The Green Gigaton Challenge: Bringing REDD+ to Scale

Updated: Jan 31

On November 19, at the London Climate Action Week, the UN-REDD Programme and Emergent, in collaboration with the Environmental Defense Fund, Forest Trends and the Architecture for REDD+ Transactions, launched the Green Gigaton Challenge, an initiative to catalyze funding to reward at least one gigaton of high-quality emissions reductions a year from forests by 2025. The ultimate goal of the Challenge is to support interested forest countries in achieving their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), increasing ambitions and achieving the objectives of the Paris Agreement, while also helping companies complement their internal emissions reductions with high-quality carbon credits.

A massive increase in public and private results-based funding commitments is critical to protecting forests and other nature-based solutions (NbS), and thus to hopes of holding global warming below 2°C. The goal of the Green Gigaton Challenge is defined under a carbon equivalent metric (gigaton) but its benefits go beyond mitigation and include in an integral manner co-benefits in terms of biodiversity conservation, adaptation to climate change, reduction of the risk of zoonotic diseases and employment generation. For the world at large, REDD+ programs that reduce and reverse the loss of tropical forests can also contribute billions of dollars in value by “flattening the curve” of the global economy’s costs to transition to climate stability.

However, a massive increase in international funding will be required to give forest countries the fiscal space and confidence to implement ambitious policies and programs. Such an increase would also allow other challenges, like institutional capacity and upfront capital investment needs, to be overcome more rapidly.

The Green Gigaton Challenge aims to break the current stalemate in REDD+: the vast potential for greenhouse gas mitigation from forest conservation and restoration is unlikely to happen in the absence of massively increased levels of visible demand. At the same time, on the demand side, many potential providers of REDD+ results-based finance may be unwilling to make large-scale funding commitments in the absence of visible supply and with insufficient consensus on what constitutes high integrity within accounting methodologies.

But the conditions to change this dynamic exist. There is a clear alignment of interests on the supply and demand sides to achieve REDD+ at scale. There is an overwhelmingly strong environmental and economic case for the international community to support tropical forest countries in efforts to end deforestation.

REDD+ funding should be predictable, attractive and at scale. The Green Gigaton Challenge proposes utilising donor-funded floor prices for results-based payments and leveraging private sector demand above these floor prices. The Green Gigaton Challenge aims to facilitate the efforts of donor governments and multilateral institutions to catalyze large-scale, private sector funding commitments — firm and predictable contractual commitments to pay for verified jurisdictional REDD+ credits, either in the form of a floor price or via an Emission Reduction Payment/Purchase Agreement. Public funding commitments in the form of floor prices could also allow for public funds to be recycled.

A broader coalition of donor governments is needed to provide results-based funding for REDD+ in order to overcome the “chicken-and-egg” dilemma and to harness the growing opportunity for scaled-up, private sector co-funding. To date, the governments of Norway, Germany and the UK have been the primary backers of results-based funding for REDD+. This support base needs to expand. Sufficient, visible and predictable funding for jurisdictional REDD+ credits from private sector actors, at a sufficiently high price, could incentivize a broader range of donor governments to provide additional readiness and implementation funding (e.g., for stages one and two of REDD+).

Over the coming decade, there should be ample opportunity to deliver USD 50 to 100 billion in combined international public and private support for REDD+. However, jurisdictional REDD+ demand and supply must demonstrate the ability to scale from current levels. Unlocking the first one gigaton of supply is the crucial first step and the goal of the Green Gigaton Challenge.


Gabriel Labbate

REDD+ team leader, UNEP

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