Saving Forests with REDD+


borneo deforestation

Healthy forests absorb tremendous amounts of carbon dioxide, which we all need in order to survive. When trees fall, usually due to illegal logging or converting land for agricultural use, the forests become sources of harmful greenhouse gases instead of serving as important carbon “sinks.”

But there’s hope in the form of an emerging international initiative aimed at keeping trees standing: REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation).

REDD+ offers financial incentives to developing countries that create and implement strategies to manage and use their forests responsibly. More than 50 countries are developing these strategies, which include many activities that have been in the conservation “toolbox” for years: creating networks of protected areas, expanding the use of responsible forest management practices, preventing illegal logging, developing management practices that keep agricultural production away from forests, and more.

But there are four distinguishing characteristics to REDD+:

  • Conservation is done at a very large scale
  • Countries develop a “baseline” that estimates the current amount of emissions from a forest region, against which conservation progress can be measured
  • Payments are offered for quantifiably reducing emissions
  • Strategies are designed and implemented in a participatory and transparent way

Since REDD+ was introduced nearly 10 years ago at the global climate negotiations, approximately $10 billion has been allocated for this initiative. Most of the funding has come from governments in the developed world, including the United States. There is movement now to also support REDD+ with money from the private sector and market forces (e.g., company commitments to source goods responsibly).

We are at a critical point in time with REDD+. Over the next several years, WWF and others must demonstrate the effectiveness of and demand for REDD+ if we want to ensure long-term political and financial support for this conservation approach.

Why It Matters

  • Carbon Sinks

    When forests fall, they become sources of harmful greenhouse gases instead of carbon “sinks.” They account for approximately 15 percent of global carbon emissions. This is more than the total emissions from all cars, trucks, trains, planes and ships in the world.

  • Wildlife

    More responsibly-managed forests means more wildlife in those habitats, where approximately 80 percent of terrestrial species live.

  • Oceans

    If more carbon is stored in forests, then less greenhouse gas is present to contribute to ocean acidification. This also means fewer changes in climate; climate change can raise sea levels and water temperatures, and degrade marine ecosystems.

  • Fresh Water

    Well-managed natural forests almost always provide higher quality water—with less sediment and fewer pollutants—than water from other catchments. Cleaner fresh water resources improves life for people and wildlife.

  • Livelihoods

    Healthy forests are essential to people. Indigenous and forest-dependent people, in particular, often rely on healthy forests to earn a living and provide their families with food, water and firewood.

What WWF Is Doing

Culture of Conservation

Guiding Funding

WWF helps ensure that REDD+ funding is used to protect the world’s most important forests. For example, we work with the Green Climate Fund and the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility to develop guidance on how to allocate funding for REDD+. Approximately $10 billion has been allocated for REDD+ over the past 10 years.

Advancing Strategies

WWF helps Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Indonesia, Nepal and Peru develop their REDD+ strategies and funding proposals that will help bring the strategies to life. We also help to build the skills needed to do so. We’ve helped create maps in the Lac Tumba region of the DRC that are used to monitor the loss of forest cover; develop emissions baselines in the Terai lowlands of Nepal and the Madre de Dios region of Peru; and establish social and environmental safeguards to protect the territorial rights of indigenous people in Colombia’s Pacific region.

Addressing the Drivers of Deforestation and Degradation

We help curb international and national drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, such as the conversion of forest land to agricultural land. WWF was one of more than 100 entities to sign the New York Declaration on Forests in September 2014. Leaders from government agencies, NGOs, corporations and indigenous organizations signed the declaration, committing to cutting forest loss in half by 2020 and ending it by 2030. WWF works with major agricultural buyers, traders and governments to put these words to action.

Influencing International Policy

We influence the international climate negotiations, that will culminate at the annual Climate Conference of Parties in late 2015. For example, we work with negotiators from around the world to develop practical solutions to difficult technical issues. This work is led by WWF’s Forest and Climate Program.