10 Years of REDD+: Outcomes and Socio-Ecological Impacts

Report by Mirjana Volarev, IFSA Intern at IUFRO

On 28th and 29th September 2021 IUFRO organized the digital IUFRO World Day event. During this event, participants had the opportunity to travel virtually across the globe and discover a wide array of forest research topics in over 70 live sessions and a similar amount of static information items.

Dr. Nelson Grima of IUFRO-GFEP

One of the sessions hosted by IUFRO’s Global Forest Expert Panels Programme (GFEP) featured Dr. Bhaskar Vira, Head of Department and Professor of Political Economy at the Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, in an interview with GFEP’s Dr. Nelson Grima.

The session focused on climate change and forests as significant contributors to climate change mitigation, and looked particularly at the development of REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries.

Dr. Bhaskar Vira started with an insightful overview of the core functions and purpose of REDD+. In the interview, he was able to share preliminary findings of an upcoming publication that is looking at “10 Years of REDD+: Outcomes and Socio-Ecological Impacts”. This is a follow-up study to the 2012 GFEP global assessment report entitled “Understanding Relationships between Biodiversity, Carbon, Forests and People: The Key to Achieving REDD+ Objectives” and will be published during the first half of 2022.

Dr. Bhaskar Vira, Head of Department and Professor of Political Economy at the Department of Geography, University of Cambridge

Dr. Vira is one of the authors of both the follow-up study on REDD+ and the REDD+ global assessment report of 2012 and contributed to several former IUFRO-led Global Forest Expert Panels. His research work focuses on the political economy of environment and development, particularly on often-hidden costs of environmental and developmental processes, and the need for scholarship to draw attention to the distributional consequences of public policy choices.

In his talk he highlighted the primary purpose of REDD+, which is to understand the role forests play in the carbon cycle and try to address some of the drivers that might help to use forests as a response to the climate emergency. Estimates suggest that deforestation and forest degradation emissions are potentially responsible for 30% of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Therefore, addressing the drivers of the worldwide forest loss and forest degradation and supporting forest restoration activities have become essential in dealing with the climate emergency.

Dr. Vira explained that the idea of REDD+ emerged from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate (UNFCCC) in 2005 and was negotiated at an intergovernmental scale. The other major landmark in its development was the Paris Agreement in 2015, with the common goal to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5°C. In 2019, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) estimated that investments into additional billion hectares of forests would probably be needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C. Given all these developments that have taken place in science, policy, institutional, and governance mechanisms, now is the right time to revisit and evaluate the process and achievements of REDD+.

The Paris Agreement provided a flexible approach for countries to use climate finance to allow both public and private finance to contribute towards achieving REDD+ goals. As a result, there are many initiatives at governmental and intergovernmental levels to create financial mechanisms to mobilize finance for REDD+. Furthermore, voluntarily governed markets, especially big private companies, have contributed through making significant commitments in terms of their emissions.

The REDD+ process has become much more mature and its activities have been implemented by a number of countries in various phases. The initial phase is where national strategies are developed, forming action plans, and putting in place the countries’ capacities to implement REDD+. The second phase represents the implementation phase, which aims to translate the initial phase into demonstration activities that can show the potential of the forest sector in relation to the climate challenge. The final phase is a result-based phase where countries are rewarded for fully measured and reported actions. Since 2005, countries have been transitioning from the initial phase of REDD+ to the implementation phase, and eight countries have already reached the final, implementation phase.

IUFRO’s-GFEP held two more live sessions during the IUFRO World Day, another one on REDD+ featuring IUFRO President Dr. John Parrotta from the US Forest Service, and a session on Forests, Trees and Poverty Alleviation in Africa, with Dr. Doris Mutta from the African Forest Forum.

The recordings of all the sessions are available on the interactive World Day map. Visit Cambridge, UK; Washington DC, USA; and Nairobi, Kenya at: https://www.iufroworldday.org/interactive-map

To find out more about the follow-up study, please visit: IUFRO: Biodiversity, Forest Management, and REDD+ 2021 / Follow-up studies / Global Forest Expert Panels (GFEP) Programme