April 12th 2024

Forest Reference Levels: Combating deforestation and forest degradation


Forest Reference Levels (FRLs) are a key component of efforts to combat deforestation and forest degradation as part of international climate change mitigation strategies. They serve as reference or benchmark values against which a country’s carbon emissions and removals from forests can be measured. FRLs are set based on historical data and projections to provide a baseline against which the success of measures to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) can be assessed.

Main features of Forest Reference Levels:

Basis for emissions: FRLs serve as a baseline against which a country’s emissions from deforestation and forest degradation can be measured. These emissions are often referred to as “forest carbon emissions”.

Responsibility: FRLs are a key instrument for accountability in international climate agreements. Countries participating in REDD+ initiatives should report on their progress in reducing emissions against their established FRLs.

Transparency: Setting and reporting on FRLs requires transparency and data accuracy to ensure the credibility of emission reduction efforts.

Setting Forest Reference Levels:

The process for setting FRLs typically involves the following steps:

Historical data: Countries collect historical data on carbon emissions and removals from forests, usually covering a reference period.

Adjustments: Data is adjusted for factors such as natural disturbances, including forest fires and pest infestations, which can affect forest carbon stocks.

Projections: Projections are made to estimate future emissions and removals based on current and expected trends in land use, forest practices and policies.

Benchmarking: FRLs are calculated as a benchmark and often represent an average of historical emissions and projected emissions over a defined reference period.

Submission and approval: FRLs are submitted to relevant international bodies, such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), for approval.

Importance of Forest Reference Levels:

Forest Reference Levels are a crucial tool in the fight against climate change as they allow countries to track their progress in reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. They also play an important role in international climate negotiations as they provide a way to assess a country’s contribution to global emission reductions.

As efforts to combat climate change intensify, the accurate setting and monitoring of Forest Reference Levels is becoming increasingly important to ensure that forest-related emission reductions are achieved effectively and transparently. These levels are an integral part of the overarching goal of a sustainable and climate-resilient future.

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