Countries around the world have developed National Forest Monitoring Systems (NFMS) and capacities for REDD+ to track mitigation results and access carbon finance. Accessing carbon finance for REDD+ requires sound measurement, reporting and verification – and accounting for emission reductions. This is true both for results-based payments for jurisdictional mitigation programmes and for offset projects through the private sector. However, programmes and projects may overlap, and technical requirements may differ between carbon finance standards, creating complexity for governments aiming to estimate and report consolidated REDD+ results.
To address the guiding question of how countries can implement forest monitoring and emissions accounting to enable forest carbon finance, a seminar series on “Opportunities and challenges associated with emerging carbon finance in forestry and land use” was recently organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF).
Countries shared their experiences and results, several of which were achieved within the framework of the UN-REDD Programme, to collectively understand how their forest monitoring and emissions accounting enabled forest carbon finance. The discussion was held around the following three key points:
Only high-quality emission reductions will attract carbon finance
Where carbon has a dollar value, a tonne of carbon from one project or one country needs to equal a tonne of carbon from any other project or country. That sounds straightforward, but measuring emission reductions from diverse forests and unpredictable deforestation remains a challenging task. Moreover, accounting choices need to be made regarding the approach to setting the reference level, addressing leakage, guaranteeing the permanence of achieved emission reductions and avoiding overestimation.
The presented case of Japan’s Joint Crediting Mechanism (JCM) showcased an approach to guaranteeing high-quality forest monitoring and carbon accounting. Subsequently, Cambodia presented how it has implemented the JCM programme at the national level. Cambodia also presented a broader view on its efforts to manage REDD+ at multiple scales. The “nested” system of Cambodia provides a regulatory framework to guide all types of mitigation programmes and projects, which sets the forest monitoring and accounting rules, including a forest reference emission level and a methodology for allocating a reference level to projects and programmes, as well as a database for REDD+ projects.
Spatial detail in forest monitoring can help reconcile incoherent carbon accounting approaches
Where several mitigation programmes and projects overlap, their methodological guidance could be inconsistent and thereby, create complexities for those trying to disentangle carbon credits. Consider a typical forest landscape. There is a carbon project that sells offsets internationally. It also falls within jurisdictional programmes that receive results-based payments. And both of these are covered by the NFMS for tracking the country’s progress against NDC targets.
To address this and reconcile different scales of REDD+, several countries have been working to introduce spatial detail into their forest monitoring. At the event, Colombia presented its experience in building a nested approach. The country’s mitigation potential is allocated to projects and programmes using a zoning approach that relies on detailed and spatially explicit information about emission factors and forest area.
Forest monitoring can incentivize partners through performance-based benefit sharing
Incentivizing government partners is important because reducing emissions doesn’t happen by itself; it takes concerted action. Governments that have been successful did not do it alone, but needed to engage with those that create emissions in the first place, especially the private sector and landowners. The allocation of results-based payments, based on forest monitoring, can incentivize emission reductions. Payments can be connected to performance, as measured by forest monitoring.
Ghana presented how their forest monitoring approach supports benefit sharing. Benefits are allocated to beneficiaries in hotspot-intervention areas, according to the performance in reducing deforestation. This approach requires detailed knowledge of deforestation trends, not only at the larger programme level, but also in smaller sub-areas. The sample-based area estimation approach is currently being modified to meet these requirements.
In summary, forest monitoring and Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) systems are at the heart of carbon finance for forests
Firstly, there are no sound REDD+ results without high-quality forest monitoring and conservative emission reduction accounting. Second, spatial detail in forest monitoring can help integrate projects and programmes into one coherent mitigation approach. Third, forest monitoring can track the performance of projects and programmes, and thereby help to create incentive for change. Advancing on these three key themes can raise finance and ambitions for REDD+ and strengthen the credibility of the entire REDD+ process.
Climate Change Expert, National Forest Monitoring, FAO Forestry Division
REDD+ Team Leader, FAO Forestry Division
National Forest Monitoring Team Leader, FAO Forestry Division