REDD+: Rewarding carbon storage in tropical forests

Combat deforestation in tropical regions - and at the same time save the climate. This is what REDD+, which stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation, has promised to do. A large network of researchers at Wageningen UR is working towards achieving this goal.

REDD+ is a proposed mechanism aimed at slowing down climate change, by rewarding developing countries for halting deforestation and forest degradation. If tropical countries can prove that more carbon is stored in their forest by adopting these measures, they can sell emissions rights to western countries. These countries can in turn use their purchased rights to achieve their climate targets.

Deforestation is responsible for an estimated 20 percent of human-induced global greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing the rate of deforestation is seen by many as a relatively cheap way of mitigating climate change. Currently, negotiations are underway to incorporate the REDD+ mechanism into the successor of the Kyoto protocol. However, it is unlikely that a worldwide scheme will be implemented soon, since these international negotiations are proving to be difficult to achieve. If successful, the UN foresees a global trade in emissions rights based on REDD+ worth USD 30 billion, an unprecedented financial incentive to preserve tropical forests. Several voluntary projects have already been implemented according to the REDD+ principle.

To make REDD+ work, more research is nevertheless needed. For example, effective systems for monitoring, reporting and verification need to be developed, to prove the effects of forest conservation. Other questions –such as how to guarantee that conserving trees not only stores carbon, but also benefits local communities and biodiversity; and how to organise all this, locally and globally—requires interdisciplinary research.

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