- Jurisdictional REDD+ (JREDD) is designed to fund regional transitions to forest-positive, socially-inclusive rural development. It is fundamentally different than private forest carbon projects, which have come under scrutiny for overstating their climate benefits.
- JREDD rewards forest carbon emissions reductions already achieved across entire jurisdictions–states and nations–and provides a platform for the full participation of Indigenous peoples, local communities and farmers; it features a leadership role for governments that are becoming more transparent and inclusive in the process.
- The steep decline in deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon means that several states are poised to issue a large volume of high-integrity, verified JREDD credits from 2024 onward. If the demand for these credits is sufficient, sales revenues could help states tame extensive forest frontiers with transparency and accountability, inspiring other regions to do the same.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
To all of those who are concerned about climate change and have decided that forest carbon credits are bad, I have a question for you. Have you ever looked closely at the new type of forest carbon credit that recently started to come online? It is the baby in the forest-carbon-credit bathwater. And we risk throwing it away.
Net emissions of carbon from the clearing, degradation and recovery of tropical forests are more than ten percent of total anthropogenic emissions and are growing. In our race to find ways of reducing emissions to manage the climate emergency, we cannot afford to jettison an entire class of nature-based climate solutions–forest carbon credits–because of flaws in one particular type of credit from private projects. And, yet, that is exactly what we are doing. Issuance of nature-based credits in the voluntary market fell from 160 million metric tons of CO2 in 2021 to 93 million in 2022; only 63 million credits have been issued to date in 2023.
The baby is named JREDD, which stands for “jurisdictional REDD+”. REDD+ is the acronym for “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation”.
“Jurisdictional” is what sets it apart from private projects. JREDD programs operate at the scale of large political jurisdictions and feature a leadership role for the government of that jurisdiction. Private forest carbon projects operate at the scale of communities, farms, or concessions and usually have little direct governmental engagement. Credits from JREDD programs are based upon emissions reductions that have already been achieved across an entire political jurisdiction, which can be accurately measured, addressing a main criticism of credits from private projects. In JREDD, emissions are reduced through the systemic transition to a new rural development model that is forest-positive, that secures the rights and livelihoods of Indigenous and traditional communities, and that favors low-carbon agricultural production and bioeconomies.
Unlike private forest carbon projects, JREDD has no “project developer”–no company that retains a significant share of the revenues when the credits are eventually sold. Companies participate in JREDD by buying forest-friendly products, through the advance purchase of JREDD credits, and other types of investments.
JREDD came into the official negotiations of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2007 and the first issuance of JREDD credits was only made in 2022, by Guyana. During this period, the UN organized dozens of meetings to establish the REDD+ rules, which are now embedded in a fully operational, independent international standard, called TREES, The REDD+ Environmental Excellency Standard.
“Won’t the money disappear into government coffers?”, I have been asked. Effective mechanisms for transparently and responsibly managing JREDD revenues have been put in place. And government involvement is the only way to unlock the full potential of laws, public policies, and law enforcement forces to favor forest-positive, socially-inclusive rural development.
Indeed, an increased capacity of governments to govern is one of the co-benefits of JREDD programs. Through our work supporting JREDD programs in Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia, Mexico, and Peru we have witnessed governments become more transparent and more socially-inclusive.
JREDD provides a platform for Indigenous peoples and local communities to participate in the formulation of public policies, as illustrated by a recent meeting in the Brazilian state of Tocantins. Two hundred Indigenous people, quilombolas and smallholder farmers traveled to the capital city of Palmas to learn about and discuss the state’s JREDD program, hosted by the state government. This is the beginning of a participatory process that will determine how revenues from the sale of JREDD credits will be allocated among sectors as each sector determines how best to use its share to improve livelihoods over the long term and to make the transition to low-carbon production systems.
The state of Tocantins is poised to verify and sell JREDD credits in 2024. Several other jurisdictions in Brazil, Peru, and Argentina are moving down this same path. Guyana was the first to issue JREDD credits.
To manage the climate emergency, we desperately need to support and replicate strategies that are keeping billions of tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and in the wood, leaves, roots and soils of native ecosystems. Big opportunities have been missed. Brazil’s audacious interagency plan to protect the Amazon forest helped reduce deforestation 79% between 2005 and 2012 and avoided the emissions of 6.4 GtCO2. The money to reward and lock in these gains never materialized at scale, however. Only 4.7% of the avoided emissions were compensated through climate finance, mostly via the Amazon Fund. Political will weakened and deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon doubled from 2014 to 2021.
Today, there is another chance. Brazil has launched a new plan to slow deforestation, reducing Amazon deforestation 64% in 2023 vs. 2022 for the same January–October period. Several states of the Brazilian Amazon are doing their part to slow forest loss, hopeful that this time there will be buyers for their high-integrity, verified JREDD credits, funding their efforts to slow and partially reverse deforestation. And if it works in Brazil, other nations will follow.
Some will argue that even high-integrity forest carbon credits are bad because the companies that buy them are simply greenwashing their own emissions. In fact, research shows that companies that buy offsets also invest in their own decarbonization. And beyond offsets, the time is ripe to put in place a levy for nature on fossil fuels as partial payment for the immense social costs of climate change that is driven primarily by fossil fuel combustion.
Instead of throwing the JREDD baby out with the bathwater, let’s make JREDD and other types of high-integrity carbon credits get to work. They are not a perfect solution. But they are the only solution we have today for mobilizing funding at the necessary scale and speed to support regional strategies that are taming vast forest frontiers in the tropics with transparency and accountability.
Acknowledgements: This commentary was written with input from Monica de los Rios, Bjørn Rask Thomsen, Claudia Stickler, Tathiana Bezerra, Matt Warren and Toby McGrath and with financial support provided through grants to the Earth Innovation Institute from the Grantham Foundation, USAID, the Land Innovation Fund and Cisco Foundation.
Banner image: Narupa Reserve in the Amazon, photo by Rhett A. Butler for Mongabay.
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