Environmental measures or requirements

International Law (UNFCCC)

REDD+ under the UNFCCC

When undertaking REDD+ activities, consistency with conservation of natural forests and biological diversity and enhancement of other social and environmental benefits should be promoted and supported (Appendix I of Decision 1/CP.16). A summary of information on such safeguards should be provided periodically in a country’s UNFCCC national communication (or future communication channels agreed by the UNFCCC). The summary could also be provided, on a voluntary basis, via the UNFCCC web platform.

Joint Implementation (JI) Kyoto Protocol

Documentation on the analysis of the environmental impacts of the LULUCF project, including transboundary impacts, is required in the project design document. If such impacts are considered significant by the project participants or the host Party, an environmental impact assessment must be undertaken in accordance with procedures required by the host Party.

Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)

The Kyoto Protocol (Decision 5/CMP.1) requires A/R projects to document environmental impacts, including on biodiversity and natural ecosystems, and impacts outside the project boundary area. The analysis should also include information on hydrology, soil, fire, pests and disease. If any negative impact is considered significant by the project participants or the host Party, an environmental impact assessment is required in accordance with procedures required by the host country and a description of planned monitoring and remedial measures to address such impacts.

Social and Environmental Standards

REDD+ Social and Environmental Standards (REDD+ SES)

Principle 5 states that the REDD+ programme maintains and enhances biodiversity and ecosystem services. Criteria mandate that biodiversity and ecosystem services potentially affected by the REDD+ programme are identified, prioritised and mapped, and that the REDD+ programme maintains and enhances the identified biodiversity and ecosystem service priorities. Further, the REDD+ programme should not lead to the conversion or degradation of natural forests or other areas that are important for maintaining and enhancing the identified biodiversity and ecosystem service priorities. 


The SocialCarbon Standard includes a variety of indicators from which project proponents may select or develop their own. For forest projects, preapproved indicators include three categories related to environmental safeguards: (a) stock of natural resources and environmental services from which resources of livelihoods are derived (indicators include protected areas, water and soil resources, native ecosystems, etc.); (b) biodiversity (with indicators such as species conservation, natural communities, research and information, etc.); and (c) carbon resource (including indicators for measurement, monitoring, validation and verification, and project performance—leakage and permanence are expected to be addressed under the complementary carbon accounting standard chosen). As the standard is based on continuous improvement there is no minimum requirement for achieving each indicator.

Climate, Community, & Biodiversity (CCB) Standards

CCB Standards require that the project must generate net positive impacts on biodiversity, and atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases over the project lifetime. The project must maintain or enhance any High Conservation Values present in the project zone, such as areas that provide critical ecosystem services or that contain threatened or endemic species, or threatened ecosystems. Potential negative impacts on biodiversity outside the project zone resulting from project activities must be evaluated and mitigated. There must also be an explanation of how double counting of such emissions reductions or removals and other tradable social and biodiversity benefits will be avoided. The use of fertilizers, chemical pesticides, biological control agents and other inputs must be justified and the project must have in place a process for identifying, classifying and managing all waste products resulting from project activities. Invasive species populations must not increase and the use of GMO’s is prohibited.

Gold Level certification is offered to projects that provide significant support to assist communities and/or biodiversity in adapting to the impacts of climate change, or to projects that conserve biodiversity at sites of global significance for biodiversity conservation that meet the vulnerability and irreplaceability criteria of Key Biodiversity Areas (IUCN, 2007).

Donor Financed Initiatives

Germany's REDD+ Early Movers Programme

Other than adherence to the Cancún safeguards and those required for German forest sector cooperation, no additional environmental safeguards have to date been explicitly outlined. 

Forest Carbon Partnership Facility’s Carbon Fund

ER Programs must meet the World Bank social and environmental safeguards and promote and support the safeguards included in UNFCCC guidance related to REDD+. Safeguard Plans must consider social and environmental issues and related risk mitigation measures identified during the national Readiness process (e.g. relevant measures in the SESA process and the ESMF). ER Program host countries must select an appropriate arrangement to ensure that any ERs from REDD+ activities under the ER Program are not generated more than once, or that ERs sold and transferred to the Carbon Fund are not used again by any entity for sale, public relations, compliance or any other purpose.

Developing Country Programmes

Guyana | The Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund and Norway Partnership

Projects funded under the GRIF will follow the environmental safeguards of the partner entities chosen to implement projects. As it stands, partner entities nominated are the UNDP, the IDB and the World Bank. Additional partner entities may be added if the GRIF Steering Committee deems it necessary and if the entities meet standards established by the committee. In addition, “enabling indicators”, upon which payments are dependent, in the 2011 Joint Concept Note include integrated land-use planning and management to protect high priority biodiversity and intact forest landscapes. Progress against the indicators is evaluated by an independent expert chosen by both Guyana and Norway.

Brazil | The Amazon Fund

Brazil does not yet have a common or formal system for addressing safeguards at the national or state level for the implementation of activities that lead to reduced emissions from deforestation. In 2010, however, the Ministry of Environment organised a series of working groups to engage civil society and other governmental agencies to establish criteria for the implementation of safeguards. Civil society organisations presented to the Ministry of Environment Social and Environmental Principles and Criteria for REDD+ as a minimum requirement that public and private REDD activities should comply with. This process continued in 2012 when the Ministry of Environment created a technical panel with experts from civil society to discuss and provide recommendations for the creation of a national Safeguards Information System (SIS) for Brazil. 

Voluntary Carbon Standards

Verified Carbon Standard

Project proponents must identify and mitigate negative environmental impacts, and the application of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or CCB standards is recommended. No safeguards related to ecosystem services or biodiversity are explicitly mentioned, though use of the CCB Standard is advised to demonstrate such safeguards are being implemented.

Verified Carbon Standard | Jurisdictional and Nested REDD+ (VCS JNR)

Jurisdictional proponents must provide information in the monitoring reports with respect to how they have avoided (and where necessary mitigated) negative, and enhanced positive, environmental impacts in accordance with the safeguards contained in Appendix 1 of Decision 1/CP.16 of the UNFCCC Cancun Agreements and relevant jurisdictional (national and subnational) REDD+ safeguards requirements.

Climate Action Reserve: Mexico Forest Protocol

The protocol has a goal that project activities will sustain and/or enhance forest ecosystem functions. All projects must promote and maintain native forests that, when managed, are comprised of multiple age classes and mixed native species. Projects must maintain or increase inventories of live and dead trees over time and do so using a variety of native tree species. The entire project area, including areas outside of activity centers, is monitored with criteria to ensure the composition of mature forest structure is maintained or is increased. Lastly, all areas identified as high conservation value stands must be conserved during the project life.

The Gold Standard Land Use and Forests Framework

Negative environmental impacts are to be mitigated and net ecological impacts to be positive. The introduction of exotic species is forbidden unless a detailed research and analysis can be provided demonstrating that the species will not be invasive. Clearing forests or draining wetlands for plantations makes project activities ineligible. Negative impacts on soil erosion, nutrient availability and water quality and quantity must be mitigated. Additionally, a 15 meter buffer must be established surrounding all water courses using native species. The Standard also requires identification of all IUCN red list species present in the project area and evidence that they will be protected. Positive biodiversity impacts are to be enhanced and negative aspects to be mitigated.  At least 10% of the project area must be identified and managed as a high conservation value area or a protected area following the High Conservation Value (HCV) approach, which considers areas of both environmental and socio-economic or cultural importance. Plantations should be planted in a mosaic and connected through buffer zones and corridors to enable habitat connectivity and enhance biodiversity.

Plan Vivo Standard

Plan Vivo certified projects must be able to demonstrate ecosystem service benefits and interventions designed to maintain or enhance biodiversity. At the very least, project activities should not result in any negative impact on biodiversity or ecosystem services. Planting activities are restricted to native or naturalised species (typically used for rehabilitation of degraded lands) and must not be invasive. Naturalised species are only permitted if there are clear livelihood benefits to planting this type of species above a native one, and if it can be demonstrated that the use of the species will not have a negative impact on biodiversity or ecosystem services in the project and surrounding area.

Projects should also describe the habitat types and main species present in the project area, including any areas of High Conservation Value (HCV) and IUCN red list species present (or locally defined important areas of biodiversity/vulnerable species), how these are likely to be affected by the project and how the impacts will be monitored.

In order to safeguard against any perverse incentives to alter land for the purpose of increasing the payments for ecosystem services to be claimed by participants, project areas must not have been deforested or cleared prior to project start.

Natural Forest Standard

All projects are required to ensure that there is no net loss of biodiversity arising from the project’s existence in comparison with a baseline situation. To achieve this, the standard requires projects to take appropriate measures to protect existing biodiversity within the project area. The biodiversity policy of the project shall be informed by an understanding of the ecosystems and species present within and around the project area, and the likely causes of biodiversity loss.

To assess the biodiversity value of the project area, verify the ‘no net loss of biodiversity’ commitment of NFS projects, and to provide some consistency and comparability of biodiversity measures between projects, the Natural Forest Standard requires projects use the Normative Biodiversity Metric (NBM). The NBM is designed to assess the habitat quality of all land within the project area, including a quantified rating of the biodiversity value of the project. This biodiversity assessment takes account of thepristineness of the land within the project area. The NBM allows the project area to be mapped and divided into categories according to the level of human influence and degradation on the ecosystem. The NBM also takes account of the presence of endangered mammals within the project area in order to more accurately represent the biodiversity significance of the area.

Developed Country Programmes

California | U.S. Forestry Offset Projects (AB 32)

Projects must follow requirements for the recruitment and retention of structural elements (lying dead wood and standing dead trees) important for ecosystem functions. Projects are required to manage native forest species and must maintain age class diversity (no more than 40 percent of forested stands can be in age classes less than 20 years of age). Projects must also maintain or increase carbon in live trees (stocks may not be depleted through harvesting, even if doing so would not cause a reversal). Finally, projects must fulfill all applicable local, regional and national requirements on environmental impact assessments that apply.

Australian Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI)

The CFI legislation contains a ‘negative list’ to identify ineligible activities. The negative list includes environmental issues that could be associated with certain activities. These activities are ineligible because they pose threats to water tables, use invasive species, cause wetland draining or native forest clearing or use materials obtained as a result of clearing or harvesting of native forests. According to the CFI Handbook, biodiversity co-benefits will be promoted under the CFI and projects meeting certain criteria can advertise this feature of their project and seek a premium price for their carbon credits.  In addition, the government will support projects delivering biodiversity benefits through a Biodiversity Fund.