeholders to inform policy,” he added.

“And even though you base your policies on the best data, you will never be sure your intervention will yield the anticipated results. So building in safeguards and robust, innovative monitoring systems, and allowing for adaptive learning is really critical too.”

Aside from establishing mixed-gender field teams, collecting sex-disaggregated data and capturing other forms of social difference, partnerships were identified as a key priority to ensuring that data is analyzed and validated, and fed back to policies and programs.

Many relevant guidelines already exist, including some developed by FTA partners, with Ihalainen emphasizing that the program was able to support parties in collecting and analyzing data and developing gender-responsive policies in the forestry sector – steps that will help contribute toward the gender action plan.

By Hannah Maddison-Harris, FTA Communications and Editorial Coordinator.

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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Assessing REDD+ readiness to maximize climate finance impact

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