A recent study has proposed changes to the way REDD+ strategies are categorised, from an implementation perspective. This will simplify the monitoring, reporting and verification of the schemes. In addition, to encourage countries to make an early start on the REDD+ programmes, the study suggests that monitoring should initially focus on forests where it is easiest to implement REDD+ actions.
REDD (Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) is a policy approach negotiated under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which is designed to support developing countries slow, stop and reverse the loss of forest cover and forest carbon, and manage their forest resources more sustainably by rewarding reduced deforestation and degradation of forests, to help mitigate climate change. REDD has been expanded to REDD+ 1 to include forest enhancement, sustainable management of forests and forest conservation.
In order to appropriately credit countries who have increased (or decreased 'less than in a business as usual scenario') their forest carbon stocks, it is necessary to determine changes in national forest stocks through monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) systems, using a combination of remote sensing techniques and collection of forest data on the ground2. This study offers two proposals to make MRV of REDD+ programmes easier.
The first proposal would change the way different strategies of REDD+ are clustered, as far as monitoring is concerned. Degradation and deforestation are usually grouped together, sometimes on the assumption that degradation leads to deforestation. The authors argue that this is not always true. Deforestation refers to the (usually abrupt) loss of forest through land use change, for example, felling forests for agriculture or urbanisation. Degradation, on the other hand, is related to human activities that result in a gradual loss of carbon stocks in forests without completely changing land use. Therefore, in terms of climate change impacts, it may be more akin to unsustainable forest practice, better dealt with by improved and sustainable management policies. This approach fits in with two of the new elements of REDD+ (sustainable management of forests and forest enhancement).
Forest conservation is a specific type of forest management where carbon stocks remain intact, but there is uncertainty as to how to credit this carbon under REDD+. Credits for deforestation, degradation, forest enhancement and sustainable forest management are based on changes in the rate of change of carbon stock, e.g. if the rate slows down. However, the aim of forest conservation is a zero rate of change. Conservation may therefore require different instruments to those used for other elements of REDD+, possibly related to the conservation of biodiversity.
The study therefore suggests it would be more realistic to organise the five strategies of REDD+ into three categories: 1.) reduced deforestation, 2.) conservation (maintaining forest stocks) and 3.) activities resulting in positive impacts on carbon stock in forests that remain as forest (including forest enhancement, sustainable forest management and reducing degradation).
Proposal two suggests that, in the early stages, it would not be necessary to apply the same intensity of MRV of all forests in every part of a country. While full national monitoring is required, it would be up to each country to decide where it is easiest to implement REDD+ measures and which approaches are best suited to each area. Therefore, in the short-term, most MRV efforts to track human activities and support implementation would be focused on areas where REDD+ activities occur. Concentrating efforts in this way will initially reduce costs and enable nations to build capacity, so that in the longer-term, a fully developed MRV system covering the whole country and the whole range of activities can be implemented. This will also help countries to make an early start on REDD+ programmes. Monitoring could be carried out by including local stakeholders with independent verification.