Helen Clark: Speech at the REDD+ post-2015 COP21 side-event

Dec 8, 2015

I am pleased to join this event today on the importance of forests and REDD+ for climate change action and sustainable development in the post-2015 “era of implementation”.

As the largest terrestrial storehouses of carbon, forests play a massive role in climate change mitigation. They are also a vital source of energy, water, livelihoods, and biodiversity. The health of forests is essential for 1.6 billion people, including many of the world’s poorest people who depend on them directly for their food, fuel, shelter, and medicine.

Yet, despite these benefits, vast areas continue to be deforested each year. That cannot go on if global warming is to be arrested. Stopping deforestation and forest degradation is the single largest and quickest mitigation measure available.      

With the adoption of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September and the expected new agreement on climate change here in Paris, there is a major opportunity to advance an ambitious forest agenda.

SDG 15 explicitly recognizes the importance of forests, urging the international community to “protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and biodiversity loss”.  REDD+ actions are already contributing to the achievement of these objectives.

Progress on REDD+ implementation and UN support through UN-REDD

Much has been achieved on advancing REDD+. Major steps were taken at COP19 with the adoption of the Warsaw Framework for REDD+. This year, technical guidance has been developed on the measures necessary to realize results-based payments for forest and land-use related climate mitigation efforts through REDD+.     

Leading up to this COP, it has been encouraging to see that  64 partner countries from Africa, the Asia-Pacific, and Latin America have received REDD+ “readiness support” through the UN-REDD Programme which is jointly implemented by FAO, UNDP, and UNEP. This has helped countries to design and implement the monitoring systems, platforms, policies, and measures which need to be in place to reduce deforestation and forest degradation.

UN-REDD is a clear demonstration of the UN system’s support for a strong outcome on forests and REDD+ here in Paris. We will later hear from some of our partner countries on what has already been accomplished, as well as on their future ambitions.

Complementing these national-level efforts is the UN-REDD Programme’s Community-Based REDD+ (CRB+) initiative, which was launched in 2014 in partnership with the Global Environment Facility’s Small Grants Programme. This initiative delivers grants directly to indigenous peoples and forest communities to support them to engage more fully in REDD+ processes. The first rounds of CBR+ grants have already been disbursed in Cambodia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Panama, and Sri Lanka.

Looking ahead: UN-REDD Strategic Framework for 2016-2020

Much more can be done post-Paris to ensure that REDD+ makes a meaningful contribution to closing the greenhouse gas “emissions gap” – that is the gap between current reduction pledges and what is needed to stay under a two degrees Celsius global temperature rise above pre-industrial levels.

An ambitious agreement here in Paris should include a framework to encourage scaled-up REDD+ action and resources. That would be aided by both the allocation of sufficient financial resources and the provision of results-based financing, consistent with what countries have already agreed under the UNFCCC. 

The UN-REDD Programme can make a strong contribution to strengthening delivery of REDD+ support post-2015.

The new UN-REDD Strategic Framework for 2016-2020 will be important in this regard. It prioritizes national-level actions, helping governments to craft and implement policies and measures for REDD+, supported by multi-stakeholder dialogues and partnerships to address key drivers of deforestation. For example, working with UN-REDD partners, UNDP’s Green Commodities Programme will continue to promote innovation in sustainable agriculture commodity supply-chains to achieve the goal of zero deforestation in supply chains.

Taking a developmental approach, national REDD+ policies and measures supported by UN-REDD through the new Strategy, will not only aim to reduce emissions but also will strive to advance social inclusion, gender responsiveness, and realization of the resource rights and development priorities of indigenous peoples and local communities.  

Finally, the new UN-REDD Strategic Framework will support countries to address and respect social and environmental safeguards to ensure high standards in REDD+ actions and results.

We are confident that the UN-REDD supported work can serve as a model for how countries can design and deploy policies, partnerships, and finance for sustainable development more broadly.

At UNDP, we will continue to work closely with our UN-REDD partners, FAO and UNEP, along with other key partners like the World Bank, and together with governments of developed and developing countries, governors of states and provinces, the private sector, civil society, and indigenous peoples to advance action on reducing deforestation, build on the momentum for REDD+ implementation, and carry forward our partnerships beyond Paris.

In our work around the world, we see that realizing the full contribution of forests to sustainable development requires a truly multi-stakeholder approach – and one which must be inclusive of indigenous peoples and local communities who play a critical role in protecting the world’s remaining forests. Facilitation of their active engagement in decision-making processes is vital for success.


Keeping up the momentum on forest action must remain a priority for the international community as countries embark on unprecedented transformations to meet ambitious sustainable development and climate change objectives.

UNDP and the whole UN development system are committed to support countries with the implementation of the relevant global processes, including the SDGs and agreements reached on climate change. We will play our full part and lend our voice to the global efforts to advance the forests agenda in the post-2015 era.

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