REDD+: A Win-Win for Climate and Biodiversity


New Scientific Paper indicates that Species Extinctions Could Drop as much as 80 percent with adequate financial support for REDD+

Cancun, Mexico – The rate of extinctions among nearly 2500 of the world's most biologically unique forest species of amphibians, birds and mammals could be dramatically reduced – from 46-80 percent over a period of five years – with adequate financing to support reductions of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

REDD+: Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation "plus" conservation, the sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks

That finding represents one of several encouraging estimates reported by scientists at Conservation International (CI) in a new scientific paper designed to support efforts during the 16th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Cancun, Mexico.

The paper, Biodiversity co-benefits of reducing emissions from deforestation under alternative reference levels and levels of finance (Busch et al. 2010) models national deforestation rates across 85 countries had a REDD+ mechanism been in place during the past five years (2005-2010), and studies the links between REDD+ as a climate mitigation tool, and the potential companion benefits to forest biodiversity. The paper appears online in the scientific journal Conservation Letters.

Among its key conclusions: a REDD+ mechanism would have "substantially reduced" the combined deforestation rate across all 85 countries (compared to actual deforestation rate during that same period). More specifically, "full" financing for REDD+ over five years would have led to a drop in total deforestation of up to 68-72 percent; "partial" financing would have slashed deforestation up to 50-54 percent; and "minimal" financing would have reduced combined deforestation rates by up to 27-29 percent, according to study simulations.

As an added benefit to REDD+ implementation, significant drops in the rate of extinctions would have simultaneously been achieved in all three of the study's financing scenarios to levels well below business as usual (PDF - 177 KB). According to the paper's simulations, during the same five-year sample period, the extinction rate of 2,472 forest species (amphibians, birds, mammals) would have been:

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  • 78-82 percent reduced under "full" financing
    ($28-31 billion USD per year)

  • 71-74 percent reduced under "partial" financing
    ($14-15 billion USD per year)

  • 43-49 percent reduced under "minimal" financing
    ($5-6 billion USD per year)

  • Download this graphic in pdf format (177 KB)

Many of the reductions were attributed to the fact that countries with the most endemic species (found nowhere else on Earth), were also the countries with the highest carbon storage capacity from tropical forests. That, in turn, incentivized those countries' participation in REDD+. Twenty-five high-endemism countries collectively harbor 94 percent of these globally unique and forest-dependent amphibians, birds, and mammals.

Tropical forest species in particular, which make up approximately two-thirds of all known terrestrial species, are increasingly threatened by deforestation from land conversion and consequent habitat loss, the largest factor in forest species extinctions. Meantime, the clearing and burning of tropical forests is estimated to contribute around 15 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change.

"What this research tells us is that REDD+ can be a win-win for the protection of our climate and the preservation of biodiversity," said Dr. Jonah Busch, the report's lead author, and Climate and Forest Economist at Conservation International.

"While any reduction in deforestation and extinction rates would be a welcome achievement, the takeaway is this: the level of REDD+ financing will be the main driver of true progress. Greater financing will lead to greater reductions in deforestation, greater storage of carbon in forests, and greater benefits to biodiversity," said Dr. Busch. "They're all linked."

Dr. Will Turner, report co-author and CI's Senior Director for Conservation Priorities & Outreach added, "What we're seeing is that REDD+ can be a major part of the solution to two of humanity's greatest challenges – biodiversity loss and climate change – at the same time. If adequately financed, REDD+ will be an immediate lifeline to the global biodiversity we all depend on, and is one of the most readily available tools at our disposal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

Dr. Busch cautioned, "Although we can't be sure of the exact number of species that could be saved by a REDD+ mechanism that hasn't been agreed to yet, it could be a great many. We'll have a clearer picture of the benefits of REDD+ as climate finance starts flowing to countries that reduce deforestation."

The paper concludes with a call for participants and observers of climate negotiations in Cancun to collaborate and ensure that the talks deliver a REDD+ mechanism which is (1) fully financed, and (2) designed to incentivize broad participation across many forest countries.

"A detailed REDD+ decision in Cancun would mark a pivotal moment in climate mitigation efforts," Rebecca Chacko, CI's Climate Policy Director added, "But it's just one part of the solution. We also need progress on all the aspects of a climate agreement and a timeline that puts the world on track for achieving that agreement before 2012.

"We believe this is possible, and we're encouraged by the success of recent UN biodiversity talks in Japan, which showed us that 193 countries can come together as a global community and look beyond national agendas to focus on the future of life on Earth and its essential role in human well-being.

"Over these next two weeks, these same countries will have another important opportunity to compromise so that all can benefit. In doing so, they can put us back on course to address one of the world's greatest challenges. Large-scale, long-term climate solutions will only be possible with decisive actions by the UNFCCC – the only international climate body that includes every country in the world."


Notes for Editors:

Biodiversity Co-Benefits Of Reducing Emissions From Deforestation Under Alternative Reference Levels And Levels Of Finance (Busch et al. 2010) appears online in the scientific journal Conservation Letters, and is being highlighted by delegates with Conservation International at the Cancun climate conference (29 November – 10 December). Research was supported in part by a generous grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation. To view, visit Conservation Letters online.

Conservation International (CI) - Building upon a strong foundation of science, partnership and field demonstration, CI empowers societies to responsibly and sustainably care for nature, our global biodiversity for the well-being of humanity. With headquarters in Washington, DC, CI works in more than 40 countries on four continents. For more information about CI's policy positions for COP16, and science around climate change, please visit our special COP16 web page or