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REDD+ funds are being put to work in the right places: report

  • According to a new report by the NGO Forest Trends, donors and REDD+ country governments are successfully targeting forest conservation finance to reach the places most in need of assistance in tackling deforestation.
  • REDD+ financing is generally being targeted to those countries and provinces that have demonstrated the political will to protect tropical forests and committed to reining in deforestation as part of their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) — nation-specific plans for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases that were submitted to the UN ahead of the Paris climate talks.
  • REDD+ finance at both the national and subnational level correlates closely to emissions and forest loss, although the precise details of those relationships vary across countries, Forest Trends found.

The UN’s REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) program was officially enshrined in the Paris Climate Agreement as a standalone article — as clear a signal as any that curbing deforestation is now considered absolutely crucial to the world’s efforts to halt global warming.

According to a new report by the NGO Forest Trends, close to $6 billion has been pledged to conservation initiatives in ten key forest countries in Latin America, Africa, and the Asia-Pacific region under REDD+, and that money is being deployed in nations and provinces with high levels of deforestation and associated carbon emissions — in other words, exactly where it’s needed most to address deforestation and forest degradation’s contribution to the climate crisis.

Forest Trends researchers used information on REDD+ finance flows from 2009 to mid-2016 in combination with forest cover, deforestation, and emissions data covering 2001 to 2014 (the last year for which complete forest-loss data was available) provided by the World Resources Institute’s Global Forest Watch satellite monitoring system to analyze the “geography” of REDD+ funding, as the group called it.

“Our findings show that donors and REDD+ country governments are successfully targeting forest conservation finance to reach the places most in need of assistance in tackling deforestation,” Forest Trends’ Brian Schaap said in a statement. “The evidence also suggests that countries and provinces with a higher capacity to put this funding to effective use are receiving more funding than comparable regions with similar deforestation problems but lower governance capacity.”

According to the report, REDD+ financing is generally targeting those countries and provinces that have demonstrated the political will to protect tropical forests and committed to reining in deforestation as part of their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) — country-specific plans for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases that were submitted to the UN ahead of the Paris climate talks — in addition to adopting other strong climate policies, like low-carbon development plans.

Graph via Forest Trends.

REDD+ finances at both the national and sub-national levels correlate closely to emissions and forest loss, although the precise details of those relationships vary across countries, Forest Trends found. Overall, donors appear to be prioritizing the provision of REDD+ financing to areas facing acute deforestation pressures rather than simply targeting all areas with high levels of forest cover.

But while larger countries with greater forest area, deforestation, and emissions from deforestation received more total REDD+ funding than smaller countries with less forest cover, loss, and emissions, differences in governance and implementation capacity are also playing a role. Forest Trends reported that Mexico, Brazil, and Peru received more funding than predicted by their forest loss and emissions, for instance, while Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Ghana received less.

Individual provinces that are committed to fighting forest destruction and have built up their capacity to do so are more likely to have established jurisdictional REDD+ programs like the Governors’ Climate and Forest Task Force, the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility Carbon Fund, and the BioCarbon Fund Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes, Forest Trends said. In response, these provinces tend to receive significantly more funding per hectare of forest cover, forest cover loss, and ton of emissions than provinces not participating in jurisdictional REDD programs.

Provinces and regions facing civil conflict or that have weak governance and political institutions, on the other hand, tend to receive less funding, even if they are seeing high rates of deforestation.

The report also makes several policy recommendations: For example, additional economic incentives are still needed to ensure the growth of REDD+ initiatives, Forest Trends concluded. More funds are especially needed to counter what the group characterized as “uneven distribution at the subnational level.” And the researchers also found that there are significant up-front costs associated with establishing REDD+ programs, which requires careful planning and policy.

Michael Wolosin, President of Forest Climate Analytics and an author of the Forest Trends report, told Mongabay that we can’t afford to waste time if we are going to reach the climate goals in the Paris agreement, which is why it’s especially important that limited climate finance be used efficiently.

“This is happening with REDD+: public sector investments to date are flowing to those places with the greatest opportunity to slow and reverse forest emissions,” Wolosin said in an email.

“In the coming years, we need to expand our understanding of REDD+ finance to account for the private sector and forest country government rural agricultural investments that will ultimately dwarf north-to-south development assistance for REDD+. Such investments need to be well-targeted geographically, and they also need to be consistent with forest countries’ climate goals — not undermining them with subsidies and investments for business-as-usual forest clearing.”