Climate Change

What We Do: Creating Incentives to Stop Deforestation

Story Highlights
  • Forest protection is an essential tool needed to lower carbon emissions—along with fuel efficiency and clean energy.
  • A global market that recognizes the value of carbon stored in forests can generate billions of dollars for developing nations.
  • With market incentives developing nations could earn as much income from protecting their forests as they currently do through destroying them.
  • Allowing businesses to invest in forest conservation now can lower emissions immediately while transitioning to new clean energy technology.
  • Along with fighting climate change, forest conservation protects biodiversity and supports the livelihoods of local communities.

Forest destruction produces as much as 15 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions — more than from all the planes, trains and automobiles on Earth.

Protecting forests and reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation a strategy known as REDD — is not only a powerful tool against climate change, it’s also critical to supporting communities and biodiversity around the world.

That's why The Nature Conservancy has been developing, testing and implementing REDD activities around the world for the past decade — to protect forests, combat climate change and benefit local communities.

Our experience demonstrates that REDD works. If done correctly, REDD can be the basis for a vital new way of protecting both people and nature from the devastating impacts of climate change.

Why REDD Is Critical: Providing Incentives for Forest Protection

Forests are home to more than half of the world’s terrestrial species and they provide food, water, shelter and income to millions of people around the world. Yet the world’s forests are disappearing at an alarming rate. Some 50,000 square miles of forest — bigger than the state of Pennsylvania — disappear each year.

Currently, countries have few economic incentives for preserving their forests. With no price put on the value of the carbon stored in trees, forests are considered more valuable for timber, cropland, or pasture than they are as standing, healthy systems.

Current international policy, including the Kyoto Protocol, does not recognize REDD activities as strategy against climate change. So while manufacturers in developed nations can win financial support for lowering their industrial carbon emissions, developing nations cannot receive credits for reducing heat-trapping gases from one of their biggest sources: deforestation.

Protecting Forests, Generating Income for Developing Countries

In the next few years, the developing world will produce more climate-changing emissions than all industrialized nations combined — with deforestation serving as the primary source of emissions in many of these countries.

For example, deforestation in Indonesia produces 80 percent of that country’s annual carbon emissions, placing it among the world’s top emitters alongside the United States and China.

But through REDD activities that place a value on healthy forests — and through the creation of carbon trading markets that allow developing nations to sell credits attained through forest protection — developing countries can generate income from protecting forests rather then destroying them.

Our REDD Experience

The Conservancy's REDD projects include:

  • Bolivia: Launched in 1997, our Noel Kempff Mercado Climate Action Project was the world’s first forest conservation program scientifically verified by a third party to lower carbon emissions. Protecting 642,184 hectares of forest, the project is expected to prevent 5.8 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions over 30 years, equivalent to removing 1 million cars from America’s highways for one year. Read the Noel Kempff Case Study
  • Brazil: About 70 percent of Brazil’s emissions come from the destruction of its forests, making it one of the world’s top greenhouse gas emitters, just behind the United States, China and Indonesia. The Conservancy is working with landowners, government officials, businesses and indigenous communities to establish two large-scale forest carbon pilot projects that will cover a combined 19.2 million hectares in the Brazilian Amazon, an area more than twice the size of Portugal.

    Preliminary studies reveal that these programs may prevent deforestation of about 1.8 million hectares in the next decade and reduce emissions of approximately 980 million tons of carbon dioxide, equal to the emissions from the annual energy use of 80 million U.S. homes. Download a fact sheet about our REDD work in Brazil.
  • Indonesia: The Conservancy is working with government agencies, local communities and other organizations to develop a REDD program that will span the entire jurisdiction of Indonesia’s District of Berau (an area the size of Belize). Benefits from this project include:
    • Avoiding 10 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions over five years,
    • Improved economic opportunities for local communities, and
    • Protection of wildlife, including one of the world’s largest populations of orangutans

The Indonesian government recently announced that the Berau program will serve as a demonstration project to support the creation of a national-level REDD program across Indonesia. Read the press release.

The Conservancy is working with policymakers and other partners toward an ultimate goal: To provide countries the incentives and support the need to develop national-level REDD programs in order to reduce deforestation at a scale sufficient to fight climate change.


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