Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute.
REDD-plus and Forest-DRR Research and Development Center.

Text Size


1 About safeguards

(1) About safeguards

The fundamental principles of safeguard are to “conserve effective measures”, and to “do no harm”. The concept was first proposed at the Declaration on Human Environment adopted by the United Nations (UN) Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1972, and has developed as the basis for investment in the World Bank and other organizations. In REDD-plus, safeguards are requirements to be met when implementing REDD-plus activities to avoid negative impacts on the society and the environment, and to reduce any risks that can undermine climate change mitigation measures.

(2) Seven safeguards in the Cancun Agreements

In the 16th Conference of the Parties (COP16) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2011, the parties agreed to promote and support seven safeguard items (shown in the Table below) on REDD-plus activities, as part as the so-called “Cancun Agreements.”

1/CP.16 Article 2 of Appendix 2

ItemClassification Note 1
(a) That actions complement or are consistent with the objectives of national forest programmers and relevant international conventions and agreements;
Forest Governance
(b) Transparent and effective national forest governance structures, taking into account national legislation and sovereignty;
(c) Respect for the knowledge and rights of indigenous peoples and members of local communities, by taking into account relevant international obligations, national circumstances and laws, and noting that the United Nations General Assembly has adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples[UNDRIP];
(d) The full and effective participation of relevant stakeholders, in particular indigenous peoples and local communities, in the actions referred to in paragraphs 70 and 72 of this decision;
(e) That actions are consistent with the conservation of natural forests and biological diversity, ensuring that actions referred to in paragraph 70 of this decision are not used for the conversion of natural forests, but are instead used to incentivize the protection and conservation of natural forests and their ecosystem services, and to enhance other social and environmental benefits;
(f) Actions to address the risks of reversals
(g) Actions to reduce displacement of emissions

Note 1: Classification of Table by FFPRI

Note 2: Five activities; emissions reduction from deforestation and forest degradation, conservation of forest carbon stocks, sustainable forest management, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks

2 Developing safeguards implementation methods that correspond to local circumstances

The on-the-ground actor responsible for the implementation of safeguards are not specified in the Cancun Agreements, but there is a general understanding that all relevant parties involved in REDD-plus activities, such as the government of the host country, donors, civil society, financing organizations, and private sectors, should take part. As REDD-plus activities at the national/sub-national level and at the project level have different characteristics, safeguards can be classified accordingly. Also there are different requirements depending on the source of funds and the schemes that generate REDD-plus credits.

Requirements for the project level safeguards in schemes that generate REDD-plus credits

Under the UNFCCC, safeguards should be promoted and supported when undertaking REDD-plus activities, and a summary of information on how they were addressed and respected should be provided periodically. However, there is no international consensus on what standards and indicators should be used for evaluating the appropriateness of safeguard measures and the level of achievements, given the difference in national circumstances. REDD-plus country participants are required to develop Safeguards Information System (SIS), which they are expected to utilize when providing the summary of information.

The majority of early REDD-plus activities have been carried out at the project level, as compared to the implementation at the national/sub-national levels. Therefore, project-level activities might be the suitable scale to focus on promoting and supporting effective safeguard measures. Various international organizations and NGOs have developed tools to support safeguards at the project level, and the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute (FFPRI), as part of the REDD-plus Safeguards Research Consortium, has compiled "A Guidebook for REDD+ Safeguards" aiming at supporting Japanese project proponents. The guidebook explains how to understand, promote and support the safeguard items of the Cancun Agreements at the project level. Case studies of safeguards in early REDD-plus actions are available in "REDD+ Safeguard Approaches 2014."

The guidebook and case studies

Addressing and respecting safeguards at the project level are major challenges of REDD-plus. REDD-plus Cookbook Annex explains how to effectively implement social and environmental safeguards while accounting for varying circumstances among countries and localities. REDD-plus Cookbook Annex Vol.3“Social Safeguards” has been published in 2017, and Vol.6“Environmental Safeguards” has been published in 2018.

REDD-plus Cookbook Annex Vol.3: Social Safeguards

REDD-plus Cookbook Annex Vol.6: Environmental Safeguards

The FFPRI (as a representative member of the REDD-plus Safeguards Research Consortium) compiled a checklist in 2016 to support project proponents to respect and address the safeguards specified in the Cancun Agreements. In 2018, FFPRI revised and updated this checklist to facilitate the JCM-REDD-plus guidelines.

(1) The relationship between project characteristics and environmental safeguards

In order to effectively and efficiently implement safeguards in REDD-plus projects, the relationship between approaches of emissions reduction and environmental safeguards needs to be well understood. This is because the type of project activity is expected to influence not only the expected negative environmental impacts but also the synergies between carbon and biodiversity. To examine effective and efficient methods of implementing safeguards, we are analyzing how project proponents identified the drivers affecting forest carbon and biodiversity, how they developed measures to address the drivers, and how much those measures overlap.

(2) Identifying important attributes of local communities for safeguards

To develop a guidance on safeguard implementation adapted to the varying situation of REDD-plus target areas, it is important to understand the relationship between the local communities and the forest. The relationship is expected to differ depending on the state of the forest, the social and economic background of the local communities, and surrounding geographical conditions. These analyses can shed light on the attributes of local communities that are more susceptible to negative impacts of REDD-plus.

(3) Predicting the areas that are important for the benefits of local communities

REDD-plus activities usually encompass forests that are important for the conservation and enhancement of carbon stocks and areas where local community use provisioning services provided. It is expected that identifying these areas using remote sensing will enable accurate zoning and incorporation of community needs into planning of REDD-plus activities.