Forests can store a very large number of greenhouse gases (only exists in French and Dutch) such as CO2, contain an enormous biological diversity (also called biodiversity) and provide numerous life essential services. However, due to the globalization the pressure on the forests throughout the world is becoming stronger and stronger. Therefore, it is necessary indeed to collaborate on the international level and to work on a sustainable forest management: so as to combat the global warming, protect the environment, fight poverty and preserve life on earth. Because of the important role of forests in the fight against global warming, REDD+ was set up.

What is REDD+?

REDD+ stands for “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”. It is a mechanism which provides economic stimuli to developing countries, which reduce their CO2 emission as a result of deforestation and forest degradation. This way, these countries have the opportunity to contribute towards the fight against global warming without their development being curbed.

The proposal for such a mechanism was brought up in 2005 by a few developing countries within the Climate Convention (UNFCCC – United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). Originally it was strictly aimed at the reduction of the CO2 emission through deforestation. However, gradually it was extended to activities concerning sustainable forest management and the preservation of the CO2 storage in forests.

So as to exclude as much as possible unfavourable side effects, seven  important safeguards were established:
• Consistency with, and supplementation of relevant national and international regulations and legislation
• Transparent and effective national structures for forest management
• Respect for the knowledge and rights of native peoples and local communities
• Effective involvement of all relevant persons concerned
• The preservation of the natural forests and their biodiversity
• The preservation of the achieved results (avoidance of reversal)
• Avoiding the relocation of these activities to other regions.

Belgium is a strong defendant of these safeguards and this both in the international negotiations and during the preparatory work at the European level.

REDD+ outside the bounds of the Climate Convention

REDD+ is particularly a mechanism of the Climate Convention, because it is aimed at the reduction of greenhouse gases within the framework of the fight against global warming. Besides their capacity to store carbon oxide, forests have a lot more invaluable functions for life on earth. They provide essential ecosystem services, protect the soil against erosion, prevent the infiltration of saltwater into fresh water, provide timber and numerous other forest products and contain the lion’s share of all biodiversity on the land. As a consequence forests are indispensable for the (continued) existence of life on our planet. Moreover, we should not lose sight of their recreational and cultural value and spiritual significance.

Therefore, a good REDD+ mechanism with strong safeguards, besides reducing the emission of greenhouse gases, also accomplishes the following additional benefits:
• social benefits, amongst others fight against poverty
• ecological advantages, amongst others preservation and recovery of the biological diversity and ecosystems
• economic advantages, amongst others trade in sustainable timber and other forest products
• and cultural benefits, amongst others preserving traditions of native peoples.

That is why in our country the REDD+ negotiations are followed closely by the Biodiversity Cell of the Directorate General (DG) Environment. REDD+ has also attracted attention from numerous other international fora such as the Convention of the United Nations (UN) on Biological Diversity, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the UN Forum on Forests etc., where it is more and more coming up for discussion.

The future of REDD+, practice and further development

In November 2013, during the 19th session of the Parties at the Climate Convention, after eight years of negotiation, the handbook with the basic rules of the REDD+ was completed. Already beforehand, thousands of parties concerned worldwide had come into action. Amongst the numerous initiatives of NGOs, companies, project managers, international and regional fora and national and regional authorities, are a good many valuable projects. However, there are also quite a few abuses, whether or not arisen due to lack of clarity of what may or may not be designated as “REDD+”.

Thanks to the arrival of the handbook, now REDD+ can be fully applied. In this, of course one will also consider the lessons drawn from existing projects. Gradually it will become clear which adjustment is necessary to make a success of REDD+.

At last, at the Climate session in Bonn in June 2015, Parties were able to reach an agreement on the three remaining outstanding issues. With this, negotiations on the set-up of the REDD+ mechanism have come to an end. The focus will now shift to the role of REDD+ within the new Climate Agreement. Besides, one is already looking further as to how the enormous potential of REDD+ can be utilised even better, amongst other things, within the context of other conventions such as the Convention on Biological Diversity.

More information:

REDD+ on the federal website on climate change

- Climate Convention (UNFCCC – United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change):
Background information on the reduction of emissions through deforestation and forest degradation
Key decisions, technical papers, workshops, expert meetings and submissions
REDD web platform
REDD discussion forum

- Biodiversity Convention (UN CBD – United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity): 
REDD+ and Biodiversity benefits: background information, related publications and key decisions
NewsletterREDD+ & Biodiversity