International Law (UNFCCC)

REDD+ under the UNFCCC

Developing countries are invited, on a voluntary basis, to submit proposed forest reference emission levels and/or forest reference levels (REL/RLs) to the UNFCCC; the secretariat will make such information available on the UNFCCC REDD web platform. Once a year, sessions will be organized for the technical assessment of submitted forest REL/RLs, the objective of which are to assess the degree to which information provided is in accordance with the guidelines and to offer a facilitative, non-intrusive, technical exchange of information on the construction of forest REL/RLs with a view to supporting the capacity of developing countries for the construction and future improvements of their forest REL/RLs. Additional verification rules may be developed if REDD+ is included in a market mechanism in the future. 

Kyoto Protocol Land use, Land-use Change and Forestry

Each report (see Monitoring and Reporting) submitted by an Annex I Party is subject to review by international expert review teams (ERTs) to provide a thorough technical assessment of the Party’s implementation of the Kyoto Protocol. If an ERT finds a Party’s inventory incomplete, or prepared in a manner inconsistent with IPCC methodologies, IPCC Good Practice Guidance for LULUCF, or the IPCC Good Practice Guidance and Uncertainty Management in National Greenhouse Gas Inventories, it may recommend the application of an ‘adjustment’. If the ERT identifies a problem with a Party’s implementation of a particular mandatory commitment that is not resolved by the Party during the review, the ERT has the authority to list the problem as a ‘question of implementation’ in its final report. All reports are forwarded to the Compliance Committee for consideration. During the annual review and in the true-up period, ERTs assess reported information on holdings of Kyoto Protocol units and on their transactions, and compare this information with that maintained by the International Transaction Log (ITL). If an ERT identifies a problem with a particular transaction, it may recommend a ‘correction’ to the Kyoto units.

Joint Implementation (JI) Kyoto Protocol

A Designated Focal Point serves as the responsible agency for administering JI project activities within their respective jurisdiction. Where a host country qualifies for Track 1, it can define methodologies, approve projects, set its own verification requirements and decide on the issuance of ERUs. Track 2 countries must follow a procedure and project cycle similar to CDM. Project proponents must submit a project design document and are subject to validation by an Accredited Independent Entity, whose report is then submitted to the Joint Implementation Supervisory Committee for appraisal. Emissions from the project must also be verified independently.

Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)

Projects must either use an approved A/R methodology, or propose a new one to the Executive Board for consideration and approval when seeking registration. The project cycle for CDM projects include: (1) development of a project design document, making use of approved baseline and monitoring methodologies; (ii) securing a letter of approval from the Designated National Authority; (iii) project validation, i.e. an independent evaluation of a project activity by a designated operational entity (DOE) against the requirements of the CDM; (iv) registration or formal acceptance by the Executive Board of a validated project, (v) monitoring, (vi) verification and certification, i.e. the independent review of the monitored reductions in emissions and written assurance that the project activity achieved the emissions reductions as verified; and (vii) issuance of tCERs or lCERs.

Social and Environmental Standards

REDD+ Social and Environmental Standards (REDD+ SES)

A 10-step process for REDD+ SES implementation is outlined in the Guidelines.  It starts with awareness raising and capacity building, establishes a joint government and civil-society Facilitation Team, creates a multi-stakeholder Standards Committee, develops a plan for the SES process, drafts country-specific indicators, organises consultations, prepares monitoring and assessment plans, collects monitoring information, reviews a draft assessment report and ends with ensuring the report is made publicly available. A formal process of verification, such as an independent check on the quality and accuracy of the assessment, is not yet included. The primary means of ensuring quality and accuracy of the REDD+ programme performance assessment is through full and effective participation of rights holders and stakeholders in the assessment process. Final assessment reports are published, made public on the REDD+ SES website, and reviewed and approved by the country-level Standards Committee. An international review mechanism is under development to assess the quality of the process followed to use REDD+ SES at country level and the extent to which the Guidelines have been fully applied. The international mechanism will act as a mechanism to offer feedback, guidance and support to countries using REDD+ SES and will also act as a quality control mechanism for claims made in relation to the use of the REDD+ SES.


An Approved Organization selects, adapts or creates indicators applicable to monitor the project’s contribution to sustainable development, collects necessary information for assessment of each indicator, and produces a SocialCarbon Report, complying with the template and guide. Independent auditing, verification and validation by a third party, based on the SocialCarbon Report, is required.

Climate, Community, & Biodiversity (CCB) Standards

All projects seeking approval under the CCB Standards must be validated to determine that the project design conforms with the Standards, and must subsequently be verified to determine that the project has been successfully implemented, and has generated net positive climate, social, and biodiversity benefits in accordance with its validated design.[1] Verification enables the addition of a “CCB Label” to verified emissions reductions delivered under a carbon accounting standard such as VCS or CDM.

Validation requires that the project design documentation (PDD), a detailed description of the project and the ways in which it meets the required and optional criteria of the CCB Standards, is prepared in a way that facilitates assessment by the public and the auditor. A qualified, approved auditor must undertake the validation. Verifications must be carried out at least every five years. If the Climate Section was waived for CCB Validation because the project met the requirements of a Recognised GHG Programme, the project must be verified to the CCB Standards each time that it is verified to the Recognised GHG Programme.

The CCB Standard can be combined with any variety of REDD+ and other forest carbon standards, for example, CCBA and VCS have recently partnered to streamline dual registration with both the VCS AFOLU Requirements and CCB Standards Second Edition. Project proponents can now use the same templates for project descriptions, monitoring and implementation reports, validation reports and verification reports for VCS and CCB Standards Second Edition.[3] Templates for VCS and CCB Standards Third Edition are in development.

Donor Financed Initiatives

Germany's REDD+ Early Movers Programme

Cooperation is based on a bilateral agreement between the REM Programme and the respective country. Contractual agreements stipulate the requirements for payments. The verification of emission reductions can be done either by an independent panel of experts or an accredited third party reviewer. The exact determination of the process is part of the bilateral negotiations. 

Forest Carbon Partnership Facility’s Carbon Fund

Carbon Fund Participants review and assess early proposals in the form of Emission Reduction Program Idea Notes (ER-PINs) submitted by participating countries or authorized entities, and provide advice on how to improve them. Those selected enter into the pipeline of the Carbon Fund portfolio, and a Letter of Intent is signed between the country/authorized entity and the World Bank (as trustee of the Fund). Then REDD+ countries or entities revise the proposals and submit an “ER Program Document” (ERPD) for approval. After the ERPD is selected, the country/entity enters into the ER Purchase Agreement (ERPA) negotiation and eventual signing. Finally, the ER Program is implemented, verified and payments made to the country/entity following the monitoring and reporting process mentioned above.

Developing Country Programmes

Guyana | The Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund and Norway Partnership

The Joint Concept Note between the Governments of Guyana and Norway sets out how Norway provides financial support to Guyana based on delivery of results as measured against two sets of agreed indicators: REDD+ Performance and Enabling Activities. Monitoring reports are generated on an annual basis, and performance is independently verified by one or more neutral expert organisations appointed jointly by Guyana and Norway. Once verified, payments are calculated applying an interim carbon price of US$5/ton CO2. Norway then makes a contribution to the Guyana REDD-plus Investment Fund (GRIF).

Brazil | The Amazon Fund

The Ministry of Environment is responsible for preparing a technical note defining reduced emissions based on the data produced by the National Institute for Spatial Research. A Technical Committee (CFTA)—comprised of specialists with notable technical and scientific knowledge appointed by the Ministry of Environment after consultation with the Brazilian Forum for Climate Change—meets once a year and attests that the carbon emissions calculated by the Ministry of Environment is correct.  Participation in the CFTA is considered of public interest and members do not receive remuneration.  The Ministry of Environment then sends the report to BNDES.

Voluntary Carbon Standards

Verified Carbon Standard

Projects developed under VCS must (i) apply an approved methodology or develop and submit a new one for approval (which requires assessment by two separate validation/verification bodies), (ii) submit a project description (PD) using the VCS PD template for validation by an accredited, third-party validation/verification body (VVB), (iii) monitor emission reductions, (iv) have emission reductions verified by a VVB, (v) register the project with a VCS registry operator and request issuance of VCUs, the unit of VCS credits. Validation and verification may happen simultaneously or sequentially.

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

The detailed steps for validation and registration of jurisdictional REDD+ programs and baselines, and verification and issuance of jurisdictional VCUs are contained in VCS documents JNR Validation and Verification Process and JNR Registration and Issuance Process. The validation and verification process involves the following steps: (1) Jurisdictional proponent develops jurisdictional element documentation (e.g., jurisdictional program/baseline description for validation and monitoring report for verification); (2) Jurisdictional element documentation posted for 60-day public stakeholder consultation; (3) Validation/verification body (VVB) assesses jurisdictional element documentation; (4) Jurisdictional REDD+ expert panel peer reviews jurisdictional element documentation (where relevant); (5) Final review and approval by the VCS Association. Validation and verification may happen simultaneously or sequentially. The process also lays out requirements for the jurisdictional REDD+ expert approval and selection process.

The registration and issuance process involves the following steps: (1) Jurisdictional proponent requests registration (after validation) and/or issuance (after verification); (2) VCS registry administrator reviews jurisdictional element documentation; (3) VCS registry administrator registers jurisdictional program/baseline and/or issues VCUs. The process also lays out requirements for the operation of the jurisdictional pooled buffer account.

Climate Action Reserve: Mexico Forest Protocol

Mexican Forest Carbon Projects must undergo a site verification at the project initiation and site verification every 5-years hence. Verification activities are designed to ensure all protocol requirements are upheld. Site verification is designed to be efficient and robust and includes a random inspection of individual inventory plots and standardised statistical analysis.

Verification teams must include at least one forester with a degree in forestry. A Forest Project is considered automatically terminated if the Project Developer chooses not to report data and undergo verification at required intervals.

The Gold Standard Land Use and Forests Framework

The first step in creating Gold Standard A/R offset credits is an initial pre-validation desk review, known as the ‘pre-feasibility assessment’, conducted by the Gold Standard Secretariat to determine whether the project is likely to satisfy Gold Standard regulations. This is different than many other standards in which a pre-validation is carried out by an independent verification/validation body (VVB). Following a successful pre-validation the project becomes ‘listed’ as a Gold Standard project. The project developer then submits the project for initial certification by a VVB and the Gold Standard Secretariat and key stakeholders (i.e. Gold Standard NGO supporters active in the host country of the project or internationally) carry out a review of the VVB’s certification report. Once all necessary corrections have been completed the project is ‘registered’ as a Gold Standard project. The initial certification is followed later by a monitoring certification (or performance certification) to verify emission reductions and removals, to be completed at least every five years.

In order to address the issue of up-front finance the Gold Standard allows for credits to be issued after each certification. After the initial certification a project can issue the expected amount of emission reductions as ‘Validated CO2 certificates’, which will be reviewed by an independent verifier to confirm that the expected number of CO2 certificates is realistic and conservatively calculated. These can be sold to a buyer as an expected verified CO2 certificate. Validated CO2 certificates cannot be retired and must first be verified. Credits that are issued after reductions have been confirmed can be sold and retired as ‘Verified CO2 certificates’.

Plan Vivo Standard

Plan Vivo projects are encouraged to start as pilot projects and scale up regionally. Plan Vivo also allows for project activities that meet the pre-established criteria to be grouped with existing projects in order to achieve scale. Projects first (i) submit a Project Idea Note to be evaluated by the Plan Vivo Foundation, next (ii) a Project Design Document (PDD) containing the technical specifications is submitted and evaluated, (iii) the project then runs a “pilot activity cycle” where it is implemented and subsequently validated by the Plan Vivo Foundation or a selected expert reviewer and later registered, (iv) and a third-party validation/verification body conducts a verification every five year., Projects normally expand during this time period to include more participant communities and project areas. Where projects are not meeting expected results and emission reductions, corrective actions are imposed and in the case of significant losses, e.g. due to natural disasters, cancellation can be made from the pooled Plan Vivo risk buffer.

Plan Vivo takes a unique approach to project crediting in that it allows for both ex-post and ex-ante methodologies to generate Plan Vivo Certificates, depending on the project and activity, which means that projects can issue and retire credits for reductions before they occur. The standard requirements are the same for both ex-ante and ex-post methodologies. According to the Plan Vivo Standard, allowing for ex-ante crediting has proven to be particularly instrumental in getting reforestation and afforestation activities projects off the ground. It demonstrates the highly additional nature of such activities, where poor rural communities lacking any access to funding for project start-up costs and have historically been excluded from carbon markets.

Natural Forest Standard

Natural Forest Standard projects submit a Project Idea Note (PIN) which is reviewed by the NFS Secretariat and if accepted is listed on the project index page of the NFS website as “PIN submitted”.  The project must then develop a Project Design Document (PDD), a detailed document including all the information necessary for the independent validation of the proposed project against the Natural Forest Standard requirements, including a management plan and methods for quantifying and monitoring the proposed project.  

Independent validation is required to determine that the project conforms to the Natural Forest Standard requirements and the project proponent shall select an appropriate independent Validation/Verification Body (VVB) to carry out the validation of the project. VVBs must be accredited under ISO 14065 to validate/verify under ISO 14064-3. The PDD, along with any other appropriate documentation is submitted to the selected VVB for commencement of validation.  Following successful completion of this stage, the project is registered as an “Active NFS project”. 

Verification must be completed, prior to credit issuance and requires a site visit by the VVB. Project implementation is verified by an independent VVB under ISO14064-3 guidelines. Project developers must produce a Project Implementation Report (PIR) annually that describes the project and monitoring activities that have been implemented and the outcomes of such activities. For verification purposes the PIR must include the quantification of carbon benefits, the biodiversity rating, social impact information and general progress of the project since the start of the project. The PIR and all other relevant documentation applicable to the verification of the project are then submitted to the VVB. 

The standard requires periodic verification of carbon assertions to be carried out as a desk-based audit on an annual basis, prior to credit issuance. Full verifications including a site visit are required at the initial verification stage and at intervals no greater than 5 years. The standard also requires the PIR to be submitted for publication on the project index page of the NFS website. NCC issuance is dependent on an annual report being submitted for the time frame corresponding to the quantification time period. NCC issuance is ex-post and shall only follow the successful completion and acceptance of all verification documentation and upon credit issuance, the project will be listed as “Verification approved, NCCs issued” on the NFS project index.

The project shall develop and maintain a management plan describing the measures to be taken to reduce deforestation and degradation of natural forests. The plan shall include appropriate leakage mitigation measures, and measures planned to benefit biodiversity and local communities.  Projects shall also establish and maintain a monitoring system describing the activities to be undertaken to monitor carbon stocks, and the impacts on local communities and biodiversity.

Developed Country Programmes

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

Forest Projects must be verified at least every six years. Offset Project Data Reports must be verified (including a site visit, during which the verifier will check if sample plots are measured accurately) by an ARB accredited verification body according to the schedule and regulation requirements. Verification teams must include: At least one Professional Forester, at least one individual with demonstrated competence in forest biometrics, at least one individual with demonstrated knowledge of and competence in the use of forest growth and yield models, and an ARB-accredited Forest Offset Project Specialist. A Forest Project is considered automatically terminated if the Offset Project Operator or Authorised Project Designee chooses not to report data and undergo verification at required intervals.

Australian Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI)

The process for methodology and project development and registration are separated. According to the Guidelines for Submitting Methodologies, methodologies may be submitted by private individuals, industry associations or government agencies and are evaluated by the Domestic Offsets Integrity Committee for their conformance with the CFI’s integrity criteria. Draft methodologies are published and subject to public comment and final approval by the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency.  For project development and registration, the CFI Handbook sets out the process for undertaking CFI projects as follows. Project developers first become a Recognized Offsets Entity (ROE of the CFI) and create a registry account. This step establishes a developer’s identity, and involves passing a “fit and proper” person test. This is followed by the ROE submitting the necessary documentation and project approval by the Clean Energy Regulator, project implementation, project reporting and separate auditing by a registered auditor, review of reports by the Clean Energy Regulator, credit issuance, and closure or transfer of the project. The CFI relies on the audit framework established under the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 2007. External audit reports verify the information supplied by the proponent.