Today we stand at a crossroads. As the latest World Meteorological Organization data shows, 1 2019 concludes a decade of unprecedented global heat, melting ice and rising sea levels caused by human activities. Accelerating and scaling up climate action, as well as protecting and restoring major ecosystems, particularly forests, is paramount. Projected pathways, consistent with limiting average global warming to 1.5°C, send a clear message: we need to halve emissions by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2050. 2 If not, we risk failing our young people and future generations who deserve to inherit a healthy and prosperous planet.

Year 2020 must set the agenda for demonstrating robust climate action in the decade ahead. Building on the momentum generated around nature-based solutions by the 2019 Climate Action Summit convened by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, 2020 provides an unprecedented opportunity to chart a new course for nature, and exponentially accelerate action to tackle the climate crisis as part of the COVID-19 recovery response. In 2020, more than ever, we need to understand that by investing in nature, we invest in our health, climate, well-being and the future of the planet.

This is also the year that the Paris Agreement will be reassessed, marking the first time since its adoption that countries will come together to evaluate progress in its implementation. Current national climate targets under the Paris Agreement – nationally determined contributions (NDC) – are inadequate to put humankind on a safe and sustainable path to climate neutrality by 2050. What’s more, greenhouse gas emissions have been on the rise since the landmark agreement was reached in 2015. Action on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries (REDD+), which is a major part of the solution to the climate crisis, is lacking or is poorly addressed in NDC targets around the world. In light of the 2020 global NDC review and upgrade process, the United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (UN-REDD) is working intensively to correct this policy gap, but that work will need to continue and expand over the coming years, as the 2030 horizon approaches. The revisions of Nationally Determined Contributions will also need to incorporate post COVID-19 economic recovery agendas across the forest and agriculture sectors in order to increase ambition and ensure commitments.

Consequently, the work of UN-REDD has never been more relevant. Since its inception in 2008, UN-REDD has been a vanguard initiative on climate and forests, becoming a flagship United Nations partnership for delivering on the Paris Agreement and a dedicated promoter of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in forested countries. UN-REDD is the largest international provider of REDD+ readiness assistance in terms of funding, expertise and geographical scope.

At the twenty-fifth session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP-25), the three heads of the United Nations partner entities of UN-REDD, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), highlighted the importance of UN-REDD as a platform that continues to exemplify REDD+ as a successful instrument that is able and ready to deliver concrete nature-based solutions to the climate crisis. As the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Achim Steiner, declared at COP-25, “REDD+ is a ‘ready to go’ nature-based solution. The UN-REDD Programme provides a platform for the UN to support countries to raise their nature-based NDC ambition.” Qu Dongyu, Director-General of FAO, underlined that “for transformational change to happen we must tackle food security, agriculture and forestry together, and scaling-up solutions is key. UN-REDD is an example of work being done with a wide range of partners that could be scaled up”. The Executive Director of UNEP, Inger Andersen, concluded that “the good news is that there is much greater awareness about the state of our forests than ever before and when we build leadership in one place, we will witness a race to the top to save our planet’s forests.” Nature-based solutions are crucial, not only because they can deliver up to one third of the reductions needed in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, but also because they have benefits that go beyond climate action, notably strengthening the resilience of local communities and conserving biodiversity.

For more than a decade, UN-REDD has demonstrated the power of “working as one” within the United Nations to enable countries to transition from REDD+ readiness to implementation and demonstrated results. For instance, UN-REDD provided knowledge and technical assistance to the first four countries – Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Paraguay – to prepare, appraise and submit their REDD+ payment proposals to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) in full alignment with the provisions of UNFCCC on REDD+, resulting in the channelling of approximately $230 million of climate finance to those countries.

Bold and widespread action must be taken now to safeguard our forests and avert a climate disaster. We will succeed by working together: reconnecting people and nature to implement the Paris Agreement effectively, thereby securing a sustainable future for all. The Programme will continue to build on the best practice approaches, innovations and complementary experience of its three partner entities to deliver as “One United Nations”, providing the network of technical experts and the convening capacity that has underpinned the success of UN-REDD since its inception. As we head toward the future, concerted initiatives, such as the UN-REDD Programme, will play an instrumental role in laying out a solid foundation for a post-COVID-19 economic recovery that addresses deforestation and climate change.

Mette Wilkie
Director of Forestry
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Pradeep Kurukulasuriya
Director – Nature, Climate and Energy
Executive Coordinator – Environmental Finance
BPPS/GPN, United Nations Development Programme
Susan Gardner
Director, Ecosystems Division
United Nations Environment Programme

This report is made possible through support from Denmark, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway, Spain, Switzerland and the European Union.