Carbon dioxide emissions from the clearance and degradation of forests contribute to climate change. Growing concern about this has led to the development of plans to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD). REDD+ is the international incentive mechanism, established under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to reduce these emissions, ‘plus’ achieving the sustainable management of forests, and the conservation and enhancement of forest carbon stocks. It is based on the principle of developed countries providing payments to developing countries to help them keep their forests standing, in exchange for climate change mitigation benefits.

With a global REDD+ agreement anticipated by 2020, many forest countries are working towards ‘REDD+ readiness’ – the process of laying the groundwork for an internationally-agreed REDD+ mechanism. In many cases REDD+ systems are up and running even in advance of an internationally-agreed system. These can be voluntary or jurisdictional - for example, REDD+ in Maï-Ndombe province, in the Democratic republic of Congo began with a WWF initiative then scaled up into a jurisdictional programme.

This webpage describes the links between REDD+ and community-based forest monitoring, and gathers together some of the relevant text from the UNFCCC.

Measuring a tree
Measuring a tree in DRC - Ollivier Girard CIFOR


Community-based Forest Monitoring and REDD+

International agreements through the UNFCCC make it clear that REDD+ actions must address the needs of local and indigenous communities (some selected texts are here). REDD+ must also respect the knowledge and rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, as described in the Safeguards section below.

At the national level, REDD+ countries are establishing National Forest Monitoring Systems, which will play a key role in monitoring the impacts of REDD+ policies and programmes. An essential part of this - and any REDD+ programme, whether national, subnational or voluntary - is mechanisms for Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) of changes in carbon emissions, to demonstrate whether real emission reductions have been achieved. MRV systems combine the use of remote sensing from satellites with ground-based survey techniques (click here to see some of the UNFCCC text on systems for National Forest Monitoring Systems and MRV).

Ground-based monitoring is important to link remote sensing data to the causes of deforestation on the ground. It can involve spot checks to verify satellite images that indicate changes in land use; local residents in particular can play an important role in identifying the drivers of deforestation in their area. Gound-based monitoring is also vital for collecting data on forest carbon stocks, by carrying out assessments of biomass in different types of forest, and forests at different levels of forest degradation. Many of the Forest COMPASS resources and case studies demonstrate the advantages of involving forest residents in monitoring carbon stocks; for example, the Kyoto: Think Global Act Local initiative developed monitoring systems in 30 sites and seven countries.


Community-based Forest Monitoring and the REDD+ Safeguards

The REDD+ Safeguards were adopted in 2010 during the 16th Conference of Parties (CP.16) to the UNFCCC in Cancun. Also known as the Cancun Safeguards, these aim to ensure that REDD+ not only does no harm but also delivers social and environmental benefits, including the conservation of biodiversity and respect for indigenous peoples’ rights. Participation, governance, biodiversity and ecosystem services are all covered by the REDD+ Safeguards.

Crucially, the wording of Safeguard C means that all REDD+ actions must take into account international obligations relating to local communities and indigenous peoles, such as those described in the Forest COMPASS pages on rights and free, prior and informed consent in community-based forest monitoring.

Data collection is needed to assess implementation of these Safeguards, and to demonstrate that they are being respected. Countries wishing to undertake REDD+ activities under an internationally-agreed system will need to submit a summary of information on Safeguards, through a Safeguards Information System. Some of the UNFCCC decisions on how this should be achieved are set out here.

This is an area in which there is an opportunity for communities to play an important role in collecting and analysing information, not least as they are best placed to say how REDD+ is impacting on their rights and wellbeing, as described in this paper from Forest COMPASS, and this case study of our work in Acre, Brazil.


The REDD+ safeguards are as follows:

"a) That actions complement or are consistent with the objectives of national forest programmes and relevant international conventions and agreements;

"b) Transparent and effective national forest governance structures, taking into  account national legislation and sovereignty;

"c) Respect for the knowledge and rights of indigenous peoples and members of  local communities, by taking into account relevant international obligations, national  circumstances and laws, and noting that the United Nations General Assembly has adopted  the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;

"d) The full and effective participation of relevant stakeholders, in particular indigenous peoples and local communities, in the actions referred to in paragraphs 70 and  72 of this decision;

"e) That actions are consistent with the conservation of natural forests and biological diversity, ensuring that the actions referred to in paragraph 70 of this decision are not used for the conversion of natural forests, but are instead used to incentivize the protection and conservation of natural forests and their ecosystem services, and to enhance  other social and environmental benefits;

"f) Actions to address the risks of reversals;

"g) Actions to reduce displacement of emissions." (FCCC/CP/2010/7/Add.1).


Text from UNFCCC Decisions


Selected UNFCCC decisions on indigenous people and local communities

In 2015 at CP.21, the preamble to the Paris Agreement included:

"Acknowledging that climate change is a common concern of humankind, Parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity". (FCCC/CP/2015/L.9/Rev.1)


In 2009 at CP.15, Decision 4:

"3. Encourages, as appropriate, the development of guidance for effective engagement of indigenous peoples and local communities in monitoring and reporting". (FCCC/CP/2009/11/Add.1 Page 12)


In 2007 at CP.13, the preamble to Decision 2 on Reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries: approaches to stimulate action included:

"Recognizing also that the needs of local and indigenous communities should be addressed when action is taken to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries;

"...2. Encourages all Parties, in a position to do so, to support capacity-building, provide technical assistance, facilitate the transfer of technology to improve, inter alia, data collection, estimation of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, monitoring and reporting, and address the institutional needs of developing countries to estimate and reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation". (FCCC/CP/2007/6/Add.1)


Selected UNFCCC decisions on REDD+ National Forest Monitoring Systems and MRV guidance

In 2009 at CP.15, Decision 4 on Methodological guidance for activities relating to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and the role of conservation,sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries included:

"To establish, according to national circumstances and capabilities, robust and transparent national forest monitoring systems and, if appropriate, sub-national systems as part of national monitoring systems that:

"Use a combination of remote sensing and ground-based forest carbon inventory approaches for estimating, as appropriate, anthropogenic forest-related greenhouse gas emissions by sources and removals by sinks, forest carbon stocks and forest area changes; "Provide estimates that are transparent, consistent, as far as possible accurate, and that reduce uncertainties, taking into account national capabilities and capacities; "Are transparent and their results are available and suitable for review as agreed by the Conference of the Parties." (FCCC/CP/2009/11/Add.1)


In 2013, CP.19 adopted the decisions of the Warsaw Framework. Decision 11 on Modalities for national forest monitoring systems includes:

"3. Also decides that robust national forest monitoring systems should provide data and information that are transparent, consistent over time, and are suitable for measuring, reporting and verifying anthropogenic forest-related emissions by sources and removals by sinks, forest carbon stocks, and forest carbon stock and forest-area changes resulting from the implementation of the activities referred to in decision 1/CP.16, paragraph 70, taking into account paragraph 71(b) and (c) consistent with guidance on measuring, reporting and verifying nationally appropriate mitigation actions by developing country Parties agreed by the Conference of the Parties, taking into account methodological guidance in accordance with decision 4/CP.15;"

"4. Further decides that national forest monitoring systems, with, if appropriate, subnational monitoring and reporting as an interim measure... should:

"(a) Build upon existing systems, as appropriate;

"(b) Enable the assessment of different types of forest in the country, including natural forest, as defined by the Party;

"(c) Be flexible and allow for improvement;

"(d) Reflect, as appropriate, the phased approach decision 1/CP.16, paragraphs 73 and 74; as referred to in decision 1/CP.16, paragraphs 73 and 74" (FCCC/CP/2013/10/Add.1)


Selected UNFCCC decisions on Safeguard Information Systems

Following agreement on the actual safeguards at CP.16, further text was agreed setting out details on how information on these safeguards should be collected and presented.

In 2011 at CP.17, it was greed that Safeguard Information Systems must be in line with the following text:

"a) Be consistent with the guidance identified in decision 1/CP.16, appendix I, paragraph 1; b) Provide transparent and consistent information that is accessible by all relevant stakeholders and updated on a regular basis; c) Be transparent and flexible to allow for improvements over time; d) Provide information on how all of the safeguards referred to in appendix I to decision 1/CP.16 are being addressed and respected; e) Be country-driven and implemented at the national level; f) Build upon existing systems, as appropriate". (Decision 12/CP.17)


In 2013 at CP.19, parties agreed text on the information needed to show that safeguards are being addressed and respected.

Decision 9: "4. Agrees that developing countries seeking to obtain and receive results-based payments... should provide the most recent summary of information on how all of the safeguards referred to in decision 1/CP.16, appendix I, paragraph 2, have been addressed and respected before they can receive results-based payments".


Decision 11 "Acknowledges that Parties’ national forest monitoring systems may provide, as appropriate, relevant information for national systems for the provision of information on how safeguards in decision 1/CP.16, appendix I, are addressed and respected."


Decision 12 covers the timing and the frequency of presentations of the summary of information on how safeguards are being addressed and respected, including:

"1. Reiterates that... developing country Parties... should provide a summary of information on how all of the safeguards referred to in decision 1/CP.16, appendix I, are being addressed and respected throughout the implementation of the activities; 

"2. Also reiterates that according to decision 12/CP.17, paragraph 4, the summary of information referred to in paragraph 1 above should be provided periodically and be included in national communications, or communication channels agreed by the Conference of the Parties;

"3. Agrees that the summary of information referred to in paragraph 1 above could also be provided, on a voluntary basis, via the web platform on the UNFCCC website;" (Decisions all from FCCC/CP/2013/10/Add.1)