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Agents, Assumptions and Motivations Behind REDD+

Creating an International Forest Regime

Simone Lovera-Bilderbeek

​It was hoped that by paying forest dependent peoples and countries for their “service” of conserving their forests, REDD+ would lead to a reduction in deforestation greenhouse gases. The complexities have, however, left some ambiguities. It was never agreed who would pay for the program, and it has been criticized as ignoring the root causes of forest loss. Considering the motivations of those who promoted REDD+ this book proposes remedies to its shortfalls and recommends more efficient, equitable and effective conservation policies.
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Appendix 3: Glossary of key terms

Simone Lovera-Bilderbeek

The definitions below are taken from the UNFCCC Glossary of Climate Change Acronyms and Terms,1. unless otherwise indicated.

Adaptation: “Adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities.”

Afforestation: “Planting of new forests on lands that historically have not contained forests.”

Agent: “An authoritative actor who possesses the ability to prescribe behaviour and to obtain the consent of the governed” (Schroeder, 2010: 320).

Annex I parties: “The industrialized countries listed in Annex I to the Convention, which committed to returning their GHG emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000 as per Article 4.2 (a) and (b). They have also accepted emissions targets for the period 2008–12 as per Article 3 and Annex B of the Kyoto Protocol.”

Carbon market: “A trading system through which countries may buy or sell units of GHG emissions in an effort to meet their national limits on emissions, either under the Kyoto Protocol or under other agreements, such as that among member states of the EU. The term comes from the fact that carbon dioxide is the predominant GHG, and other gases are measured in units called ‘carbon-dioxide equivalents.’”

Carbon sequestration: “The process of removing carbon from the atmosphere and depositing it in a reservoir.”

Certified emission reductions (CERs): “A Kyoto Protocol unit equal to 1 metric tonne of CO2 equivalent. CERs are issued for emission reductions from CDM project activities. Two special types of CERs called temporary certified emission reduction (tCERs) and long-term certified emission reductions (lCERs) are issued for emission removals from afforestation and reforestation CDM projects.”

Clean Development Mechanism: “A mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol through which industrialized countries may finance GHG emission reduction or removal projects in developing countries, and receive credits for doing so which they may apply towards meeting mandatory limits on their own emissions.”

Contact group: “An open-ended meeting that may be established by the COP, a subsidiary body or a Committee of the Whole wherein Parties may negotiate before forwarding agreed text to a plenary for formal adoption. Observers generally may attend contact group sessions.”

COP: “The supreme body of a Convention. It meets once every year or once every two years to review the Convention’s progress.”

Deforestation: “Conversion of forest to non-forest.”

Degradation: “Changes within the forests that negatively affect the structure or function of the forest stand or site, and thereby lower the capacity of the forest to supply products and/or services” (Karsenty, 2012: 7).

Ecosystem: “A dynamic complex of plant, animal and micro-organism communities and their non-living environment interacting as a functional unit” (CBD 1992).

Ecosystem services: The services provided by the regulation, habitat, production and information functions of ecosystems (based on de Groot et al., 2002).

Emissions trading: “One of the three Kyoto mechanisms, by which an Annex I Party may transfer Kyoto Protocol units to, or acquire units from, another Annex I Party. An Annex I Party must meet specific eligibility requirements to participate in emissions trading.”

Forest: Ecosystem with tree crown cover (or equivalent stocking level) of more than 10–30 percent with trees with the potential to reach a minimum height of 2–5 meters at maturity in situ. (Definition used for purpose of this book, based on elements of CBD 1992 and Marrakesh Accords, UNFCCC)

Forest governance: Forest governance comprises (a) all formal and informal, public and private regulatory structures, i.e. institutions consisting of rules, norms, principles, decision procedures, concerning forests, their utilization and their conservation, (b) the interactions between public and private actors therein, and (c) the effects of either on forests. Governance systems set the parameters under which management and administrative systems will operate. (Based on UNESCO2.)

Forest management: Forest management is the application of biological, physical, quantitative, managerial, social and policy principles to the regeneration, tending, utilization and conservation of forests to meet specified goals and objectives while maintaining forest productivity. (Based on UNESCO3.)

Green Climate Fund (GCF): “At COP 16 in Cancun in 2010, Governments established a Green Climate Fund as an operating entity of the financial mechanism of the Convention under Article 11. The GCF will support projects, programmes, policies and other activities in developing country Parties.”

Greenhouse gases (GHGs): “The atmospheric gases responsible for causing global warming and climate change. The major GHGs are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). Less prevalent – but very powerful – GHGs are hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).”

Group of 77 (G-77) and China: “A large negotiating alliance of developing countries that focuses on numerous international topics, including climate change. The G-77 was founded in 1964 under the auspices of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). It seeks to harmonize the negotiating positions of its 131 member states.”

“Hot air”: “Refers to the concern that some governments will be able to meet their targets for GHG emissions under the Kyoto Protocol with minimal effort and could then flood the market with emission credits, reducing the incentive for other countries to cut their own domestic emissions.”

Implementation: “Actions (legislation or regulations, judicial decrees, or other actions) that governments take to translate international accords into domestic law and policy.”

Indigenous Peoples: There is no formal definition of Indigenous Peoples in international law, but according to the UN the term is based on the following elements: self-identification as Indigenous Peoples at the individual level and accepted by the community as their member; historical continuity with pre-colonial and/or pre-settler societies; strong link to territories and surrounding natural resources; distinct social, economic or political systems; distinct language, culture and beliefs; form non-dominant groups of society; and a resolve to maintain and reproduce their ancestral environments and systems as distinctive peoples and communities. (Based on UNDESA4.)

Industrialized country: Annex 1 country (see above).

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): “Established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the UN Environment Programme, the IPCC surveys world-wide scientific and technical literature and publishes assessment reports that are widely recognized as the most credible existing sources of information on climate change. The IPCC also works on methodologies and responds to specific requests from the UNFCCC’s subsidiary bodies. The IPCC is independent of the UNFCCC.”

Joint implementation: “A mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol through which an industrialized country can receive ‘emissions reduction units’ when it helps to finance projects that reduce net GHG emissions in another industrialized country (in practice, the recipient state is likely to be a country with an ‘economy in transition’). An Annex I Party must meet specific eligibility requirements to participate in joint implementation.”

Kyoto mechanisms: “Three procedures established under the Kyoto Protocol increase the flexibility and reduce the costs of making GHG emission cuts. They are the Clean Development Mechanism, Emissions Trading and Joint Implementation.”

Kyoto Protocol: “An international agreement standing on its own, and requiring separate ratification by governments, but linked to the UNFCCC. The Kyoto Protocol, among other things, sets binding targets for the reduction of GHG emissions by industrialized countries.”

Land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF): “A GHG inventory sector that covers emissions and removals of GHGs resulting from direct human-induced LULUCF activities.”

Leakage: “That portion of cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions by developed countries – countries trying to meet mandatory limits under the Kyoto Protocol – that may reappear in other countries not bound by such limits.”

Marrakesh Accords: “Agreements reached at COP-7 which set various rules for ‘operating’ the more complex provisions of the Kyoto Protocol.”

Mitigation: “In the context of climate change, a human intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of GHGs. Examples include using fossil fuels more efficiently for industrial processes or electricity generation, switching to solar energy or wind power, improving the insulation of buildings, and expanding forests and other ‘sinks’ to remove greater amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.”

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs): “Organizations that are not part of a governmental structure. They include environmental groups, research institutions, business groups, and associations of urban and local governments.”

Observers: “Agencies, NGOs, and Governments not Parties to a Convention which are permitted to attend, but not vote, at meetings of a COP … and the subsidiary bodies.”

Offsets: “Offsets are used in regulated emission trading systems to allow companies, instead of reducing its own carbon use, to comply with emission caps by surrendering a carbon credit from projects implemented outside of the boundaries of the emissions trading scheme” (Streck et al., 2009b: 456).

Party: “A state (or regional economic integration organization such as the EU) that agrees to be bound by a treaty and for which the treaty has entered into force.”

Plantation: Tree-dominated land established by planting and/or seeding. It is either (a) of introduced species (all planted stands) or (b) of intensively managed stands of indigenous species, which meet all the following criteria: one or two species at plantation, even age class, regular spacing. (Based on FAO, 1998)

Plenary: “A formal meeting of the entire COP or one of the subsidiary bodies of a Convention. Formal decisions or conclusions may only be taken during plenary sessions.”

Protocol: “An international agreement linked to an existing convention, but as a separate and additional agreement which must be signed and ratified by the Parties to the convention concerned. Protocols typically strengthen a convention by adding new, more detailed commitments.”

Quantified Emissions Limitation and Reduction Commitments (QELROs): “Legally binding targets and timetables under the Kyoto Protocol for the limitation or reduction of GHG emissions by industrialized countries.”

Readiness: “REDD+ country actions including a process of policy design, consultation and consensus building, testing and evaluation for a REDD+ national strategy, prior to scaled-up REDD+ implementation” (Karsenty, 2012: 8).

REDD+ national strategy: “A summary of policy actions a country plans to take to implement REDD+. It reflects the commitment obtained from key actors at the country level in the design of low-carbon development strategies” (Karsenty, 2012: 9).

Reference level: “‘Business as usual’ benchmarks (expressed in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year) for assessing performance in implementing REDD+ activities, taking into account historic data, and adjusted for national circumstances but maintaining consistency with national GHG inventories. They should be submitted voluntarily and updated periodically by Developing Countries to take stock of new knowledge, new trends and any modification of scope and methodologies” (Karsenty, 2012: 9).

Reforestation: “Replanting of forests on lands that have previously contained forests but that have been converted to some other use.”

Regional groups: “Alliances of countries, in most cases sharing the same geographic region, which meet privately to discuss issues and nominate bureau members and other officials for activities under the Convention. The five regional groups are Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), Latin America and the Caribbean (GRULAC), and the Western Europe and Others Group (WEOG).”

Reservoirs: “A component or components of the climate system where a GHG or a precursor of a GHG is stored. Trees are ‘reservoirs’ for carbon dioxide.”

Sink: “Any process, activity or mechanism which removes a GHG, an aerosol or a precursor of a GHG from the atmosphere. Forests and other vegetation are considered sinks because they remove carbon dioxide through photosynthesis.”

Subnational activity: “Activities implemented at the subnational level as part of a country’s REDD+ strategy. Subnational activities can be implemented by governments, local authorities, non-governmental organisations or private entities. They may be embedded in a national or international crediting mechanism” (Karsenty, 2012: 9).

Subsidiary body: “A committee that assists the COP.”

Verification: “Independent third-party assessment of the expected or actual emissions reductions of a particular mitigation activity” (Karsenty, 2012: 9).

Voluntary Carbon Standard: “Certification schemes for emission credits not regulated under the Kyoto Protocol” (Karsenty, 2012: 9).


1. (last visited December 27, 2016).

2. (last visited December 27, 2016).

3. (last visited December 27, 2016).

4. (last visited June 14, 2016).