In achieving the objective

The effectiveness of a REDD+ programme can be gauged by examining the extent to which a project successfully achieves its goals.

Some examples of goals include the reduction of deforestation and forest degradation, the reduction of fires and the improvement of social safeguards.

For projects to be effective, selected activities should address the root drivers of deforestation, whether that means targeting the actors who are the key drivers of deforestation, or programmes to areas facing the highest deforestation and degradation risk.

In Indonesia, first-generation REDD+ projects are located where they are most likely to deliver biodiversity benefits, although these areas are not necessarily the ones facing the highest deforestation threat, despite the key REDD+ objective of reducing deforestation. A study exploring the spatial overlaps between carbon stocks, biodiversity and projected deforestation threats found that most REDD+ projects in Indonesia were located in areas with higher total species richness and threatened species richness, but with lower carbon densities than protected areas and unprotected forests. Nearly one-quarter of REDD+ project areas were located where deforestation threat was predicted to be relatively high; possibly due to the prominent role of conservation NGOs in the development of REDD+ projects. Yet, the majority of REDD+ project areas were not in highly threatened forests. This suggests that REDD+ projects in Indonesia could be more effective in achieving programme objectives if they were sited elsewhere.

Not siting first-generation REDD+ projects in areas facing the highest deforestation threats limits the opportunity to achieve the greatest benefits for both emissions reductions and biodiversity conservation effectively. If REDD+ is to deliver additional gains for climate and biodiversity, projects will need to focus on forests with the highest deforestation threats. This will have cost implications for future REDD+ implementation, and future research should explicitly assess the costs associated with locating REDD+ projects in forests that are most important for biodiversity. Biodiversity conservation in the context of REDD+ is likely to require additional investment (Murray et al. 2015[1]).

In delivering the benefits

Effectiveness in delivering the benefits concerns how and to what extent the beneficiaries are impacted.

Peru’s Conditional Direct Transfer Programme does not provide direct monetary compensation to members of the monitoring subcommittee for their efforts; rather, the funds that are allocated to communities for conservation are used by members of the monitoring subcommittee for their field trips. A study found that in one community, the monitoring subcommittee members expressed dissatisfaction with the benefits (monetary, food and supplies) that they depend on and use for their field visits, for three reasons: the lack of monetary compensation for their time; frequent delays in the disbursement of funds for monitoring activities; and insufficient resources for fulfilling their monitoring responsibilities. All interviewed members also expressed that they should receive monetary compensation for their work as their involvement in monitoring activities involves significant time away from their families and income-earning activities. Furthermore, there are often delays in the disbursement of funds for forest monitoring. The low level of benefits and the challenges in disbursement have negatively affected local subcommittee members’ satisfaction, perceptions of benefits, and possibly trust in the REDD+ programme. For REDD+ programmes to be effective, the benefits should adequately satisfy and compensate project proponents and beneficiaries for the opportunity costs they face from supporting REDD+ initiatives (Kowler et al. 2020[2]).

In achieving any co-benefits

Effectiveness in achieving co-benefits can be impacted by project location or geographic focus.

In the Kilosa district of Tanzania, the REDD+ initiative provided a significant amount of non-carbon benefits. Village Participatory Land Use Plans (VPLUPs) helped facilitate the implementation of the REDD+ programme, which the majority (95.4%) of respondents believed had facilitated the implementation of the REDD+ initiative. Villagers emphasized the co-benefits they received from the REDD+ programme, such as alternative income-generating activities, environmental education, and better cooking stoves. For example, a loan scheme was cited by villagers as one of the top co-benefits, as it opened new avenues for access to loans and credit that could be used to start up small businesses and increase their income. Villagers could acquire the necessary financial capital and equipment to start or expand their enterprise, satisfy basic needs for their families and repay the loans when they sold agricultural products during the harvesting period.

Still, the case study highlights that understanding the synergy between VPLUPs and REDD+’s associated non-carbon benefits could lead to better planning, design and implementation of future initiatives that combine the two.

Despite overall support for the REDD+ project and the non-carbon benefits it provided, the future availability of the co-benefits was a concern. Villagers expressed fear of the possible unavailability of non-carbon benefits, suggesting the need to increase the future availability of REDD+ funding to sustain the availability of co-benefits. For example, in the context of improved stoves, the villagers’ willingness to embrace the technology needs to be supported with project policies that are enforceable and that promote improved stoves. Unless other tranches of carbon funding are provided to sustain the REDD+ programme, people may become disillusioned.

Overall, the study underscores the need to consider co-benefits in the planning, design and implementation of REDD+. This inclusiveness of NCBs in REDD+ would partly ensure its acceptance by the host communities. Understanding the synergy between VPLUPs and REDD+ with its associated non-carbon benefits could lead to better planning, design and implementation of this initiative.

Measuring policy effectiveness

REDD+ is generally one policy instrument with a complex mix of forest and land governance policies that work together to reduce deforestation and forest degradation in a country.

Measuring policy effectiveness involves identifying ways to achieve more efficient, effective and equitable implementation of national REDD+ schemes. Country-specific contextual conditions and the interactions between existing policies add to the complexity of measuring policy progress in achieving REDD+ objectives.

How will policymakers be able to compare and assess different options for REDD+ instruments such as benefit sharing? Assessing policy performance and policy options is an emerging and critical area of research. It demands multidisciplinary research at different governance levels and assessment frameworks that are flexible and can generate a common understanding of what needs to be assessed.

A study evaluating the effectiveness of the policy mix involved with the Projeto Sustainable Settlements in the Amazon (PAS), an early REDD+ project launched along the Trans-Amazon Highway in the Brazilian Amazon, found that a mix of interventions, including incentives, disincentives and enabling measures may comprise a promising strategy to reduce deforestation rates among small Amazonian landowners. Researchers estimate the impact of the project on 350 participants in the state of Para, with their main result – a 50% decrease in deforestation rates – suggesting that these policies working in tandem can be an effective strategy. Researchers also mention that the long-term on-the-ground presence of the project proponent and the context of gradual implementation of command-and-control measures in the most remote areas probably helped to obtain such encouraging results. While this specific mix of policy interventions may not work in other countries, this approach may be applicable to other areas in the Brazilian Amazon hoping to adopt REDD+ projects (Simonet et al. 2019[3]).


[1] Murray, J.P., Grenyer, R., Wunder, S., Raes, N., Jones, J.P.G., 2015. Spatial patterns of carbon, biodiversity, deforestation threat, and REDD+ projects in Indonesia: The delivery of biodiversity benefits in REDD+. Conservation Biology 29, 1434–1445.

[2] Kowler, L., Kumar Pratihast, A., Pérez Ojeda del Arco, A., Larson, A.M., Braun, C., Herold, M., 2020. Aiming for Sustainability and Scalability: Community Engagement in Forest Payment Schemes. Forests 11, 444.

[3] Simonet, G., Subervie, J., Ezzine‐de‐Blas, D., Cromberg, M., Duchelle, A.E., 2019. Effectiveness of a REDD+ Project in Reducing Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 101, 211–229.