Forests provide essential ecosystem services beyond carbon storage and emissions offsetting – such as health (through disease regulation), livelihoods (providing jobs and local employment), water (watershed protection, water flow regulation, rainfall generation), food, nutrient cycling and climate security. Protecting tropical forests therefore not only has a double-cooling effect, by reducing carbon emissions and maintaining high levels of evaporation from the canopy, but also is vital for the continued provision of essential life-sustaining services.
These services are essential for the well-being of people and the planet, however they remain undervalued and therefore cannot compete with the more immediate gains delivered from converting forests into commodities. Ecosystem services operate from local to global scales and are not confined within national borders; all people are therefore reliant on them and it is in our collective interest to ensure their sustained provisioning into the future.
Degradation and deforestation of the world’s tropical forests are cumulatively responsible for about 10% of net global carbon emissions. Therefore, tackling the destruction of tropical forests is core to any concerted effort to combat climate change. Traditional approaches to halting tropical forest loss have typically been unsuccessful, as can be seen from the fact that deforestation and forest degradation continue unabated.
REDD (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) incentivises a break from historic trends of increasing deforestation rates and greenhouse gases emissions. It is a framework through which developing countries are rewarded financially for any emissions reductions achieved associated with a decrease in the conversion of forests to alternate land uses. Having identified current and/or projected rates of deforestation and forest degradation, a country taking remedial action to effectively reduce those rates will be financially rewarded relative to the extent of their achieved emissions reductions.
Within its remit, REDD+ has the potential to simultaneously contribute to climate change mitigation and poverty alleviation, whilst also conserving biodiversity and sustaining vital ecosystem services.