Skip to main content
Work areas

Safeguards & multiple benefits

Donors,funds and emerging forest carbon markets paying for results are placing increasing attention on the ways in which countries are addressing and respecting safeguards in the implementation of REDD+ strategies and in the achievement of emissions reduction results.

Understanding safeguards and multiple benefits

The implementation of activities under the REDD+ mechanism has the potential to deliver social and environmental benefits that go beyond the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, but it may also entail potential risks to people and the environment. Safeguards are principles or measures that aim to protect or to avoid risks (“do no harm”), while promoting benefits (“do good”).

The expression “multiple benefits” encompasses all the benefits that will flow from a successful REDD+ mechanism. It includes both the global climate mitigation benefits from REDD+ as well as environmental and social benefits. These benefits are also known as non-carbon benefits or co-benefits.

In the coming decade, countries will need to turn their attention to stepwise improvements in addressing and respecting safeguards throughout the implementation of REDD+ and to improvements in providing information on how they do so. Donors, funds and emerging forest carbon markets paying for results, as well as local stakeholders, are placing increasing attention on the ways in which countries are addressing and respecting safeguards in the implementation of REDD+ strategies and in the achievement of emissions reduction results.

How does UN-REDD support countries in their work on safeguards?

The UN-REDD Programme guidance and tools were designed to enable countries to take a robust and flexible approach to meeting the safeguards requirements under the Framework Convention on Climate Change, and potentially other safeguards-related requirements, in a way that reflects different national circumstances, helping countries to achieve REDD+ readiness in relation to safeguards and to access REDD+ results-based payments.

Seven safeguards, also known as the “Cancun safeguards”, were agreed for REDD+ at the sixteenth session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2010.

The three key safeguards requirements are as follows:


Promotion and support

Safeguards need to be promoted and supported throughout REDD+ implementation.


Information system

A national safeguards information system on how safeguards are addressed and respected needs to be put in place


Summaries of information

Safeguards summaries of information, reporting on how the safeguards are addressed and respected, need to be produced periodically.

In past years UN-REDD has helped countries to fulfill the requirements mentioned above. In addition to that support, the Programme will provide assistance associated with addressing and respecting safeguards during REDD+ implementation and to fulfil safeguards requirements for accessing results-based payments.

UN-REDD key areas of support on safeguards

A country approach to safeguards

Refers to the existing governance arrangements and processes – such as policies, laws, regulations and institutions – that countries can draw upon to respond to safeguards requirements for REDD+,  aligning with national goals. This approach constitutes a practical strategic framework to assist countries in meeting the safeguards requirements under the Framework Convention on Climate Change and other relevant safeguards requirements, which helps stakeholders to explore what the safeguards mean in the specific country context by following certain indicative steps.

The UN-REDD Programme has developed a conceptual framework for country approaches to safeguards, which identifies three core elements:

  1. policies, laws and regulations (PLRs)
  2. institutional arrangements
  3. information systems and sources

A safeguards summary of information

Reports on how a country has addressed and respected safeguards.It is a key tool to ensure the transparency of REDD+, promote stakeholder confidence in safeguards processes, and communicate countries’ progress and performance with regard to safeguards. Key recommendations for developing safeguards reports are set out in the brief: Summaries of information: initial experiences and recommendations on international REDD+ safeguards reporting

A safeguards information system (SIS)

Can be understood as a set of institutional arrangements coupled with technological solutions for compiling, managing and disseminating information, which builds on existing country information systems and sources.

The UN-REDD Programme has identified four key SIS design considerations, based on country experiences and consultations with key stakeholder constituencies.


What are multiple benefits?

The main goal of REDD+ is to combat climate change, but it can also contribute to enhancing additional environmental and social benefits, such as: 

Zoonotic diseases prevention

Biodiversity conservation

Rural livelihoods

Ecosystem services

Forest governance

Cultural services

Clarified tenure rights

Provisioning ecosystem services (e.g. forest goods)

Environmental benefits can come about when REDD+ prevents loss or degradation of forests, or even improves their condition. These include biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services such as water regulation, soil conservation, timber, forest foods and other non-timber forest products.The REDD+ mechanism also has the potential to yield social benefits, such as jobs, livelihoods, land tenure clarification, carbon payments as well as enhanced participation in decision-making and improved governance.

The UN-REDD Programme has supported  countries to build capacity and conduct analyses using spatial data to help identify areas where REDD+ actions could deliver non-carbon benefits. The results of these analyses have helped countries to better plan for and implement REDD+, and in addition have helped countries to receive a premium for results-based payments for REDD+.

Two tools have been developed for designing country approaches to safeguards and assessing the benefits and risks associated with REDD+ in a participatory manner:

The Country Approach to Safeguards Tool (CAST), which outlines the main components and steps for developing a country approach to safeguards

The Benefits and Risks Tool (BeRT), which supports countries in assessing the social and environmental benefits and risks associated with their REDD+ policies and measures.

FAQs about Safeguards

Safeguards are measures to protect or to avoid risks (do no harm), while promoting benefits (do good). Seven safeguards, also known as the "Cancun safeguards", were agreed for REDD+ at the 16th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate (COP16) in 2010.

By identifying and implementing the policies, laws and regulations found in a country that are relevant for each of the seven Cancun safeguards. Also, putting in place institutional arrangements and procedures that allow the respect of the principles encompassed in the safeguards.

While the main purpose of REDD+ is to contribute to global climate change mitigation, REDD+ also has the potential to deliver other benefits, both environmental and social, to countries that choose to implement it. Safeguards can inform the criteria and actions needed to reduce environmental and social risks that are associated with the implementation of REDD+ actions; they also promote the identification and enhancement of potential environmental and social benefits.

This depends on the country's approaches to safeguards and the agreements reached with different donors. However, there are opportunities in building a single harmonized process for fulfilling several safeguards framework requirements.

One reason why countries may wish to plan for REDD+ multiple benefits is that it helps to promote and support the Cancun Safeguards, which state that [REDD+] “actions are consistent with the conservation of natural forests and biological diversity, ensuring that the actions referred to in paragraph 70 of this decision are not used for the conversion of natural forests, but are instead used to incentivize the protection and conservation of natural forests and their ecosystem services, and to enhance other social and environmental benefits”.

Recommended key documents

Country document
Brief series
Country document