Looking Ahead Looking Ahead

UN-REDD 2021-2025

More than 10 years have passed since the UN-REDD Programme was established to support countries in engaging and fulfilling a novel climate action and financing framework named REDD+. With UN-REDD support, more and more countries are implementing forest solutions, with the institutional systems and capacities in place to ensure that the reduction and removal of emissions from the forest sector are real, quantifiable, and verifiable and that benefits are shared in a socially equitable manner that advances the SDGs. In parallel, over the past decade, forests have increasingly been recognized as the largest and most actionable nature-based climate solution, also fit to address the planetary emergencies that 2020 has revealed: the combined climate, biodiversity, inequality, and pandemic crises. Forests have a massive climate mitigation potential, estimated in the range of 4.1 to 6.5 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) over the next decade. Yet, deforestation and forest degradation continue at alarming rates. Without halting deforestation, climate milestones, and ultimate goals cannot be met. REDD+ remains a critical element of the international climate commitments and an indispensable national climate action. The mitigation potential of forests can only be fully realised by urgent and unprecedented multilateral consensus on a decade of needle-shifting action, of drastically elevated ambition, to ‘turn the tide on deforestation.

Over 2020, and into 2021, the UN-REDD Programme is pivoting and recalibrating its technical assistance and policy advisory services to catalyse that consensus at a global level and support its deployment across countries. UN-REDD is equally helping to articulate and accelerate action at the national and subnational jurisdictional scales, helping countries reform their policies, design and realize investments, mobilize performance-based finance and harnessing the emerging co-operative and carbon financing opportunities under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. Looking to the 2030 horizon, the goal of the UN-REDD Programme is to help fully realize forests’ mitigation potential for at least 5 GtCO2e per year, with a mid-decade milestone of the first Green Gigaton of forest-based GHG emission reductions, and enhanced removals, unlocked and financially rewarded.

Quantity of mitigation results is not the sole dimension of UN-REDD’s post-2020 ambition. The 2025 target of 1 GtCO2e will also need to demonstrate a trajectory of increasing quality, in terms of accuracy, certainty and permanence, commensurate with hikes in prices in emerging forest carbon markets necessary to incentivise REDD+ action at scale. Climate change mitigation is essential not only to the Paris Agreement’s target to limit global warming by 1.5° Celsius but also to the delivery of the SDGs by 2030. In pursuing its mitigation goals, the UN-REDD Programme will continue to employ approaches to promote social inclusion and realise non-carbon benefits that have been a distinguishing feature of the Programme over the past 10 years, from safeguarding biodiversity to supporting local livelihoods and advancing the rights of indigenous peoples.

Forests are an unquestionable source of sustainable livelihoods, prosperity and resilience. Forests provide crucial ecosystem services that reduce the vulnerability of local communities to a changing climate. Ensuring indigenous peoples and local communities continue to enjoy the full suite of multiple benefits provided by forests will complement UN-REDD’s drive for mitigation results in the coming period of operations.  The Programme will also be relevant to the global response to the 2020 outbreak of COVID-19 on three interrelated fronts: 1) conserving, managing sustainably and restoring forests as key to decreasing the risk of zoonosis, which are a source of pandemics; 2) raising attention to the risks of increased deforestation as a coping response to the COVID-19 socio-economic crisis, and 3) contributing to building back better, and greener, by ensuring REDD+ finance is aligned to rural livelihoods and economies.

Both carbon and non-carbon ambitions of the forest solutions in the forthcoming decade are duly captured in the new UN-REDD results framework (2021-2025), which was adopted by the UN-REDD Executive Board in 2020. This new results framework was designed to encapsulate and drive virtuous cycles of forest solutions realized, rewarded and enhanced, including quantitative targets, and aligned to countries’ NDCs. To achieve such virtuous cycles, UN-REDD will strategically position its knowledge and advisory services at the interface between country and jurisdictional level supply of, and private and public demand for, REDD+ results at scale, quality and yielding multiple benefits.

To meet the defining challenge of accelerating and amplifying forest solutions in the coming decade of unprecedented action, UN-REDD will adhere to the intervention principles of scale, speed and flexibility. Recognizing the importance of country ownership and country-led processes, the Programme will continue to be demand-driven, tailoring interventions to national circumstances.


The year 2020 brought into sharp focus another critical role that forests play in the natural checks and balances of Earth’s ecosystems: Keeping the world’s forests standing also helps protect humans from zoonotic diseases, including coronaviruses. Their destruction has devastating consequences not only for climate change and biodiversity loss but also for global public health. One in three outbreaks of new and emerging diseases, such as HIV, SARS, and now COVID-19, have been linked to deforestation and other land-use changes. This is despite the fact that, as we are now collectively learning firsthand, the cost of reducing deforestation to prevent the spread of zoonosis is substantially less than the economic and mortality costs of responding after the fact.

Faced now with the historic challenge of socio-economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, UN Secretary-General António Guterres is calling on countries to “recover better together” and to seize the opportunity to not simply reset the global economy, but to transform it to be more sustainable, more equitable, and more resilient so that all people can enjoy lives with dignity on a healthy planet. We must build economic systems that value nature as a central source of human wellbeing, environmental health and economic prosperity. And forests can play a pivotal role in green strategies to recover from the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nature-based solutions like REDD+ are win-win areas for recovery policies: they can deliver significant economic benefits while reducing the likelihood of future pandemics and building resilience to climate and environmental risks. The conservation and sustainable management of forests can boost rural economies and have long-term growth potential. Payment for ecosystem services and social forestry initiatives implemented as part of national REDD+ programmes are one example of this.

In 2019 and 2020, RBPs for emissions reductions in the forest sector under REDD+ were approved by the GCF for eight countries. All of these projects direct a significant portion of the funds to support local livelihood-focused forest conservation programmes such as payments for ecosystem services (Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Paraguay) and community forest management or social forestry initiatives (Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Indonesia).

By using the proceeds from REDD+ results to support benefit-sharing programmes, countries are creating virtuous circles of emissions reductions from the forest sector, generating economic resources that support communities to engage in forest conservation and sustainable forest management activities, thereby generating further emissions reductions that can lead to greater access to international climate finance.

The UN-REDD Programme, with more than a decade of experience supporting countries to deliver emissions reductions from the forest sector while applying a socially inclusive approach, is positioned to support livelihood-improving forest conservation and sustainable forest management activities, like those supported by PES and social forestry programmes, at the pace and scale required towards building a better, greener, more resilient future in developing forest countries. UN-REDD has helped many countries develop and strengthen data and information systems (NFMSs) that provide key information on forests, thus helping ensure that COVID-19 recovery investments abide by the principle of “do no harm”, and rather create greater impact and synergies.


Building on the 2019 secretary-general’s historic Climate Action Summit, Nature-based Solutions (NbS) has seen increasingly widespread attention in 2020 as legitimate and essential climate change solutions, necessary to keep global temperature rise below the Paris Agreement target of 1.5°C.

Through the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature launched on 28 September 2020, as part of the UN Decade of Action to achieve sustainable development, political leaders committed to reverse biodiversity loss by 2030 and achieve the vision of Living in Harmony with Nature by 2050. NbS are high on the agenda for COP-26, of G7 and G20 leaders, with forests front and center.

Further, REDD+ is now recognized as an effective climate mitigation strategy for NDCs to the Paris Agreement, which is especially important to increase the ambition of developing countries’ climate commitments. Currently, mitigation measures contained in NDCs are inadequate to bridge the emissions gap to reach the Paris Agreement target by 2030. For a 2°C limit to warming, the total emissions gap from current conditional NDCs is 13 GtCO2eq by 2030; for a 1.5°C limit, the gap is 29 GtCO2eq. Strongly increased forest action is, therefore, a critical measure to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, at scale, to close the emissions gap prior to 2030.

As forest solutions gain political traction, coupled with a wider range of emerging financial mechanisms that recognize and incentivize them, UN-REDD becomes more valuable to, and valued by, countries trying to take action and navigate the evolving institutional, technical and financial landscape. By leveraging the knowledge and technical capacity that FAO, UNDP, and UNEP have gained over a decade of delivering as one, UN-REDD can effectively help partner countries to reduce deforestation at scale and access financial rewards for the associated emissions reductions. As REDD+ transitions out of its proof-of-concept stage, in which UN-REDD was an instrumental partner, to full-scale implementation and results-based financing, UN-REDD has adopted its 2021-2025 results framework. The new results framework was designed to encapsulate and drive virtuous cycles of forest solutions realized, rewarded, and enhanced through forest components, including quantitative targets, of countries’ NDCs. To meet the defining challenge of accelerating and amplifying forest solutions in the coming decade of unprecedented action, UN-REDD will adhere to the intervention principles of scale, speed, and flexibility.

It has become widely recognized that the transformation needed to win the interconnected planetary crises must be based on system response. Forests are a key component of a system response, and working in partnership to shift the system is crucial. The 75th session of the UN General Assembly in September 2020 reaffirmed the importance of partnerships and the UN’s collective commitment to multilateralism. The UN-REDD Programme is an exemplar of partnership, whose strength lies in the complementary skills and experience of its three collaborating agencies working and delivering as One United Nations, deploying its team of technical experts and policy advisors on the ground across the world, offering the convening capacity of the United Nations that has underpinned the success of UN-REDD since its inception.

Bold action must be taken urgently to safeguard our forests and avert a climate disaster. We will only succeed by working together: reconnecting people and nature to implement the Paris Agreement effectively and secure a sustainable future for all. UN-REDD will continue operating at the vanguard of forest solutions, building on best practices and sharing them widely, as well as fostering innovation and replicating efforts at scale.