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What's the connection between tropical forests and climate change?

VIDEO: The Forest Connection (7:07)

Tropical deforestation, driven mostly by demand in industrialized and rapidly developing nations for timber, palm oil and other commodities, as well as the need to fulfill basic agricultural needs in developing countries, destroys an area the size of England every year. In some regions, such as the Amazon, the conversion of forests to other land uses is the single greatest source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for at least 70 percent of total country emissions.

Two immediate ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are to halt the destruction of remaining tropical forests and to plant trees in degraded areas. In fact, scientists warn that failure to halt deforestation means global temperatures will rise to dangerous levels no matter what other steps are taken to combat climate change.

What is REDD+?

REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation "plus" conservation, the sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks), presents a key opportunity to generate the funding, political will and mechanism necessary to protect forests while combating climate change and improving human well-being in developing nations. It represents a suite of policies, institutional reforms and programs that provide monetary incentives for developing countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sustain economic growth by halting or preventing the destruction of their forests.


How does CI implement REDD+?

In support of REDD+, CI is building on more than 20 years of experience working with local communities on forest conservation by continuing to invest in developing countries maintaining high forest cover. We are advising and educating governments and local communities on designing policies and building the technical capacity, legal frameworks and financial mechanisms for effective implementation of REDD+. CI is also working with policy and business leaders in industrialized countries, such as the United States, to encourage funding for REDD+ and market-based approaches to create a demand for forest carbon offsets.

Additional mitigation measures in the forestry, agriculture and land-use sector are necessary to achieve global climate goals. Maintaining and expanding forest cover, securing protected area systems, enhancing agricultural productivity and sustainability, avoiding conversion of peatlands and recovering degraded lands are essential complements to REDD+.

To demonstrate how REDD+ policies and mechanisms can work, CI has created an extensive REDD+ training and education program; developed guidelines to ensure that REDD+ will benefit local communities; worked with partners in developing decision-making tools for policy development and economic planning; and set up pilot forest carbon projects around the world.

We recently conducted a rigorous review of the lessons learned from 12 of our forest carbon initiatives. This review was based on questionnaires and interviews with project partners, managers and stakeholders, site field visits and detailed analyses of individual case studies. We have synthesized the results in a new publication entitled "What is needed to make REDD+ work on the ground? Lessons learned from pilot forest carbon initiatives."

Preparing for REDD+

Pilot REDD+ activities that demonstrate the integrity of government systems and the security of forest carbon investments are critical to building global confidence in REDD+ and providing immediate and adequate economic returns to host countries and landowners.

CI is one of the few organizations working on the ground to make sure that the technical, institutional and legal barriers are overcome to ensure wide country participation in a future REDD+ market. We are helping to establish the frameworks that will link local carbon projects to national and international schemes and attract private capital flows to ensure that REDD+ becomes a source of sustainable long-term development financing.

CI is also expanding local knowledge of REDD+ by supporting community capacity-building efforts. Since 2007, we have held more than 20 training sessions in 15 countries with critical standing forests: Madagascar, Liberia, DRC, Suriname, Indonesia, Peru, Guatemala, Guyana, Suriname, Morocco, Indonesia, South Africa, Brazil, Costa Rica and Ecuador.

"REDD+ Readiness" trainings target diverse participants and offer different materials to help educate and facilitate project development and implementation of REDD+. CI has seen great interest from the following target groups:

  • National policymakers and government technical staff: Workshops with government officials outline the major components that national REDD+ policies will need to address, and how the government can design its REDD+ readiness strategy accordingly. Technical workshops address specific components such as how to calculate the amount of CO2 stored in forests and the best methods for facilitating protection.

  • Community leaders: Workshops and dialogues geared toward indigenous and forest community leaders incorporate local context and knowledge of climate change impacts and explain the basic concepts of REDD+ to participants. This expanded knowledge helps communities contribute to discussions with governments as to how REDD+ might be implemented.

  • Training the trainers: In these workshops, community leaders, local CI staff and partner organization employees are trained to deliver basic information about climate science, the role of forests in climate mitigation and REDD+ to other trainers, who then replicate these trainings in their own communities.

    REDD+ Training Materials
    WEBSITE: REDD+ Training Course

As we gain knowledge and experience in all of these areas, CI's project portfolio is expanding. New initiatives still in the design phase will result in advancements in REDD+ demonstration, new technology for calculating forest degradation trends, and improved accounting systems and monitoring processes, among others.

Securing sustainable financing for REDD+

A critical missing factor in REDD+ Readiness is a pipeline of investment-ready quality forest carbon projects. CI is focusing on expanding the portfolio of working forest carbon initiatives in order to demonstrate that:

  • Viable investment opportunities exist.
  • Developing and advancing standards will stimulate markets for voluntary forest carbon.
  • Catalyzing private sector investment in REDD+ through CI's Carbon Fund is possible.


Successful projects will demonstrate to governments and local communities in forested countries that economic and other benefits can be generated through the carbon markets. They will also provide case studies and "lessons learned" for further development of the frameworks for REDD+ programs.

The Carbon Fund: Early financing for REDD+ projects

CI's Carbon Fund helps REDD+ projects that follow the best standards progress to the point where they can begin selling credits to the market, with a percentage of credits feeding a revolving mechanism that will ensure the financial sustainability of the projects and the fund.

The Carbon Fund provides an important service and resource not previously available in the market. If developing countries are confident that their pilot initiatives can obtain funding, they will have a financial incentive to ambitiously pursue these projects. This secure investment will accelerate REDD+ implementation at a scale critical to achieving global climate security.

Together with the Walt Disney Company, the Carbon Fund has already developed the largest corporate transaction supporting REDD+ in history. In 2009, Disney committed $4 million to develop large-scale REDD+ demonstrations in Peru and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

LEARN MORE: Disney's Commitment to REDD

The emerging carbon market presents one of the greatest opportunities in the last fifty years to reverse the destruction of the world's remaining tropical forests by matching buyers and sellers of carbon credits.
In order to achieve effective climate change solutions at the necessary scale, government policies must prevent further destruction of ecosystems while providing incentives for their protection.
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REDD Lessons Learned
(PDF - 1.78 MB)

Audio Presentations

REDD+ en Costa Rica: Retos, Oportunidades y el Papel de los Pueblos Indigenas (REDD+ in Costa Rica: Challenges, Opportunities and the role of Indigenous Peoples)


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Part 2:


Download mp3 files (ZIP - 21 MB)