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Former Pine Forest - Haiti UNEP 2009
By Ibrahim Thiaw, UN Assistant-Secretary-General and UNEP Deputy Executive Director

The Ayoreo people of western Paraguay, who include the last uncontacted indigenous peoples south of the Amazon, have an enemy that they call the beast with metal skin and an attacker of the world. Their spears cannot penetrate its flanks, although they have tried.

This beast in question is not the giant armadillo, a species native to the region, with its big bony shell and claws that can tear through a termite mound like butter. It is the bulldozer, which instead tears through the Gran Chaco, the forest where the Ayoreo live. Between 1990 and 2011, Paraguay lost more than three million hectares of the Chaco forest, displacing the Ayoreo and threatening creatures large and small, like the giant armadillos as well as jaguars, howler monkeys, and tapirs.

Every year, people destroy more than 13 million hectares of forests around the world, which equals more than 25 football fields full of trees every minute. This destruction separates people from the forests that provide them with their livelihoods, and eliminates habitat for endangered species on the ground, and even in the air. For example, forests provide habitat for more than three quarters of all globally threatened bird species.

Deforestation and forest degradation—due expanding areas for cops, plantations and pastures, infrastructure development, destructive logging, and fires—account for a substantial proportion of all global greenhouse gas emissions.

But the environmental and social damage doesn’t stop there. Forests also shelter a tremendous amount of life, and provide food, medicine and other products to people. They also provide us with services, such as filtering fresh water as it collects and moves downstream, so that urban populations have clean water to drink. In fact, 33 of the world’s largest cities obtain their fresh water directly from protected expanses of forest. Globally, forests contribute to the livelihoods of 1.6 billion people worldwide.

In the case of Paraguay, one quarter of the forests have been cleared since 1990, mostly to grow soybeans and to provide pasture for the country’s livestock industry—two of its biggest economic engines. On the other side of the world, in Nigeria, more than one half of the country’s forest cover has been lost since 1990, making way for not just the expansion of agriculture, but also for mining and oil and gas projects. Forests have also been degraded through the collection of fuelwood, the primary source of fuel for about two-thirds of the country.

What Paraguay and Nigeria have in common is that both countries are looking at an international initiative, REDD+, to help keep their remaining trees standing. Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) is an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from activities on forested lands and invest in more sustainable forest management practices.

Sustainability is the key to REDD+; countries are exploring how the forests can be protected, and even restored, while still providing livelihoods and sustenance for the people who depend on them.

You can find this sustainability model in Nigeria. Cross River State, which contains more than half of the remaining tropical forest in the country, is implementing REDD+ as a way to protect its standing forests while also promoting their contribution to sustainable development. For many communities who live in or near the forests in Nigeria, products like bush mango, bushmeat and fuelwood play an important part in local livelihoods and economies.

Ecotourism is another growing segment of the local economy for communities in Nigeria. Travelers come to Cross River State not only to look at the ‘charismatic megafauna’—the forest elephants, gorillas and chimpanzees—but to seek out the more than 900 varieties of butterflies that live in the region’s tropical high forest or to experience its rugged mountains. Ecotourism thrives in the deep forests of the world; globally, it is worth as much as US$77 billion annually.

For these forests to survive—those in Nigeria, Paraguay, and everywhere else—REDD+ helps increase the value of trees in the eyes of national and local governments and other stakeholders in the private and public sectors. In mapping out where REDD+ activities could contribute to reducing poverty and inequality, and support the cultures of forest-dependent and indigenous peoples, REDD+ strengthens the hands of the environment ministries in land-use planning.

Put simply, if for all these reasons the forests have a quantifiable value in remaining standing, it becomes easier to argue that economic development should not destroy them. Several initiatives, including the UN-REDD Programme, the United Nations collaborative initiative on REDD+, are helping countries to plan better for REDD+ implementation by identifying the value their forests and REDD+ activities can bring.

The implementation of REDD+ and the launch of markets for the carbon credits that underpin the new value of the world’s forests—and the green economies that prosper in these forests—will be a primary topic at the upcoming international climate change negotiations—the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change—taking place in Lima, Peru, December 1-12.

Last year’s negotiations provided guidelines on financing, transparency, and monitoring. This year, though, the stakes are higher and yet the world keeps losing more and more of its tree cover. Governments in Paraguay, Nigeria, and 54 other countries involved in the UN-REDD Programme are looking to REDD+ to stop this trend, help its people who depend on forests, and mitigate the climate change impacts that threaten us all. At Lima and beyond, we need to continue down the path of REDD+ implementation so that we as a global society can finally safeguard our forests.

Roberto Faidutti FAO Brazil 1999

Photo: Roberto Faidutti, FAO Brazil

(This post originally appeared in GO-REDD+, an information service of the UN-REDD Programme for the Asia-Pacific region)

By Joel Scriven, UN-REDD Programme

September 2014 saw the release of the Global Carbon Project’s (GCP) 2014 Global Carbon Budget. The GCP brings together leading scientists to make annual estimations of where human-sourced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are coming from and where they are going. It presents findings within the historical context of global emissions – making it essential reading for anyone with an interest in climate change mitigation.

Some of the headlines are perhaps not surprising: the US remains the highest per capita emitter (at 16.4tCO2/person/year), emissions from China are growing fast (and have surpassed the EU in per capita terms), and coal is the major fossil fuel source accounting for 59% of the growth in global emissions in 2013. All of which is reflective of trends in global geopolitics, commodity prices and development path trajectories. But what about emissions from forestry and land use? The answer may come as a surprise.

global climate project 03-12-14Although emissions from land-use change peaked in 1998, largely as a result of the El Niño effect increasing the intensity of fires in Indonesian peatforests, overall they have been in decline since 1990. In fact, as a proportion of total global emissions, and as a result of the growth from fossil fuels, contributions from land-use change are estimated to have fallen from 36% in 1960, to 19% in 1990, to 8% in 2013.

So why all the fuss about mitigating land-use and forestry emissions through REDD+? Well, the answer lies partly in the global mitigation portfolio and partly in the ultimate resting place of all these emissions. Firstly, it is important to place this relative decline in land-use and forestry emissions in the context of the rampant growth of emissions from fossil fuels. After all, in 2013 these emissions still amounted to over 3 gigatonnes of CO2: not a small amount. Secondly, through addressing emissions from this sector, we can safeguard numerous and well- ocumented other environmental services such as conservation of biodiversity and other environmental services, livelihood provisions for forestdependent people, water quality provisions, and so on. Thirdly, it is considered to be a relatively cost- ffective (read: cheaper!) approach to mitigating climate change than, say, replacing all diesel-spouting buses with electric ones.

So that’s the main reason for reducing emissions from forests. But there’s more: where do these GHGs actually go, once released, from coal, gas or forests? Of the total human-sourced emissions between 2004 and 2013 (approximately 35 gigatonnes of CO2 per year), only 44% ended up in the atmosphere where they play havoc with our climate system. Of the remainder, 26% went into the oceans and 29% was absorbed by forests (technically, the ‘land sink’ – but most significantly comprised of forests). To recap: one third of global human GHG emissions are taken up by forests.

This is of huge importance for 1) the role of forests in preventing emissions from reaching the atmosphere; and 2) further justification for keeping our remaining forests intact as emission sponges. These facts also draw our attention to the ‘+’ in REDD+. As countries develop their strategies for REDD+ implementation, and while the inevitable starting point may be analyzing the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, the importance of conserving remaining forests, sustainably managing forests and enhancing their forest areas, should not be overlooked.


(This post originally appeared on the Peru COP20 website)

By: Carla Ramírez Zea / Main Forest Advisor, FAO Peru

“The new policies on climate change demand greater quantity, quality and efficiency of forest information. A truly comprehensive monitoring of forest management involves biophysical – environmental, socioeconomic and governance information needed to guide and evaluate actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change.”

The welfare of citizens worldwide is threatened by increased emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG), mainly from industrialized countries. For this reason, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change emerges as a space for discussion to define global agreements to reduce emissions of party countries. During the discussion, the most developed countries have been called to meet their targets for reducing emissions, but also support for the least developed countries has been boosted to plan mitigation and adaptation, through institutional and technical capacity building, as well as through the definition of funding sources.

Forests in public policies

The role of forests in maintaining human wellbeing is being increasingly recognized. Forests are carbon sinks, carbon being the most abundant element in greenhouse gases. They are also a source of food, medicine, and income from lumberable and non-lumberable products; retain and filter water; are cultural and spiritual sanctuaries; and are gene banks of flora and fauna. It has been shown that the loss of forests causes up to 17% of GHG emissions, so reducing deforestation and forest degradation is one of the strongest mechanisms for mitigating GHG emissions. For these reasons, forests are increasingly important in national and international public policy, to be applied within a vision of comprehensive and responsible land use, avoiding deforestation and forest degradation.

In this context, States are increasingly involved in updating and evaluating their forest and climate change policies. To achieve this, comprehensive monitoring of forest management is essential. This involves the generation of information on biophysical aspects of forests and other productive land use, socio-economic benefits of forests to the population and governance for equitable distribution of those benefits. This information as a whole is necessary not only to a solid construction of new policies but for the payment of benefits based on results, as the mechanism for Reducing Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+).

Quantity, quality and efficiency of forest information

In the case of Peru, a country with 57% of forested area , the government is running serious initiatives to improve information on a broad range of needs for forest management, such as the national forest inventory (with its two components: biophysical and socio-economic), satellite monitoring of forest and land use, inventories for evaluation and assessment of the natural heritage,the permanent production forests inventory, the measurement, reporting and verification system for REDD+, the national greenhouse gas inventorysystem, the forest cadaster, the control module of wild wood production, the national forest and wild fauna information system, and information for the national accounts and for the forestry and ecosystem service satellite accounts.

Other initiatives to develop are the national information system of safeguards for REDD+ and the national monitoring of forest governance. All these initiatives jointly managed would truly support comprehensive monitoring of forest management, since they involve biophysical-environmental, socioeconomic and governance information needed to guide and evaluate actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change. However, to face this challenge, you must meet certain principles demanded by users. For example, the scientific community — represented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — requests relevant, reliable, complete, consistent and transparent information. On the other hand, the increasing number of actors involved demands more participation to present their goals and needs, and also request that the information is accessible.

Another important principle is the sustainability of monitoring systems, in such a way that States must work hard on financial strategies and institutional coordination to avoid duplication of efforts and ensure system efficiency. Finally, due to the complexity of this challenge, scientific and practical knowledge should be shared among international organizations, as well as national, subnational and local government institutions, scientific communities and civil society organizations.

photo: ILRI-Mann

Guest Author: Stella Gama, Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining, Malawi

In my view an effective REDD+ approach is linked to the engagement of all relevant stakeholders, regardless of gender, and to the promotion of equality and equity in terms of participation in decision-making and access to benefits. Specific attention to women’s needs and contributions is key to efficient REDD+ strategies and activities, and the UN-REDD Programme is helping to guide countries conceptually and methodologically in addressing the gender considerations of REDD+.

The UNFCCC ‘Cancun Agreements’ call for the integration of gender considerations within REDD+ national strategies, and this is reflected in the UN-REDD Programme Strategy 2011-2015, which makes numerous references to gender equality and equity. Moreover, integrating gender sensitive activities in REDD+ efforts can help improve the efficiency, efficacy and the long-term sustainability of forest management.

Malawi joined the UN-REDD Programme in 2013 – we wanted to be part of the global REDD+ network to benefit from the capacity development, and technical and financial support provided by the UN-REDD Programme to implement REDD+ activities. Thirty per cent of Malawi’s land area was once covered in forest. Since 1992, there has been a high deforestation rate, according to statistics 2.8 per cent annually, so we hope to increase forest cover through engaging with REDD+ activities and to enhance sustainable forest management strategies.

There are other advantages – working with the UN-REDD Programme also means having a wider platform. The Programme has created a platform for sharing lessons and best practices particularly for countries who have advanced, so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel, only to learn from other countries and from the mistakes which have already been made and giving us a pool of knowledge to draw on. Other advantages include support for REDD+ preparedness activities. Malawi has developed a REDD+ Roadmap through support from the US, and now through collaboration with the UN-REDD Programme we will get immediate support in order to implement some of the activities in the roadmap, and address governance and monitoring, reporting and verification. Ultimately we hope we are going to benefit from a national programme.

One of our challenges is that in the past we have had disjointed sector coordination. REDD+ is not just about the forestry sector. We can ensure that we embrace other sectors, and draw a wider range of stakeholders into REDD+, we are looking at the Green Economy approach and livelihoods, sustainable forest management agriculture, biodiversity conservation and other multiple core-benefits.

The opportunities presented by REDD+ can potentially create a fairer gender balance in forestry decision-making. In Malawi we have both matrilineal societies and patrilineal societies. REDD+ represents an opportunity to involve women and offer a greater participation in society, and also to enhance the benefits that women get from REDD+. With regard to benefits it is about the access and control of benefits, e.g. secure forest land tenure from REDD+ due to the need to consider women’s contributions in REDD+ implementation.

During discussions for developing the National REDD+ Strategies – Africa, gender mainstreaming was on the table. This will also help to enable even better gender balance. Specifically with the inclusion of gender-sensitive safeguards in the development of national REDD+ programmes in order to develop a gender-transformative strategy so that the new paradigm specifically contributes to the advancement of gender equality while safeguarding women’s rights, thereby contributing to climate change solutions. In addition, use of the affirmative action to ensure gender balance in REDD+ Academy. The tools designed for training delivery should integrate gender. We also need gender balance indicators for participation as well as impact of REDD+ activities — for both women and men.


Stella GamaBio: Stella Gama is the REDD+ focal point for Malawi at the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining. Ms. Gama discussed gender mainstreaming while participating in the UN-REDD Programme Workshop “Regional South-South Exchange – Africa: Developing National REDD+ Strategies” Workshop, being convened in Nairobi at UNEP, 14-17 October 2014.  View workshop agenda.

Guest author: Stuart Clenaghan

In my view there is a critical missing link in REDD+ thinking, and that relates to the high cost of finance for small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) in developing countries. SMEs are widely acknowledged to be the real engines of economic growth, and account for between 80 per cent and 90 per cent of forest enterprises. Yet SMEs face strong headwinds when it comes to accessing funding. For many SMEs, the unsustainable exploitation of natural resources – or “natural capital” – is a substitute for financial capital.

This perspective draws upon insights gained as a co-founder of a private sector sustainable forestry company, striving to deliver strong financial, social and environmental results in Peru (a UN-REDD Programme partner country), as well as my experience of capital markets as a former investment banker.

The link between the high cost of capital for the private sector in developing economies and the unsustainable exploitation of the natural capital of forests has received little attention in the global debate on REDD+.
Yet the behaviour of the private sector is fundamentally influenced by the availability of finance – both equity investment and loans – and by how much it costs. This is as true for a farmer working a two-hectare plot as it is for a forestry company working two hundred thousand hectares. Where capital is expensive, or difficult to obtain, the only option for many is to turn to the exploitation of natural capital. Conversely, where cheap finance targets forest-friendly enterprise, business follows.

For REDD+ to succeed we must overcome the shortcomings of financial markets in countries where forests are at risk. And because the drivers of deforestation are rooted in the wider economy (think charcoal supply chains, or urban markets for agricultural produce), investment is needed not just in forests, but in other areas too. Anyone with experience in building businesses in developing economies will attest to the difficulties in raising money. Equity investment is often tightly controlled by wealthy elites, and there are few other sources of venture capital or private equity. Bank loans are expensive, frequently at rates of 15-20% or more, available only to those offering guarantees and collateral. Additionally, businesses in poorer countries face costs that peers in developed markets do not have. True, labour bills are generally lower, but poor infrastructure and lack of service providers force companies to invest in vertically integrating their operations. One company, a 5,000 hectare rice farm in east Africa, has had to build its own hydro and biomass power plants, construct rice drying polishing facilities, invest in packaging and marketing, and on top of that maintain a 100 kilometre stretch of road. This expenditure would be unnecessary had it been a potato farm in eastern England, where outsourced services are readily available.

It is hardly surprising, then, that some turn to the exploitation of natural capital. We can see examples across the globe, from East Africa’s charcoal trade (estimated to be worth US$ 350 million a year in Dar es Salaam alone and employing hundreds of thousands of people), to the destruction of mangroves in India for shrimp farming, and agricultural frontiers where forest is cleared for ranching or crops.

Historically, the transformation of natural capital to financial capital has underpinned the growth of some of today’s biggest economies. Waves of deforestation in England fed agricultural expansion, maritime trade and the early industrial revolution. The great Hanseatic port cities of Germany and the Baltic expanded on the back of trade of timber pulled from northern hinterlands. Indeed, the very foundations of monetary systems were built upon natural capital – the world’s first coins were forged in Lydia (in today’s western Turkey) from bronze and silver smelted with charcoal from deforested uplands.

To achieve lasting REDD+ results, access to financial capital must replace the exploitation of natural capital. We need more than investment in forests: we need to effect deep-rooted socio-economic changes across whole economies. If we ask forest nations to do a job in protecting forests and sinking carbon, then we must provide financial capital for sustainable growth.
By linking financial capital, economic development, and the goals of REDD+ we can gain insight into the type of mechanism required:

  • First, countries that deliver reduced emissions – or even carbon sinks – need to be paid for results at agreed prices, and on a bilateral basis. Market-priced payments introduce too much uncertainty and income volatility. And, as we have seen with the much-criticised Clean Development Mechanism, project-based accreditation brings high transaction costs, uncertain financing and drains scarce management resources.
  • Second, forest nations need national development banks that supply low-cost finance – equity and loans – to spur REDD+-friendly private sector enterprise from micro-scale to national-sized corporations. As a model, take a look at Brazil’s BNDES, or even Germany’s KfW (set up to support post-war reconstruction).
  • Third, result-based payments must be ring-fenced for REDD+. The more successfully a country reduces emissions the more it earns, and the more capital it has to invest. REDD+ benefits will show up throughout the economy and that should be incentive for countries to adopt a holistic strategy. In fact, many governments have already started to identify where investment is needed in REDD+ Readiness plans produced with the UN-REDD Programme and Forest Carbon Partnership Facility.


stuart clenaghan2

Two interesting outcomes might result from such arrangements:

  • The first is that REDD+ development banks could operate at a profit – REDD+ investment can make money.
  • The second is that ring-fenced REDD+ payments could enable countries to enhance their creditworthiness and issue bonds. In other words, a lot more private investment capital could be leveraged into REDD+.

Deforestation is driven by economic factors. For sure we need better land rights, governance, enforcement and conservation. But at the heart of the matter is the challenge of achieving non-extractive sustainable growth in forest nations. That can only happen if REDD+ bridges the deficiencies of financial markets.


stuart clenaghanBio: Stuart Clenaghan is an investor in environmental and sustainable forestry businesses. In 2008, he co-founded Green Gold Forestry, an FSC-certified sustainable forestry company operating in Peru, producing sawn hardwoods. Alongside its 154,000ha of forest concessions, GGF also sources logs through its programme of community forestry partnerships.  His consultancy, Eco System Services Limited, specialises in developing financing models for large-scale land-use projects. He is also a senior fellow of the Climate Bonds Initiative and a trustee of Botanic Gardens Conservation International, and a former investment banker with Lehman Brothers and UBS.

(This post originally appeared on the UNFCCC blog).

At the New York Climate Summit on 23 September, the United Nations is expecting clear commitments in the area of forest climate action.

Countries that are home to tropical forests have the opportunity to present priority actions on deforestation and forest restoration in their summit statements, including actions that are conditional on international support.

Developed countries can in turn outline their financial contributions to sustainably manage forests.

A new declaration – the New York Declaration of Forests – is expected to catalyze action from public and private sector as well as civil society organizations to combat deforestation and to ensure that new forests are planted.

The Declaration is likely to be accompanied by the announcement of a number of significant, concrete and tangible commitments to take action on forests by multilateral institutions, subnational jurisdictions, companies, financial institutions, and civil society organizations.

Why action on forests is important for the overall fight against climate change

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), action in the area of forests is essential to stay below the two-degree warming limit.

More than a million hectares of forests are still lost globally every year. The release of carbon dioxide through the burning and cutting of trees and other biomass is responsible for around 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions.


In New York, key commitments are expected to be made specifically to REDD+, which is Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, conservation of forest carbon stocks, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries.

What commitments at the UN Summit mean for the UN climate process

Long-term commitments made in New York towards action taken after 2020, when a new universal climate change agreement is to take effect, can have a positive influence on raising immediate climate ambition.

Last year, governments completed the methodological guidance for REDD+, paving the way for its implementation.

Raising immediate climate ambition has been one key focus of work under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change this year through so-called Technical Expert Meetings held in 2014, also through action on forests.

For example, at a meeting in Bonn in June, China and Brazil presented what they are doing in this field.

China said it had committed to increase its forest cover by 2020, and had already achieved more than half of this. China also plans to integrate forest carbon into its national pilot emissions trading scheme.

Brazil, home to the largest part of the Amazon rainforest, said it had achieved a decrease in deforestation during recent years, and would be able to do more with international support.


Read about highlights of the UNFCCC Technical Expert Meeting on land use

Extensive information on REDD can be found on the UNFCCC REDD Web Platform

Read more about the action area of forests on the UN Climate Summit website

UN Photo/ Eva Fendiaspara



The 20-member Policy Board of the UN-REDD Programme approved US$ 35,481,763 in REDD+ readiness funds at their 12th policy board meeting, held in Lima, 8-9 July, which was attended by more than 100 participants from 25 countries.

The meeting was marked by a collaborative and forward-looking atmosphere that included much knowledge sharing both on current and planned REDD+ initiatives. A full day was dedicated to “information sharing” on 7 July in advance of the official policy board meeting. H.E. Pak Heru Prasetyo, Head of the Indonesia National REDD+ Agency and H. E. Manuel Pulgar-Vidal Peru Environment Minister both attended the information day and highlighted the importance of REDD+ to climate change mitigation and the importance of the support delivered through the UN-REDD Programme to advance national REDD+ efforts. The ministers also emphasized the role of forests at the upcoming climate summit and UNFCCC COP20 in Lima.

Another highlight of the meeting was the launch of three new national programmes — Argentina, Cote d’Ivoire and Mongolia. Mongolia’s is the first boreal forest National Programme to be funded by the UN-REDD Programme.

The meeting was also an opportunity for UN-REDD Programme partner countries to discuss the future of the Programme post-2015. The policy board members approved a roadmap to develop the Programme’s 2016-2020 strategy by May 2015, which will include a strong participatory process.

Several REDD+ knowledge tools were also launched at the meeting including the REDD+ Academy, with the first regional sessions announced to take place in Indonesia, Nigeria and Argentina; and the REDD+ Radar, a new tool for tracking progress of National Programmes that can be used by country partners, donors and others.

The next UN-REDD Policy Board will take place in November 2014 in Tanzania.


For more information about the UN-REDD Programme’s Policy Board, or to access documents from the meeting, visit here


Guest Author: Dr. Fiona McKenzie

Imagine you were throwing a rock. Where the rock ends up will pretty much depend on you – your strength, aim and coordination. You could easily predict where the rock will go and the trajectory could be accurately modelled. Now imagine throwing a live bird (this isn’t encouraged in practice). Even though the bird is subject to the same laws of physics as the rock, there is no way for you to know for sure where it will end up. Its trajectory is not something that can be easily predicted. You could try weighting the bird down to control its path, but this destroys the capability of the bird.

Why does the difference between birds and rocks matter? It matters because the way one would think about and work with a rock is different from the way one would (hopefully) interact with a bird. Too often we apply the wrong approach to the right idea. REDD+ is like the bird. While there were many expectations, fears and predictions when it was officially incorporated into the Bali Action Plan in 2007, it has since behaved in ways we didn’t expect.

This is because REDD+ has the properties of a complex adaptive system. A simple system is relatively stable and has straightforward cause-and-effect relationships (a bit like a rock). In simple systems, it is possible to analyse the parts of the whole at their most reduced or basic level in order to learn about the sum. A complex adaptive system is more like the bird. It exists within other interdependent systems and is driven by interactions between system components and governed by feedback. Its complexity comes from these patterns of interactions. It is constantly adapting. Results can be counterintuitive. You can make the changes you want, but you might not end up in the place you would expect. The whole truly is more than the sum of its parts.

Such complexity doesn’t have to be a liability. It can be an advantage, so long as we realise that we need to think and work differently in such contexts. What does this mean? It means that we need to be more aware of the patterns of interactions that characterise the whole and how these patterns create points of leverage or influence, often in unexpected places. We need leaders who can draw upon the emergent and self-organising nature of complex adaptive systems through facilitation, empowerment, evaluation and continuous re-calibration.

We need organizations (not just leaders) that can keep up with the dynamic nature of complex adaptive systems by being able to learn from and adapt to feedback. Learning requires experimentation, evaluation and reflection. Learning also requires taking risks and acknowledging failures. We need organizations (and individuals) that are willing to do both. This might require admitting uncertainty and taking on a portfolio of experiments. It may mean strategy becomes about setting a common vision or destination, but still creating room for a diversity of approaches in how to best get there. It definitely means creating organizations that can learn for themselves, based on real time feedback, continuously. In nature, if you don’t adapt you eventually become extinct.

There is no doubt that it will take time and commitment to develop the organizational skills and cultures needed. The good news is that there is a strong appetite for new ways of thinking and working. This was clearly evident at a retreat on collaborative cross-sectoral action (Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation, Front Royal, USA), sponsored by UNEP and the UN-REDD Programme in December 2013. This is a start. The challenge is to ensure that this translates into action through ongoing high-level support for adaptive approaches that don’t fit the usual templates for planning and administration. Surely if anything were worth the effort, if would be REDD+.

This post is derived from a policy brief, Complex Adaptive Systems: Implications for Leaders, Organisations, Government, and Citizens.

Dr. Fiona McKenzie is an advisor and researcher with a background in agricultural and environmental policy and a PhD on farmer-driven innovation. She is an Honorary Associate in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, La Trobe University, Australia and a Strategy Advisor for the Australian Futures Project. She recently led a project with EcoAgriculture Partners and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), funded by the UN-REDD Programme, on enabling cross-sectoral collaboration in the global food system. Previously, Fiona was part of the team that established the Terrestrial Carbon Group. Contact:

Guest author: Zoë Cullen, Senior Programme Manager at Fauna & Flora International

Every good solution starts with a problem.

At the Forests Asia Summit last week, a wealth of intellectual capital came together to discuss the pressing global problem of tropical deforestation and the need to develop holistic solutions to reduce forest loss while enabling equitable and sustainable economic growth. In essence, how to transition to a Green Economy, or “Enterprise Earth” as aptly described by H.E. Heru Prasetyo, Head of the Indonesia National REDD+ Agency.

My personal experience of this challenge stems from working with Fauna & Flora International’s team in western Jambi Province, Indonesia. Here many adat (customary) communities have a strong desire to sustainably manage these carbon and biodiversity-rich forests as “village forest”. But support is needed to do this and to increase the productivity, value and sustainability of their agriculture-based economy to help ensure that rural economic development is not tied to forest loss.

This theme is replicated across Indonesia and globally. Beyond smallholder agriculture, such evolutions of practice are needed by agricultural producers at all scales and across sectors. How do we stimulate and finance this transition? What are the sources of finance and in what smart ways can they be deployed to drive results?

Donor funding alone will not suffice. The gap in funds available to pay for REDD+ and other conservation efforts is well documented. Private sector finance needs to be part of the solution.

The UNEP Finance Initiative and the UNDP Green Commodities Programme convened a workshop in Jakarta, with the support of UNORCID, on behalf of the UN-REDD Programme to discuss the use of results-based finance for REDD+. Essentially this is finance that rewards achievement of certain desired impacts, such as forest conservation, and there are many potential variations of results-based payments.

Participants of the UN-facilitiated results-based REDD+ workshop at the Forests Asia Summit, in May 2014.

Participants of the UN-facilitiated results-based REDD+ workshop at the Forests Asia Summit, in May 2014.

There has been much talk of green bonds that generate capital to invest in commercially viable green investments. They offer enormous potential to drive sustainable investments in commodity supply chains, for example. Recent work by ForestTrends highlights the potential for jurisdictional REDD+ bonds to support forest conservation and development of sustainable agricultural supply chains across an administrative landscape, such as a state or province.

Thinking back to my community forest example, I’m particularly inspired by the potential of the “development impact bond” model that repays bond investors using long-term donor commitments. Applied to forests, a “rainforest impact bond” could be used to make significant funding available up-front to support diverse REDD+ activities such as clarification of forest tenure, investment in more sustainable and productive agriculture practices, and forest protection.

Up-front certainty of multi-year funding would enable implementing agencies to offer results-based contracts at the field level that could be much longer than traditional grant cycles permit. This, in turn, would provide greater certainty to the beneficiaries of those contracts and sufficient time to support development of green economic activities designed to deliver sustained benefits to communities beyond the lifetime of the bond.

While this approach to results-based finance is still dependent on donor funds, it introduces the private sector as key part of the story.

For every potential advantage of these approaches, I recognise the challenges and as yet unanswered questions: the distribution and management of risk, defining the size, form and timing of results-based payments, ensuring equity and trust, and measuring impact, to mention but a few.

Yet, as Nelson Mandela once said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done”. Similar methods have already been used to great effect by the International Finance Facility for Immunisations (IFFIm) to scale up vaccine delivery in the world’s poorest countries.

Last week’s workshop advanced an important discussion about the role and use of results-based finance mechanisms in the context of REDD+. There is much work to do to turn these approaches into real and appropriate solutions, at a scale in keeping with the size of the problem. Like other elements of REDD+ it will require true cross-sector collaboration and design of mechanisms that are carefully tailored to the local context where results-based finance will be deployed. But if there was one over-riding message I took from the group it was – when it comes to designing these mechanisms…keep it simple stupid!

The rewards of success will be great, as we strive towards what Pavan Sukhdev (UNEP Goodwill Ambassador) described as the “Holy Grail of REDD+”, a green economy in which sustainable management of forest, crop and grazing lands sustains all the major ecosystem services on which we all depend.


zoe cullen flora and faunaBio: Zoë Cullen is a Senior Programme Manager at Fauna & Flora International. She oversees the Innovative Conservation Finance programme within the Environmental Markets team, which seeks to identify and develop sustainable finance mechanisms for biodiversity conservation. Much of her recent work has focused on REDD+, particularly in Indonesia.




Author: Will McFarland, in Jakarta

The headline news in the Jakarta Globe earlier this week was that Indonesia’s economy has risen to 10th in the ranking of global economies. BUT, the analysis and commentary went on to say, the country’s growth is unequal, doesn’t benefit the poorest and is vulnerable. The next president faces the task of improving the quality of growth.

On Tuesday the same paper was filled with headlines from the Forests Asia Summit, which was one of the reasons I was in Jakarta for the week. In his keynote speech, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) made a plea for his successor to continue his commitments to reduce deforestation in the country and ensure that Indonesia finds a way to reduce its rapid deforestation rates.

So, what’s the link?

Indonesia’s economy and forests are inseparable. As the world’s biggest producer of palm oil, a US$ 40 billion industry globally, much of Indonesia’s economic activity centres on clearing forest. Palm oil is Indonesia’s second-largest export and generates huge tax revenue for the government. The domestic palm oil industry is a large part of the recent economic growth and it effectively contributes to ensuring that Indonesia’s 240 million citizens have better lives. However, Indonesia has made international commitments to reduce the rate of deforestation and knows that action is vital to tackle its serious contribution to global as well as local environmental and social issues.

Assuming that in the short to medium term that Indonesia’s economy will continue to rely heavily on palm, timber and other agricultural products, a delicate balance is needed between growth and environmental impact. SBY said this himself on Tuesday, “it’s about striking a balance…the central tenet of the strategy is about creating prosperity for everyone, in a way that does not harm the natural environment”.

There are many parallel issues that need addressing in order to achieve this, linking Indonesia’s forest reforms with a wide range of social and economic challenges. Conflict with local communities, dealing with fire and haze, and regulation of the private companies that dominate the industrial landscape in Indonesia are just a few of them. No single policy or action will manage to achieve this, and no single actor is responsible. Instead a multi-stakeholder approach is required, and this week a UN-REDD Programme, UNEP Finance Initiative, UNORCID and UNDP’s Green Commodities Programme convened workshop brought many of these stakeholders together in the first of three regional workshops to try and identify a coherent package.

Reducing forest loss while maintaining a strong economy can be delivered in two ways: firstly making more of the land available and creating more value in Indonesia (leaving remaining forest to be protected); or if deforestation is needed, ensuring that it is as low-impact as possible. Making more from the existing land could be achieved by attaining price premiums for certified products, or increasing yields form better practices and agro-technology. Creating “added-value” in the supply chains is also a key challenge for Indonesia as much of the palm oil it exports is unprocessed. Reducing the impact of deforestation can be done by avoiding high-conservation value areas, and peat draining and burning, perhaps by prioritising conversion of land that is already deforested and used for other purposes.

None of these are brand new ideas. And they are complex and difficult to achieve. But where innovation and investment of time, minds and capital is needed is in identifying how to promote, encourage, or force the shift of business practice to the types activities outlined above.

The workshop identified a suite of financial instruments and policy interventions that could drive private sector change. Potentially scalable and feasible ideas emerged, including:
• Wide ranging legal policy reform including removing perverse incentives and subsidies to the palm oil sector;
• Design of green bonds and development impact bonds to finance sustainable production;
• Building an economics evidence base that unpicks the implications of changing the sector’s practices.

Delivering these would require collaboration from the national and provincial governments, the financial sector, research and NGO partners, and early movers in the palm oil industry itself.

The front-page headline of today’s newspaper bemoans the lack of innovation in Indonesia’s economy – and the need for investment in skills and technologies in order to strengthen Indonesia’s economy, reduce its reliance on and exposure to other economies, and ultimately lead to improved quality of life in Indonesia. If we join the dots between this week’s headlines, and the evidence and discourse emerging from the research and thinking at this week’s summit and workshops, it appears that investing in changing practices to reduce deforestation is a no-brainer for solving Indonesia’s other prominent social and economic problems.


Bio: Will McFarland is a Research Officer at ODI in the Climate and Environment Programme. He works on green growth, natural resources and forests.


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