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Every year, more than 13 million hectares of tropical forest are destroyed or degraded, releasing about 15 percent of the world’s annual greenhouse gas emissions – more than the entire global transport sector – as well as threatening the livelihoods of forest-dependent indigenous people, compromising critical watersheds and destroying plant and animal habitats.

The primary drivers of deforestation and degradation include expansion of commercial agriculture, illegal and unsustainable logging practices, and fires and fuel-wood harvesting. Addressing emissions from the forest sector is critical to achieving the scientifically recognized objective of limiting global temperature increases to two degrees Centigrade while also providing important community and biodiversity benefits.

The Conservancy shares the view of many organizations that halving deforestation and degradation by 2020 is an ambitious yet achievable goal as part of a comprehensive approach to reducing emissions from all sectors. Meeting this goal would achieve avoided forest destruction equal to six million hectares annually and emissions reductions of three billion tons of CO2 annually – a significant contribution to the estimated 17 billion tons of annual reductions needed from all sectors by 2020 to stay within the 2o C goal. 

To achieve this ambitious goal, The Nature Conservancy has adopted REDD+ (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, reforestation and sustainable forest management) as one of its top organizational priorities. The underlying theory of REDD+ is that by assigning a value to the carbon stored in standing forests and creating mechanisms whereby land use decision-makers can realize that value, the resulting economic incentives will motivate key actors to protect forests rather than destroy them. Following is a high-level framework for what the global community must do to implement REDD+ successfully:

  1. Demonstrate REDD+ in strategically important forest nations. REDD+ is complex, and unproven at the scales needed. We must begin by showing how it can succeed in a “strategic portfolio” of specific places,including sub-national demonstration programs and national “readiness” activities.
  2. Promote learning from effective REDD+ programs. Draw from successful, concrete experiences to support implementation in a broader set of locations, and to inform policymakers about the appropriate design of REDD+ laws and regulations.
  3. Shape global policy frameworks. Create financial incentives to direct investment into low-carbon development and forest conservation/restoration through effective policies, standards and regulations, both globally and in key countries.
  4. Mobilize public and private capital. Structure financial mechanisms and investments for effective performance and direct the flow of funding and incentives to priority needs.
  5. Engage governments and industry on supply-chain practices. Work to reform public policies and corporate practices to promote the supply and consumption of low-carbon products.