The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Secretariat issued the following fact sheet, titled “Reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries: approaches to stimulate action”, on REDD ahead of the June 2009 climate talks in Bonn, Germany
Forests and Climate Change
Global forest covers around 30 per cent of the Earth’s land surface (nearly 4 billion hectares).
Forests provide valuable ecosystem services and goods, serve as a habitat for a wide range of
flora and fauna and hold a significant standing stock of global carbon. The total carbon content of
forests has been estimated at 638 Gt for 2005, which is more than the amount of carbon in the
Deforestation, mainly conversion of forests for agriculture activities, has been estimated at an
alarming rate of 13 million hectares per year (in the period 1990-2005). Deforestation results in
immediate release of the carbon stored in trees as CO2 emissions. It is estimated that deforestation
contributed globally to approximately 20 per cent of annual greenhouse gas emissions in the
1990s. According to the IPCC in its Fourth Assessment Report, reducing and/or preventing
deforestation is the mitigation option with the largest and most immediate carbon stock impact in
the short term.
Conversion of rainforest for oil palm agriculture in Sumatra in May 2009
At present, developing countries can implement afforestation and reforestation project activities
under the Clean Development Mechanism. However, the potential role of forests in the mitigation
of climate change in developing countries is still limited.
Reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries under the UNFCCC
At the Conference of the Parties (COP) 11 (Montreal), in 2005 talks on reducing emissions from
deforestation in developing countries began, with a proposal on the issue by Papua New Guinea
and Costa Rica. Parties recognized the importance of the issue in relation to addressing climate
change, particularly in light of the large contribution of deforestation activities in developing
countries to global greenhouse gas emissions.
COP 11 provided a mandate for further work by the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and
Technological Advice (SBSTA). Between 2006 and 2008, discussions under the UNFCCC
process focused on the identification of drivers of deforestation, scientific, technical and
methodological issues relating to estimating and monitoring emissions, and costs and technical
barriers for the implementation of activities to reduce emissions from deforestation.
Several Parties also proposed a range of policy approaches and positive incentives and considered
the advantages and disadvantages of various financing options. Financing options considered include voluntary contributions from developed countries, bilateral or multilateral arrangements,
Official Development Assistance (ODA), and establishment of new funds and linkages to market
mechanisms (as in carbon trading, payment for environmental services).
Issues discussed at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bali
A major decision to stimulate action on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest
degradation in developing countries was adopted by Parties in Bali (2008). The decision provides
a mandate for several elements and actions by Parties:
- Further strengthening and supporting ongoing efforts;
- Support for and facilitation of capacity-building, technical assistance and transfer of
technology relating to methodological and technical needs and institutional needs of
- Explore a range of actions, identify options and undertake demonstration activities to
address drivers of deforestation relevant to each country’s national circumstances; and
- Mobilize resources to support the efforts mentioned above.
Further work to date
In 2008, a program of work was undertaken on methodological issues related to a range of
policy approaches and positive incentives that reduce emissions from deforestation and forest
degradation in developing countries. Such methodological issues include finding ways to
estimate emissions and changes in forest carbon stocks from forest degradation, means to
establish reference emission levels and to address the displacement of emissions.
The program of work included a workshop on methodological issues that was held in Japan in
June 2008. The workshop helped improve the understanding of the challenges in reducing
emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries. Key messages from
the workshop include the:
- need for robust and cost-effective methodologies to estimate and monitor changes in
forest cover and associated carbon stocks and greenhouse gas emissions.
- need to increase technical capacities in developing countries to undertake forest carbon
inventories and to estimate and monitor such emissions.
In 2008 and 2009, policy approaches and positive incentives relating to reducing emissions from
deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries and the role of conservation,
sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing
countries are being considered under the process of the Bali Action Plan (BAP).
At the Accra Climate Change Talks, August 2008, an in-session workshop was held on policy
approaches and positive incentives on issues relating to reducing emissions from deforestation and
forest degradation in developing countries, and the role of conservation, sustainable management
of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries. There were several
key outcomes from Accra:
- Common understanding that current knowledge of methodological issues is sufficient to
initiate discussions on policy approaches and positive incentives.
- Need for flexible, practical, balanced and comprehensive policy approaches which should
be voluntary, encourage wide participation, and take account of national circumstances.
- Any financial mechanism should be effective, sustainable, predictable and performancebased,
supported by diversified sources.
• Many Parties recognized a need for combination of non-market financial resources and
market-based mechanisms to ensure sustainability of actions.
Ongoing efforts/Capacity Building
To be able to participate in any future activities aiming to reduce emissions from deforestation and
forest degradation, many developing countries will require capacity building, technical assistance
and financial support for a number of enabling activities, including, for example, putting in place
the necessary institutions to improve their data collection systems, and their estimation and
reporting of emissions.
The consideration of the issue under the UNFCCC during the last two years has spurred bilateral
and multilateral cooperation activities involving governments and a broad range of organizations
to build capacities and enhance technical and scientific knowledge in developing countries.
Intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations have ongoing projects and activities in
many developing countries, which are related to reducing deforestation as well as to conservation
and sustainable forest management.
In addition to the UNFCCC, the other two Rio Conventions, Convention on Biological Diversity
and United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification also acknowledge the importance of
protecting forests and their sustainable use for biodiversity conservation and combating
desertification and land degradation. In addition, the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) is
starting to implement a new non-legally binding instrument to stop illegal logging and promote
sustainable forest management.
Cooperation among these international bodies will enhance synergies in promoting sustainable
forest management in developing countries.