Recognizing that emissions originating from deforestation and forest degradation are a considerable source of GHG emissions in many developing countries and recognizing that the conservation of forests provides multiple social, environmental and economic benefits, the UNFCCC decided to create a mechanism to incentivize actions to prevent forest loss and encourage its conservation.
The UNFCCC, in its 16th Conference of the Parties (COP16) in Cancun, Mexico, adopted a decision as part of The Cancun Agreements (Decision 1/CP.16), called 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. This policy is known as REDD+.
The same decision recognizes different national circumstances and capabilities and thus decides that the REDD+ activities ‘should be implemented in phases, beginning with the development of national strategies or action plans, policies and measures, and capacity-building, followed by the implementation of national policies and measures and national strategies or action plans that could involve further capacity-building, technology development, and transfer and results-based demonstration activities, and evolving into results-based actions that should be fully measured, reported and verified ‘in this regard, the preparation for REDD+ (first phase) should include the following four elements, also illustrated in Figure 2 below:
1. A national strategy or action plan
2. A national forest reference emissions level and/or forest reference level
3. A robust and transparent National Forest Monitoring System
4. A system for providing information on how the safeguards are being addressed and respected.
Elements of the Preparation Phase for REDD+
The Cancun Agreements go further to ensure social and environmental integrity, establishing the following seven safeguards to considering the undertaking of REDD+ implementation:
1. Actions complement or are consistent with the objectives of National Forest Programmes and relevant international conventions and agreement.
2. National Forest governance structures are transparent and effective, and they take into account national legislation and sovereignty.
3. Respect is afforded to the knowledge and rights of indigenous peoples and members of local communities, by taking into account relevant international obligations, national circumstances, and laws, and by noting that the United Nations General Assembly has adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
4. The full and effective participation of relevant stakeholders, in particular of indigenous peoples and local communities, is required.
5. Actions are consistent with the conservation of natural forests and biological diversity, ensuring that these actions are not used for the conversion of natural forests, but are instead used to incentivize the protection and conservation of natural forests and their ecosystem services and to enhance other social and environmental benefits.
6. Actions should address the risks of reversals.
7. Actions should reduce displacement of emissions.
In 2011, during COP 17 in Durban, South Africa, countries agreed to provide financial support for REDD+ by 2020 for results-based payments from REDD+. A decision was also adopted to establish the functioning principles for the Safeguards Information System (SIS) and modalities related to the reference level and reference emission levels. It was not until 2013, in Warsaw, Poland during COP 19, that the full methodological package for REDD+ was adopted in seven decisions. In 2015, in Paris, France during COP 21, the decisions adopted included alternative policy approaches, such as joint mitigation and adaptation approaches for the integral and sustainable management of forests, and further guidance for reporting how the Safeguards are being addressed and respected.