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REDD+ payments must be shared fairly

Blog | Thu, 15 Feb, 2024 · 8 min read

As countries increasingly qualify for payments under the REDD+ process and schemes in return for reducing their emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, a new UN-REDD/FAO report highlights the need for legal clarity on who owns emission reductions and who is entitled to benefit from those payments.   

Comparative legal study focusing on carbon rights in the context of REDD+ countries: Legal trends and case studies from Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America explains that since the Warsaw framework for REDD+ was established in 2013, verified emission reductions derived from forests have effectively become an intangible asset that may be traded internationally to allow third parties, including governments, to achieve mitigation targets and be compensated for their emission reductions, in line with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

However, with no common definition aiming to clarify the legal nature of emission reductions, the report highlights the need for better understanding of diverse approaches to defining carbon rights and different legal conceptualizations depending on national contexts.

“There is an urgent need for legislation to ensure that all those who work to reduce a country’s emissions from deforestation and forest degradation reap the rewards, including Indigenous Peoples and rural communities who care for forests,” said Tiina Vähänen, Deputy Director of FAO’s Forestry Division.

Legal solutions

The report sums up the challenges of defining who holds the rights to the carbon in forests and the reductions in forest emissions achieved.

In some cases, forests and lands are owned by the state, while in others, they are managed by private landowners or communities. Parties entitled to hold rights to emission reductions could include the government, forest landowners, private actors or non-state actors who worked to reduce emissions, according to the report.

It explains that few countries have passed laws explicitly on this issue and that most countries are working with existing legislation to develop solutions.

The report sets out the progress made and legal solutions found by more than 20 countries in Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America, as well as mechanisms for distributing results-based payments fairly. It identifies trends and provides recommendations on how countries can improve their legislation.