By: Chris Meyer, Alisha Staggs and Dana Miller

What do companies, governments, civil society organizations and indigenous peoples have in common? Despite their differences, they share a common interest in reducing deforestation, which accounts for 12 percent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

Leaders from all of these groups met Sept. 23 at the U.N. Climate Summit in New York City to spark action on climate change issues including deforestation. The Climate Summit hoped to rally action around two forest efforts, creating incentives to reduce deforestation in tropical countries through REDD+ policies (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) and eliminating deforestation from the supply chains of commodities such as palm, beef, soy and paper.

The Board of the Consumer Goods Forum — a group of 400 companies with combined sales of around $3.5 trillion — has committed to help achieve zero net deforestation by 2020. However, CGF also has recognized that it cannot solve deforestation on its own, and have called on governments to make REDD+ a priority in a legally binding U.N. climate agreement in 2015.

At EDF, we believe that REDD+ is the best way to reduce deforestation and promote sustainable economic development and that consumer goods companies are in a prime position to support REDD+ in the countries they source from.

Acre, Brazil

The state of Acre, Brazil provides an example of how REDD+ can bring governments, companies and local communities together to reduce deforestation and increase economic development. Acre has committed to reduce deforestation by 80 percent by 2020 compared to a historical baseline from 1996 to 2005, which would prevent 182 to 221 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions (PDF)using REDD+ policies. Also, Acre installed a robust monitoring system of its forests, including satellite imaging to track deforestation.

To reduce deforestation, Acre has created various incentives programs, including:

• Supporting timber certification (PDF) through the Forest Stewardship Council and investing in manufacturing plants to produce more valuable wood products;
• Designing strategies for zero deforestation beef growth (PDF) to produce more cattle on already cleared land; and
• Rewarding indigenous peoples for protecting forests. Indigenous peoples already have received million to restore degraded lands using traditional land use practices, to protect habitats and watersheds, and to preserve their cultures.

As a result of its efforts, Acre reduced deforestation by 60 percent in 2010 compared to a 1996-2005 baseline, while increasing its real GDP by 62 percent since 2002, nearly doubling the national average GDP growth.

In Acre, Brazil, deforestation decreased by 60 percent compared to a 1996-2005 baseline, while GDP per capita increased by 70 percent and cattle herd size increased by 14 percent since 2005.

Scale and international recognition

In contrast to smaller REDD+ projects, Acre’s REDD+ program covers the whole state, and aligns all policies and land-use planning around the joint objectives of reducing deforestation, increasing agricultural productivity, and improving livelihoods. Acre also has harmonized its reduction target, reference level and monitoring system with Brazil’s National Climate Change Policy so the state can link up to the national REDD+ program.

Acre will become the first pilot project for Jurisdictional and Nested REDD+ programs by the Verified Carbon Standard, an offset standard setter, and will become the first jurisdiction to supply compliance grade REDD+ credits. Acre signed a Memorandum of Understanding with California (along with Chiapas, Mexico) and agreements with the Brazilian states of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro and the Brazilian Development Bank to develop guidelines for including REDD+ in  the states’ existing or projected carbon markets. Acre also has received an initial payment of $20 million from the German Development Bank.