Submissions to the UNFCCC - Reference Emission Levels (REL)

REDD+ is a mechanism that aims to reward developing countries that avoid deforestation and/or implement activities that sequester carbon. To determine the extent to which a country has been able to achieve this, measurements are based on a reference emission level which indicates the carbon that would be emitted in a business as usual situation if there was no REDD+ intervention. Implementation of Reference Emission Levels (REL) has been subject to debate mainly arising from capacity and applicability in the different contexts within and between developing countries.

To guide debate on REL, the ASB Partnership and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) made a submission with key recommendations on an effective implementation approach to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The recommendations and action points were based on evidence from ongoing projects such as ALLREDDI (Accountability and Local Level Initiative to Reduce Emission from Deforestation and Degradation in Indonesia), REALU (Reducing Emissions from All Land Uses) and REDD-ALERT (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation through Alternative Land-uses in the Rainforests of the Tropics).

Below are the highlights of the submission. The full submission can be accessed on the UNFCCC website and on the ASB website here.

 Key points:


Action perspective:

We propose that different REL calculation techniques apply to different stages of forest transition, at (sub)national level, to fulfill fairness and efficiency principles, as a starting point for NAMA and REDD negotiations


Accept that different rationales for REL derivation can coexist within a negotiation framework, targeting short, medium and long term goals

In the absence of an internationally agreed forest definition all efforts to segregate ‘forest’ related emissions as part of land-based emissions remain contested; for example Indonesia’s recent deforestation rate varies from -0.5 to 3% depending on the forest definition used


Acknowledge that the concept of ‘reference level’ of deforestation is non-operational and cannot be used unless a stringent ‘natural forest’ definition can be agreed upon internationally

The assumption that drivers of tree cover transition in an area remain constant in extrapolating historical emissions across heterogeneous local conditions is not appropriate


Accept that linear temporal and spatial extrapolation of historical emission trends is neither a realistic nor a fair basis for determining REL

Evaluation of existing (pre-REDD discussion) ‘planned deforestation’ provides an indication of feasible emissions, as regards infrastructure, labor and capital requirements for conversion


Accept pre-REDD discussion development planning as meaningful input into REDD negotiations, as basis for ‘planned reduction’

Rather than ‘objective’ REL definitions, linked negotiations at the national-international level with that at subnational-national level will have to clarify what a country can and want to take responsibility for as reference emission level within its Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions and/or as basis for supported REDD+ activities


Accept that negotiations on REL have to cross the line from ‘objectively verifiable’ to ‘negotiated’ commitment within nested subnational/national/international agreements

The ‘forest transition’ concept can be operationalized as typology of subnational entities within a large country and/or a regional context; we provide an example for Indonesia and suggest how multiple REL metrics can be used in negotiating subnational commitments to fairly and efficiently reduce emissions at national scale


Invest in the data synthesis needed to replicate a ‘forest transition stage’ typology at subnational level, as element in a (sub)national negotiation process or at country level within a regional negotiation process


Leave your comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
Type the characters you see in this picture. (verify using audio)
Type the characters you see in the picture above; if you can't read them, submit the form and a new image will be generated. Not case sensitive.