A Simple Guide To REDD+ From The Ground Up

As REDD+ (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation plus forest management) grows in complexity, the need for accessible literature is greater than ever. Unfortunately, most of the new material to emerge in the last year obfuscates and obscures this already complex mechanism – in part because each new paper tries to differentiate itself from the material that came before it.

Fortunately, a consortium of NGOs led by Conservation International (CI), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza (Solutions for Environment and Development, CATIE), and the Regional Community Forestry Training Center (RECOFTC) resisted that temptation when they compiled a new meta-manual for implementing REDD+ from the ground up. Rather than try and reinvent the wheel, they incorporated literature that already exists and provided a wrap-around of sorts that will help a general-interest ease herself into the material.

The title is a mouthful: The Knowledge and Skills Needed to Engage in REDD+: A Competencies Framework (by Luis Barquín, Mario Chacón, Steven Panfil, Adewale Adeleke, Elena Florian, and Ronnakorn Triraganon), but the document itself is an incredibly easy-to-follow guide to REDD+ as it is emerging around the world. Although targeted to practitioners, it’s the kind of work that anyone looking to understand REDD+ will find valuable.

Each theme closes with a resources page that links to more detailed treatment.

Each theme closes with a resources page that links to more detailed treatment.

It has two characteristics that, together, separate it from other resources on the web:

First, it breaks REDD+ down into 10 themes, each of which builds on the one before it. Second, each section provides just enough language to frame the issues central to each theme, and then closes with links to resources available on the internet (see illustration, right).

Flowing from that second, however, is its one flaw: namely, its coverage of sub-national accounting mechanisms and finance in general is a bit sparse and outdated – forgivable shortcomings given the rapid change of pace in these areas and the fact that all of the new literature has emerged in the last three months.

Super-Simple to Highly Complex

The authors begin with the very basics of REDD+, and they assume very little prior understanding on the part of readers. The opening section, “Designing a Capacity Building Program to Meet the Needs of REDD+ Stakeholders”, is just seven pages long and identifies all of the potential stakeholders – from government agencies to indigenous leaders to private-sector investors – and examine them based on demographics, education levels, and reasons for engaging in REDD+.

The language is simple, and the breakdown should prove helpful not only for people designing programs, but for stakeholders themselves.

The section closes with links to readable, comprehensive reports from organizations like CI and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) on subjects as diverse as basic strategies for developing adult education programs to specific methods of identifying capacity gaps related to REDD.

Ten Themes


The meat of the document is the second section, “Essential Knowledge and Skills”, which takes up the next 100 pages and provides what may be the single most comprehensive and accessible database of REDD+ knowledge on the Internet. This section is broken into 10 themes, each of which builds on the one before it. While each theme can, in theory, be read individually, it’s really worth reading this document from beginning to end and then revisiting each section when you want to do a deep dive.

“The Science of Climate Change and the Role of Forests” offers links to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) source material – which is appropriate, because the IPCC best practice guidelines define the entire process for terrestrial carbon accounting, whether under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) or in the voluntary carbon markets.

This lays a solid foundation for moving into REDD+ as it is taking shape in the UNFCCC and then a dive into the quagmire that is national and sub-national accounting (covered in “The Scale of REDD+”). The authors didn’t shy away from tackling the stickier aspects of this issue, but the findings are a bit dated – which, again, may be unavoidable given the rapid pace of change in this theme.

The themes unavoidably bleed into each other as you move through the document, with the readiness process leading to engagement and then offering a very deep dive into Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC). These three really need to be read sequentially to be properly understood, and themes 8 and 9 – covering Measurement, Reporting, and Verification (MRV) and Reference Levels – really need a solid grounding in 1 and 2.

Theme 10 was something of a disappointment, with source material that is outdated and little reference to existing bilateral financing mechanisms and emerging. As with the sub-national accounting section, this is understandable. Still, it would be great to see an online version that’s more of a living document – one that can be updated as themes change.

The final section, which offers case studies of projects by the four lead NGOs, is also less than it could be. The narratives are hard to follow, especially compared to the incredibly readable material that comprised the bulk of the document. Still, when you consider the simple manner in which they have broken down a large amount of technical information, this new document is a valuable contribution to the REDD+ community.

Steve Zwick

I edit Ecosystem Marketplace, which is a news service focused on environmental finance. With this blog, I hope to offer coverage that is a bit lighter and more holistic than what we offer on EM.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *