Protecting our Forests: Collective Progress and Innovation


Forests are of vital importance for our planet, providing us with clean air, fresh water and a wealth of biodiversity. They are also essential in the fight against climate change, absorbing vast amounts of carbon dioxide and mitigating the worst effects of global warming. This International Day of Forests, we celebrate the progress made in protecting these crucial ecosystems and the role innovation plays in their management.

The COP28 UN Climate Change Conference in 2023 delivered a clear message: forests are a solution to climate change that offers economic, social and environmental benefits, such as increased resilience and well-being. The global stocktake (GST), which assessed the first five years of global climate action under the Paris Agreement, and concluded at COP28, stressed the importance of countries’ efforts to halt and reverse deforestation and forest degradation in addressing the climate crisis.

The GST recognized achievements made in the last decade under REDD+, a programme that empowers developing countries to reduce deforestation and forest degradation and encourages the sustainable management of forests to protect the climate.

Since the Warsaw Framework for REDD+ was adopted in 2013, 17 countries have achieved a reduction of 11.61 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions through REDD+ activities – more than double the emissions of the United States in 2021. This highlights the collective will to protect forests and the innovative solutions emerging from around the world.

Technology has transformed forest monitoring practices. When UN Climate Change received the first REDD+ reference levels in 2014, some forest maps were only available in analogue format. Today, satellite imagery is widely available and has become one of the primary sources of REDD+ activity data, leading to cost savings and improved data accuracy.

“In Indonesia, the use of technology in national forest management has been very important in the implementation of REDD+ activities. Tools such as satellite monitoring, for example, have been key to tracking changes in forest cover and containing forest fires,” said Syaiful Anwar from Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry, during a side event at COP28 highlighting REDD+ achievements in the last decade.

With technological advancements like satellite monitoring and open-source software revolutionizing forest management, the upcoming revision of national climate plans (nationally determined contributions), due by early 2025, presents a unique opportunity to translate commitments into concrete measures to halt and reverse deforestation and forest degradation by 2030.

As part of efforts to strengthen developing countries’ technical capacity, this week UN Climate Change is hosting the 11th technical assessment of REDD+ reference levels – benchmarks for assessing performance in activities that reduce deforestation and forest degradation under REDD+. The assessment sees countries receive substantive feedback from REDD+ experts through a peer-review process.

Consuela Paloeng, from the National Authority for Sustainable Forestry Management in Suriname, said: “For Suriname, it took almost 15 years to build capacity on a national scale to be able to implement the REDD+ programme. We have built capacity to set up a national forest monitoring system, which includes land monitoring satellites and logging tracking systems. These have enabled us to submit two forest reference emission levels for Suriname and our first biennial update report.”

Nine countries are participating in this year’s technical assessment: Belize, Colombia, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Dominica, Eswatini, Samoa, Suriname and Zimbabwe. Eswatini, Samoa and Zimbabwe have submitted reference levels for the first time. Other countries have improved their methodologies and data from previous submissions and updated their reference levels.

As the GST recognized, further investment and support for REDD+ are critical to maximize its potential in climate action strategies. This includes increased financial resources and technology transfer, which will ensure consistent measurement and reporting and empower developing countries to work more effectively for a greener and healthier planet.