Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

Concerns raised about Redd+ scheme to conserve forests

  • Written by  Katie Burton
  • Published in Forests
Concerns raised about Redd+ scheme to conserve forests
23 May
2019
The first payment under the Redd+ scheme to conserve tropical forests has been approved, but issues with the data supplied by participating countries could undermine its potential

Deforestation and forest degradation are the second leading cause of global warming, responsible for about 15 per cent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It was with this in mind that the UN-backed Redd+ scheme was devised, to encourage tropical countries to halt and reverse forest loss. Under the scheme, countries submit baseline emission levels and become eligible for payment if they show a drop in emissions in comparison to those submitted levels.

In late February, the Green Climate Fund approved the first payout of $96million to Brazil in return for decreased deforestation in 2014 and 2015 (amounting to a reduction of 19 million tons of GHG emissions). Another 38 countries have submitted their levels and could be eligible for payments in the future.

However, concerns have been raised about the methodology of the scheme, centring on the baseline data submitted by each country. Using publicly available, satellite-based statistics for global forest cover, scientists from the School of Geosciences at the University of Edinburgh have drawn up a comparison with the baseline data submitted by countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Their analysis has found significant differences in the size – and sometimes the direction – of change in forest area for seven countries. Most notably they found that Cambodia and Sri Lanka’s reference levels overstated forest loss, raising the possibility that they could overstate emissions reductions in the future. In Malaysia and Vietnam, country data showed an increase in forest area over the chosen time period, while satellite data indicated that forest area had decreased.

WEBfigure2 copyWere forests gained or lost? Changes in country-defined REDD+ forests versus biophysical forests based on satellite data in seven countries between 2000–2010 [Nomura et al., 2019]

While some differences between the data sets are inevitable, partly due to the fact that satellite data takes into account all deforestation, including harvesting, lead scientist Keiko Nomura believes that the wider picture of discrepancy highlights significant issues. One of the biggest problems is that each country is able to define a ‘forest’ using its own methodology. ‘There is a lot of forest still remaining in areas that are not politically considered forests and not counted for REDD+,’ says Nomura.

Another issue involves the inconsistent use of ‘minimum mapping units’. Some countries use one minimum area to define a forest but a larger minimum area to assess deforestation. In Nepal, the minimum area deemed to constitute a forest is 0.5 hectares, but the minimum area for detecting change to forests is 2.25 hectares. ‘If it loses 0.5 hectares of forest it doesn’t count as a loss. That area is still considered forest until that loss becomes equal to or larger than 2.25 hectares,’ explains Nomura. ‘There would be missed forest loss that would not be captured.’ The researchers found that this leakage meant Nepal had lost an additional one million hectares of forest up to 2016 which was not included in its reference levels.

While Nomura doesn’t think that countries are manipulating data on purpose, or with malicious intent, she wants to see better data transparency from national governments and an emphasis on including all at-risk forests. ‘It’s a great political signal to countries that if you protect forests you can still get paid,’ she says. ‘But more data transparency, that would really help.’

This was published in the May 2019 edition of Geographical magazine

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox by signing up to our weekly newsletter and get a free collection of eBooks!

geo line break v3

Related items

Subscribe and Save!

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

Sign up for our weekly newsletter today and get a FREE eBook collection!

geo line break v3

University of Winchester

geo line break v3

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Derby

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in PLACES...

Water

The discovery a long ‘tongue’ of ice beneath a glacial…

Mapping

Benjamin Hennig explains two cartograms which demonstrate the global water…

Places

Get on your bike with this collection of stories to…

Water

The Brown Bank a haven for marine life in the…

Forests

The first payment under the Redd+ scheme to conserve tropical…

Places

In the first of a series on geopolitical curiosities and…

Cities

A socioecological model is predicting the areas of major US…

Mapping

Following the collapse of the upstream tailings dam in Brumadinho,…

Mapping

The domestication of animals for food, secondary products, labour and…

Cities

Strap in for a newer, greener experience in virtual city…

Water

A major investment in data collection along the Nile could…

Forests

Several factors are contributing to extreme deforestation in Haiti, with…

Cities

Illegal wells are depleting groundwater basins beneath Tehran causing it…

Mapping

Mapping the trade war between the US and China and…

Mapping

Check out this superb selection of mapping books - ideal…

Water

Glacial melt is increasing  land instability in mountainous regions, with huge tsunamis…

Mapping

A large-scale terrain mapping project makes Antarctica the best-mapped continent…

Water

New research reveals that microplastics can survive in mosquitos from…

Cities

New research measures the ability of major cities to re-use…