Climate change is a consequence of large amounts of “greenhouse gases” being released into the atmosphere as a result of human activities.  These greenhouse gases trap energy from the sun, as heat, and this in turn heats up the atmosphere and changes the global climate.  One of the main greenhouse gases is carbon dioxide (CO2).  Because trees and other plants are made up largely of carbon, when forests are destroyed, the carbon is released into the atmosphere as CO2.  On the other hand, healthy and growing forests absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, thus reducing the impacts of climate change.  Conserving and sustainably managing forests both reduces releasing of CO2 into the atmosphere and helps to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

In addition to their carbon storage role, forests provide many other products and ecosystem services.  The services include water regulation, soil protection, climate regulation and biodiversity conservation, while the products include timber and non-timber forest products including food and fibre.  These ecosystem services and socio-economic benefits can only be maintained through conservation and sustainable management of forest resources.

  • Forests maintain important watersheds important for downstream communities and industry, for example, the Tuul River serving Ulaanbaatar
  • There are 11,000 Forest User Groups in Mongolia who obtain firewood, wood products and non-timber products from areas they manage
  • Forests provide resilience towards land degradation and desertification
  • Mongolia’s forest ecosystems support important species and biodiversity, Bogd Khan is the world’s oldest National Park
  • Forest landscapes are important for ecotourism, for example, Lake Hussvagall

The UNFCCC stands for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, an international treaty first agreed in 1992, of which Mongolia and almost all other countries in the world are members.  Through the forum of the UNFCCC, countries negotiate agreements to enable the global community to mitigate climate change, as well as to adapt to the impacts of climate change. The UNFCCC provides guidance and support to developing countries in their efforts to combat climate change. For REDD+ specifically countries have to establish four main building blocks which are laid out and described in decisions and guiding documents of several climate change conferences (see question 6).

Drivers are the processes and actors causing deforestation and forest degradation.  These processes can be separated into direct causes,such as forest fire, insect pest damage, illegal logging and indirect causes such as poverty, poor education, market forces and commodity prices, counterproductive policies, among many others.  Climate change may also have an underlying impact on forests, making them more vulnerable to forests fire, pests and melting of permafrost makes them more fragile.

In Mongolia, the biggest drivers of deforestation and degradation are

  • Fire
  • Pest outbreak,
  • Poor forest management
  • Illegal logging.

REDD+ readiness relates to the efforts a country undertakes to develop the capacities and operational systems needed to implement REDD+ in the context the UNFCCC.  Support to REDD+ readiness is provided to countries through bilateral and multilateral initiatives, including the UN-REDD Programme.  This includes both financial and technical support to help countries develop the four elements identified through UNFCCC negotiations:

(1) A national REDD+ strategy,
(2) A national forest reference emission level or forest reference level (FRL),
(3) A national forest monitoring system, and
(4) A system for providing information on safeguards.

The UNFCCC decided in 2010 that REDD+ should be introduced in phases.  During the first phase, a national strategy (or action plan) should be developed, identifying proposed actions, and capacity-building should be undertaken.  The second phase involves the pilot implementation of national policies and measures under the national strategy or action plan, together with further capacity building, and demonstration activities.  This second phase gives a chance for reviewing and eventually correct the planned REDD+ action before their large scale implementation. In the third phase, REDD+ activities leading to reduction of emissions will be fully implemented at national scale and the performance in terms of emission reduction be measured, reported and eventually be verified if the country seeks compensatory payments by the international community.

The decisions of the UNFCCC mean that national governments will be responsible for designing and implementing REDD+ programmes.  This is important because only national approaches have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at a scale that will be globally significant.  REDD+ can only be implemented successfully with the full engagement of all stakeholders whose activities have an impact on forests.  Countries are required to develop national REDD+ strategies describing how emissions will be reduced.  These strategies should also identify who will be responsible for implementing the various policies and measures required to reduce emissions.

In Mongolia, REDD+ is coordinated by the Ministry of Environment and is supported by UN-REDD, FAO GEF, GIZ and other donor parties. REDD+ needs to involve other Ministries and two Technical Working Groups and a Civil Society Forum have been established.

There are various sources of financing for all three phases of REDD+: (1) REDD+ readiness, (2) the pilot implementation, and (3) the full implementation of REDD+.  For phases 1 and 2, countries will need to mobilize “investment financing” to cover the costs of building capacities and of implementing policies and measures to reduce emissions and enhance removals.

REDD+ investment finance is expected to arise from a number of sources including the following:

  • National Budgets – Many REDD+ activities are already being implemented and finance should primarily arise through Mongolia’s own contributions. In addition, through REDD+ strategy and capacity building it may be possible to determine means of ensuring current funds are implemented more effectively, or through policy measures which can improve forest management without costing additional money. The REDD+ program will also examine sustainable financing and ecosystem service payment measures.
  • Private Sector – The role of the private sector as a driver of green investments should contribute to sustainable management of forests, more sustainable agricultural investments, and rural poverty alleviation.
  • Donors – New funding mechanisms like the Green Climate Fund (GCF), just recently established by the UNFCCC, are also expected to be important funding sources for REDD+ investment finance.

Financing for full REDD+ implementation in phase 3, is also known as “results-based finance, and is expected to come mainly from developed countries, including through the GCF and other mechanisms, that want to utilize emission reductions from REDD+ programmes in developing countries in order to support the fulfilment of their own emissions reduction targets communicated to the UNFCCC.  Market-based approaches and private sector finance may also play a role.

A Forest Reference Level (FRL sometimes referred to as FREL) is the benchmark for assessing a country’s performance in implementing REDD+ activities that are intended to reduce emissions.   FRLs are the anticipated future emissions assuming the business as usual scenario (i.e. no action is taken to reduce them) and is based on historical emissions over a reference period, typically the past 10 years and either averaged or trend modelled. National progress in reducing net emissions (i.e. emissions less removals) is measured by comparing actual emissions and removals against the benchmark.  Countries may add adjustments to the FRL to take account of circumstances not reflected in historical data such as post-conflict situations or essential national development needs.    The FRL is expected to be updated periodically (5-10 years) to reflect the changing trends and provide more accurate estimates as new methods and data become available.

MRV for REDD+ refers to Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) of forest emissions and removals. It is used for the three key processes required by UNFCCC in connection with emissions reductions.

  • Measurement is the estimation of greenhouse gas emissions. Measurement of greenhouse gas emissions in REDD+ is based on three main components: 1) a satellite land monitoring system (SLMS); 2) a national forest inventory (NFI); and 3) a national greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory.
  • Reporting is the submission of prescribed information about emissions for a reporting period to UNFCC; and
  • Verification is the independent assessment of the emissions information supplied to the UNFCCC; Verification involves the submission of estimates, methods and data used for emissions and removals calculations for international and public scrutiny.

On the one hand, since REDD+ will results in climate mitigation, improved adaptation to climate change, and other environmental impacts, everyone will benefit from REDD+.  On the other hand, some stakeholders can expect to benefit more directly from implementation of REDD+.

Some REDD+ policies and measures, for example, establishing new protected areas, or strengthening forest law enforcement, require only an investment in the necessary activities to achieve the expected results.  Others, which involve changing behaviour of stakeholders, may require the provision of positive incentives in order to achieve the desired result.  A classic example of this is if rural poor are using the forests unsustainably because of limited alternatives for income generation.  To encourage the adoption of more sustainable behaviour, the national REDD+ programme may offer incentives in the form of cash, or investments in socio-economic development projects.  Thus the rural poor are likely to benefit directly form REDD+ investments, and as part of the national REDD+ strategy or action plan, it will be necessary to define both who will benefit directly and how these direct benefits will be delivered.

The UNFCCC decided in 2010 (Cancun agreement) that as countries implement REDD+ they should promote and support a number of important social and environmental safeguards.  These include: (1) REDD+ actions should be consistent with the objectives of national forest programmes and relevant international agreements; (2) the governance structures should be transparent and effective taking into account national legislation and sovereignty; (3) knowledge and rights of indigenous peoples and members of local communities should be respected; (4) relevant stakeholders should have full and effective participation; (5) the conservation of natural forests and biological diversity should be ensured and the conversion of natural forests to plantations or other land uses be avoided, as well as (6) actions be developed to address the risk of reversal and (7) the reduction of emission displacements.

The first step is the FRL submission to and approval by UNFCCC (see Question 9). Approval is done by means of a panel of independent experts.  The FRL will also be made publicly available on the UNFCCC website for anyone to scrutinise.  At the point when a country intends to make a claim for results-based payments, the results of the emissions reductions for the reporting period will be submitted to UNFCCC. These and all the relevant supporting information, including the estimation methodology and data used. will undergo a further technical analysis of the results to verify the estimates of emissions reductions. All information will be publicly available on the UNFCCC website.

An NFMS is the organisational framework, data collection, data analysis and data dissemination procedures and activities required for a country to transparently report on its forest related greenhouse gas emissions and to allow the country to measure the success of the policies and measures that it introduces to achieve emissions reductions.  Typically, the NFMS will embrace the processes such as national forest inventories, greenhouse gas inventories and will usually take advantage of satellite earth observation methods and data.  The NFMS will also provide the framework for REDD+ MRV which is a phrase coined specifically to describe the measurement, reporting and verification of emissions reductions for UNFCCC.  Measurement will be supported by the various inventory processes of the NFMS; Reporting will be facilitated by the databases that underpin the NFMS; and Verification (undertaken by external auditors) will be facilitated by the report and supported by the data from the NFMS so that the results can be reproduced independently.

A National Greenhouse Gas Inventory (GHGi) is the result of the estimation of all greenhouse gasses emitted by a country across the five key sectors; Energy, Industry, Transport, Waste and AFOLU (Agriculture, forestry and other land uses).

Conserving and managing forests sustainably through REDD+ will provide many benefits especially for rural communities and land owners using the forests for their livelihood. Forests contribute towards the long-term sustainable development of Mongolia and are an integral part of this process. A development of adequate benefit sharing mechanisms during the establishment of REDD+ in countries is therefore an important task when decisions are to be made about implementing and distribution mechanisms. The rights and interests of all relevant stakeholders, especially those who have to carry the consequences of REDD+ related decisions, have therefore to be respected and taken into account when designing incentives for REDD+ interventions.

Mongolia developed a REDD+ Readiness Roadmap in 2013 and is now engaged in readiness activities developing the four building blocks for REDD+, namely: (1) REDD+ strategy or action plan, (2) forest (emission) reference levels (FREL, FRL), (3) national forest monitoring system (NFMS), and (4) safeguard information system (SIS) including the related   capacity including for relevant stakeholders. The REDD+ programme in Mongolia is in its initial stages and it is expected to achieve REDD+ readiness by the end of 2018.