In Warsaw, REDD+ Takes Major Step Forward

UN Climate Change conference Warsaw 2013

By Justin Bull

December 5, 2013

Climate negotiators in Warsaw, Poland recently agreed to new rules and processes for implementing REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) as part of the global response to climate change. The basic concept of REDD+ is to pay tropical developing countries – at the national, provincial, or community level – to reduce deforestation below historical levels. 

Most estimates suggest that deforestation accounts for 20% of annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This represents the second largest source of emissions, with only the energy sector producing more.

The Warsaw agreement sets in place rules for making REDD+ a formal mechanism, establishing reference levels of deforestation, creating institutions to monitor and distribute REDD+, and most importantly, securing financing for all phases of REDD+ implementation.

In order to secure consensus around REDD+, developing and developed countries had to agree on the mechanisms and rules required. With the Warsaw Framework, procedures for measuring current and historical deforestation were established. Methods to update these benchmarks and ensure performance-based payment were also defined, setting the groundwork to intensify international public and private investments in REDD+. Most importantly, negotiators agreed on financing all phases of REDD+ implementation.

The benefits of this new consensus were immediately obvious. The United States, United Kingdom and Norway pledged $280 million to fund a new landscape-based approach to tackling deforestation. The so-called “"BioCarbon Fund Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes" will be governed by the World Bank, and will help developing countries take steps to limit emissions from deforestation. The establishment of this fund helped secure agreements from developing countries, which were keen to see existing proposals like REDD+ funded before moving on to broader global agreements.

The private sector, long seeking clarity on how to respond to climate change, is encouraged. The CEO of Unilever, a multinational consumer-goods company, said the BioCarbon Fund is, “exactly the type of initiative that we are delighted to support. We need to find new forms of public-private partnership to address global challenges such as deforestation.”