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REDD+ financing’s annual average of USD 323 million might sound like a lot on its own, but compare this to the 41 billion spent on agricultural subsidies and biofuel, and it’s just a drop in the bucket.

This is one of many findings elucidated in a forthcoming study on funding for reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+). The study was led by the international consulting group COWI, along with the Öko-Institut and scientists from the Center for the International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

The team studied REDD+ funding from 2008–2015 to see where it went and how it was spent. A preview was given at Does money go to trees?: Assessing finance flows to maximize the impact of REDD+, an official side event at the recent Bonn Climate Change Conference.


CIFOR team leader Christopher Martius presented some of the study’s findings, starting with the fact that there are two types of funding related to REDD+: indirect funding, which is dedicated to deforestation efforts at large, and direct funding, which goes solely to REDD+ efforts.

The study found that donors commit and disperse much more indirect than direct funding, as the former covers a wider set of issues and tools. Indirect funding also came from a diverse mix of sources – grants, official flows, loans and equity investments – while 99% of direct funding came from official development assistant (ODA) grants. Viewed as aid rather than profit-producing investment, these grants don’t make REDD+ attractive from the business world’s point of view.

REDD+ projects go through three stages: readiness, implementation and payment for results. Funding is still needed for the first two stages to get to the third.

“Support for readiness is going down,” said Martius. “People want to go to payments. But we are not there yet.”

Many developing countries with high emissions reduction potential but low capacity not only rely on funding for readiness and implementation, but also need support that is tailored to their needs, and that balances effectiveness and equity.

What’s more, funding is not everything. It also requires functional systems in place to ensure proper governance, accountability and transparency.

The study found it difficult to determine how much private finance REDD+ efforts receive. Despite growing private sector responsibility and recent commitments to reduce deforestation and improve transparency, the scale and flow types are still quite opaque.

Martius, however, said that fixating on fund flows and their size alone can distract from looking instead for larger ‘triggers for transformational change’. He instead stressed the importance of mainstreaming climate objectives across financial sectors.

“We need to integrate participation, development and climate objectives for conflict-free, lasting results,” he said.


Rather than relying on funds from single revenue streams, countries can – and should, the scientists said – look to diversify their capital sources, in what’s known as blended finance.

Peter Minang, a principal scientist at the World Agroforestry Centre, spoke about how this has manifested in Cameroon. In a performance-based payment experiment where donors are funding community forest enterprises, data is showing positive results for emissions reductions and other benefits such as job creation and capacity building.

However, legal compliance costs such as environmental impact assessments added up, costing thousands of dollars – a large toll for small enterprises to pay.

Minang said that it can often take five years for investors to see returns, and this affects how – and what – they decide to finance. “It is possible to get to Phase 3 [results-based payments], but REDD+ finance flows are insufficient, so it has to be blended.”

Teferu Mengistu, National Forest Sector Development Program Coordinator in the Ethiopian Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, agreed, saying that Ethiopia receives most of its funding from bilateral pledges and commitments.

“Ethiopia is going through phase two [implementation] in the REDD+ process, but there is still a gap between demand and supply for REDD+ finance,” he said.


Asger Strange Olesen, the Global Topic Lead on Land Use and the Bioeconomy at COWI, concluded the session by returning to the research’s analysis of how much funding different global regions received from 2008 to 2015. Africa, he found, received less funding overall – and specifically in key areas, such as drivers and risks; Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) capacity; and forest governance – than the Americas, Asia or Oceania. Governance and safeguards were among the only areas reasonably well-financed.

“Decision-makers see REDD+ as one tool out of many,” Olesen said. “Deforestation is probably one of the hardest problems to tackle in a consumer-based democracy.”

On the ground in Africa, the Network of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities for Sustainable Management of Forest Ecosystems of Central Africa (REPALEAC) champions a traditional approach to forest management, representing 230 organizations in eight countries.

“Elders have the knowledge, but now they are translating it to the younger generation,” said the organization’s spokesperson, Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim.

This has attracted USD 750,000 from the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility capacity-building program, but three of the REPALEAC’s countries – Chad, Burundi and Rwanda – are not FCPC members and therefore remain uncovered. This could become a large problem, so REPALEAC is working to have these countries included in the program.

“We need equity for global impact and protection of the indigenous peoples and local communities of our sub-regions,” she said.

Ibrahim’s point – and one that underpinned the event as a whole – was that REDD+ not only needs more funding, but also proper processes and procedures to ensure money arrives where it’s supposed to, and supports sufficient participation and equity among local stakeholders.

“There is much to work on, before we will see more green results with REDD+ money,” summarized Martius after the event concluded.

The forthcoming research mentioned in this piece is part of CIFOR’s Global Comparative Study on REDD+. Supporters of this research are listed below.

For more information on this topic, please contact Christopher Martius at
This research was supported by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), the European Union (EU), the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), and COWI.
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