Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) is a global initiative designed to pay groups or countries for protecting their forests and reducing emissions of greenhouse gas pollutants, especially CO₂. It aims to reduce net emissions on a global scale. If it succeeds, it could help protect the world’s forests as carbon resevoirs and maximize their potential for slowing down and reducing the impact of climate change.
When forests are unable to remove CO₂ from the atmosphere, the Earth loses some of its capacity to maintain safe atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases. The rapid loss of forests effectively counts for about 17% of total global emissions every year.
With REDD+, wealthy countries could buy carbon credits, often called "carbon offsets," from developing countries who keep their forests standing. Alternatively, REDD+ could be separate from the carbon credit market, so that wealthy countries would have to meet REDD+ commitments in addition to their own emission reductions.
Currently the initiative is still the planning stages, both in United Nations talks and in private enterprises. If it becomes a reality on the ground, it will stimulate a new global business of carbon conservation in forests, likely worth tens of billions of dollars per year.
REDD+ is a way to compensate people who manage forests better, but in doing so it takes away some short-term economic benefits. It can help staunch the loss of forests and enhance their capacity to capture and store carbon. Forests lose this ability when they are:
The "plus" takes the mechanism to another level. It enhances the land’s capacity for carbon storage by rewarding activities that improve forest health. Not only are carbon stocks protected by avoiding forest damage or outright clearing, they are also increased by measures such as better forest management, conservation, restoration, and afforestation. REDD+ is also concerned with much more than carbon, and could improve biodiversity, water quality, and other vital environmental services. And it could help ensure livelihood security and clear rights for local communities and indigenous peoples.
REDD+ is currently a central topic of negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The issue is still being debated.
Visit our climate change resources page for plenty more information about REDD+ and the potential impacts it has for local people and forests alike.