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Conserving Forests to Combat Climate Change: What is REDD+, how was it created and where is it going?

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In December 2015, with the signing of the Paris Agreement, the nations of the world reached agreement on a historic, collective and comprehensive approach to combat climate change. The primary goal of the agreement, under the UNFCCC, is to hold the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 degree C above pre-industrial levels and try to limit the increase to 1.5 degree C. Within that agreement is a recognition of the critical role of forests, including actions to halt and reverse the rate of deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries, which have contributed up to 20% of annual greenhouse gas emissions. To assist countries in these actions, the agreement includes a framework of policies and incentives for reducing deforestation and forest degradation and increasing carbon storage in forests through conservation and sustainable management. This is known as REDD+.

REDD+ has evolved over a decade of discussions, research and negotiations to become a key piece of the newly adopted climate architecture. To ensure that it contributes to the environmental integrity of the climate regime, REDD+ requires a national commitment—not isolated projects. The adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015 solidified the foundation for REDD+. The agreement referenced, in a single paragraph, the entire body of decisions, including the objectives, rules, guidelines and guiding principles for REDD+. The focus now is on actions to implement and support REDD+ initiatives. To do so, a solid understanding of REDD+ and the Paris Agreement is needed.

The aim of this paper is to provide a foundation for describing what REDD+ is, in a manner that is accessible to policy makers, scientists and civil society and in a form that is completely consistent with the UNFCCC decisions and agreements.

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