Introduction to REDD+ 


REDD+ refers to Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD), plus conserving and sustainably managing forests. In 2013, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) formalised guidelines for REDD+ activities, the Warsaw Framework for REDD+. It elaborates on procedures, rules, and requirements for countries to develop and participate in REDD+ activities.  


REDD+ activities include: 

  • Reducing emissions from deforestation 
  • Reducing emissions from forest degradation 
  • Conservation of forests and carbon stocks 
  • The sustainable management of forests 
  • The enhancement of forest carbon stocks 


While the Warsaw Framework first established the rules and definitions for REDD+ activities, organisations and governments implement REDD+ at different spatial scales and according to different rules and requirements. REDD+ can refer to project REDD+, jurisdictional REDD+, or nested REDD+. This article discusses each type of REDD+ in depth. 


United Nations REDD+ Programme 


The United Nations REDD Programme (UN-REDD) is an international collaborative program implemented by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), with tracking and documentation managed by the UNFCCC. UN-REDD provides technical assistance to partner developing countries aiming to improve the implementation of REDD+ activities. UN-REDD provides technical assistance to partner developing countries aiming to improve the implementation of REDD+ activities. 


The aim of UN-REDD is for developing countries to create national policies and frameworks to monitor and protect forests, increase their capacity to manage them sustainably and receive payments from developed countries to implement REDD+ projects. Countries participating in UN-REDD report their REDD+ progress and forest status, and supporting countries pay the participant according to how many emissions were reduced by REDD+ activities. 


Participating countries must periodically submit information to the UNFCCC on: 

  • The national REDD+ strategy or action plan 
  • The national forest reference emissions level/or forest reference level (FREL) 
  • The national forest monitoring system on REDD+ activities 
  • The national approaches for environmental and social safeguards 


Participating governments submit a Forest reference emissions level (FREL) or forest reference levels (FRL) to report the baseline GHG emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, or the GHG emissions that would occur without the REDD project. This is commonly referred to as the “business-as-usual" scenario. As a country implements REDD+ activities, its FREL/FRL submissions should show a decline in forestry-related emissions relative to the expected baseline emissions  


FRELs/FRLs must also include information on how each country defines the term “forest, including which ecosystems are eligible for REDD+ activities. Not all countries consider mangroves true forests under the law. Therefore, mangrove projects may not be included in the national REDD+ rules or the FREL/FRL 


However, countries can choose to implement REDD+ at a national or regional level without participating in UN-REDD. In other cases, individual carbon projects implement REDD+ activities in countries with no framework for REDD+, in which case they do not report to or work with the UN REDD+ Programme in any capacity. 




Project REDD+ 


Project-based REDD+ activities occur in a specific forest area or "project site.” These projects are generally independent of the government and are managed by smaller organisations or community initiatives aiming to protect or conserve forests 


Because individual REDD+ projects do not operate under a national REDD+ programme, they are ineligible for any UN-REDD payments under the national systems. However, these projects can sell carbon credits on the Voluntary Carbon Market (VCM). It is important to note that while these projects operate individually, they must comply with any regional or national legislation relating to REDD+ or forestry projects. In some cases, countries with an existing national REDD+ Programme prohibit individual REDD+ VCM projects from selling credits to ensure all REDD+ emissions reductions or removals are counted towards the national REDD+ accounts. 




REDD+ projects estimate the baseline emissions and deforestation in the project area by analysing historical deforestation and degradation trends and looking at land use trends at similar forest sites in the same geographic area. Because Project-based REDD+  projects operate individually, they choose their preferred carbon standard and methodology for assessing baselines, or may not seek accreditation at all. See our article on Carbon Standards for more information.  


Because there is no standardised way to implement independent Project-based REDD+ projects, there are considerable discrepancies in the quality of the baselines set. While some projects set baselines using rigorous site-specific data and high-quality deforestation models, other baselines may be “inflated,” or overestimate the amount of deforestation in the baseline scenario. 


Advantages and Issues: 


Individual REDD+ projects are a powerful tool to finance small- and medium-scale forest conservation projects, especially in countries with no operational REDD strategy or sustainable forestry framework. Financing project-based REDD+ can support communities to steward their land and protect forest biodiversity in the project area as they see fit. 


However, not all REDD+ projects are high-integrity, and some may not have measurable benefits to communities or biodiversity. In addition, some projects “inflate” baselines, and receive credits they did not actually earn. This practice is a real threat to the integrity of carbon markets and the trust of carbon financiers. Finally, individual REDD+ projects can develop problems with emissions leakage, where project activities unintentionally increase emissions outside the project area. For more information on leakage, register for Fair Carbon’s mangrove project modules here 


Jurisdictional REDD+ 


Jurisdictional REDD+ refers to programmes where the government manages REDD+ activities to cover a national or subnational jurisdiction. All REDD+ projects within the programme's jurisdiction must comply with the rules and regulations specific to that jurisdiction. 


Governments create jurisdictional REDD+ programmes to better coordinate REDD+ activities in a particular area or at the national level. Governments may then be eligible to submit documentation to the UNFCCC and receive financing from developed countries based on the results of their REDD+ programme. Financing depends on the amount of reduced or avoided forest emissions due to REDD+ activities within the programme's jurisdiction. 




Projects within a Jurisdictional REDD+ programme set baseline deforestation levels according to the historical and present deforestation rates and trends in the entire jurisdictional area. If a Jurisdictional REDD+ programme covers an entire country, then a project within that programme sets baseline emissions based on national deforestation trends. 


Projects must follow international REDD+ standards to estimate baselines and report their project benefits to ensure that Jurisdictional REDD+ baselines are accurate and the benefits that Jurisdictional REDD+ programmes report are measurable and verifiable. 


Advantages and Issues: 


Jurisdictional REDD+ programmes benefit from their large geographic area, making monitoring, reporting and verification potentially more efficient and cheaper than it would be with multiple REDD+ activities at the project level. 


It is also easier to prevent leakage with a jurisdictional approach, as the country or regional programme monitors forest emissions for the entire area in a standardised way. 


The challenge for jurisdictional REDD+ programmes is requiring countries or subnational governments to design policies and frameworks to govern activities. Governments must also have the technical capacity and resources to manage, monitor, and report on the outcomes of the REDD+ programme and projects. Mozambique is one of the few countries in the world with an operational jurisdictional REDD+ framework to-date. 


Nested REDD+ 


Nested REDD+ is an approach to managing REDD+ projects that seeks to harmonise individual project-based REDD+ projects with a Jurisdictional REDD+ programme. For example, a country may have a national REDD+ strategy and programme, while individual REDD+ projects operate independently and sell credits on the VCM. The country may “nest” these independent projects under their jurisdictional REDD+ programme by creating policies and frameworks that govern how REDD+ VCM projects must report their outcomes, share benefits, or work with the relevant jurisdictional REDD+ authorities 


There is no standard way to nest REDD+ projects with jurisdictional REDD+ programmes. However, some countries and carbon standards (such as Verra) developed rules and methodologies to bring previously independent projects under a jurisdictional REDD+ umbrella. Some nested REDD+ policies permit the nested projects to earn and sell VCM credits normally, meaning the projects can retain the right to earn and sell their carbon credits without giving up their credits to the government, and the project may only have reporting requirements. Other countriesgovernments may own all carbon credits and not permit projects to operate independently. 


Countries nest REDD+ projects to incorporate individual projects' climate mitigation and adaptation benefits into national reporting on forests and forest emissions. Governments may also choose to nest REDD+ projects to harmonise forest emissions reporting, or as an “intermediate” step between allowing independent projects full autonomy and having a stricter jurisdictional REDD+ approach. 



Nested REDD+ projects set their baseline forest emissions according to their jurisdiction’s rules and regulations for nested REDD+ projects. 


Advantages and Issues: 


Governments must develop their own rules and regulations for nesting REDD+ projects and track or monitor individual projects. This approach allows individual organisations to develop a VCM project while the country benefits from the project by including it in national forest emissions accounting. Nested REDD+ frameworks are meant to bypass the issue of double counting—for more information on double counting, register for Fair Carbon’s mangrove carbon project modules here. 


However, nesting REDD+ projects can be complicated and confusing for projects, who must navigate and comply with national or subnational reporting requirements or other rules and regulations in addition to the rules and regulations of their chosen VCM carbon standard.


Category: Project-Based REDD+ Nested REDD+ Jurisdictional REDD+

Supports small and medium-scale forest conservation projects with VCM financing 


No national REDD+ framework required 

Harmonises individual REDD+ projects with a jurisdictional programme 


Government authority does not need to be directly involved with project development 

Standardised, conservative baseline setting 


Country or jurisdictional benefits from international carbon finance 


Setting accurate baselines can be challenging 


Potential issues with leakage 

Projects must meet additional requirements for nesting 

Government is responsible for all aspects of monitoring, managing and developing projects 


Often prohibits individuals from taking part in the VCM 

Area Any defined forest area  Any defined forest area  A national or regional jurisdiction of the country 
Baseline Defined for the project area only  Defined according to national or regional rules for nested projects  Defined for the entire region/ jurisdiction 
Frameworks and Standards Voluntary carbon market standards (and national or regional standards and methodologies, if applicable)  Both VCM carbon standards and national or regional frameworks  International programs include the Forest Carbon Partnership, national standards, and some voluntary carbon market frameworks.  

Suggested Citation: Francis, E., Wilkman, A. "Introduction to REDD+." Geneva, Switzerland: Fair Carbon, 2023.