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Brazil Releases Forest Reference Emission Level Assessment, Kickstarting Participation in REDD+

Brazil has created the first Forest Reference Emission Level (FREL), a technical assessment that will measure the country’s reductions in global warming emissions from deforestation.

Deforestation is responsible for an estimated 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, and reducing deforestation emissions is a central part of mitigating climate change, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

The Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation plus Pro-Forest Activities Program (REDD+), a global mechanism to quantify and value the carbon-storage services that forests provide — approved at the Warsaw UN climate negotiations last November — is enabling countries to receive results-based payments for reducing emissions that result from deforestation; Brazil’s FREL assessment sets the baseline for future reductions. UCS says scientifically rigorous FRELs are a linchpin to the credibility of REDD+ as a way to reduce deforestation.

“We are thrilled to see Brazil release the first FREL,” said Doug Boucher, director of UCS’s Tropical Forest and Climate Initiative. “After years of negotiations, it’s exciting to watch Brazil take the first step on the official REDD+ yellow brick road. And even more exciting is that their baseline, 908 million tons of CO2 per year for the period (2011-2015), is detailed and based on the best available science.

“The evidence used to develop Brazil’s FREL, including satellite images showing deforestation and measurements of the carbon content of Amazon forests, is publicly available through the Brazilian Space Research Institute. With this publically available information, scientists around the world can review the science on which Brazil’s payments for reducing deforestation are made.”

A recent UCS report about the successful reductions of deforestation emissions across the globe found that Brazil has reduced its global warming pollution more in the last decade than any other country. While future updates of Brazil’s FREL could be improved by including forest degradation and other biomes besides the Amazon forest, Boucher says this initial step is an excellent example for other countries to follow in coming months.

While Brazil’s FREL will hopefully spur other countries into action around reducing deforestation, many — including the UN — are still looking to the private sector to drive the necessary momentum to produce large-scale change in this area.

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