Forests and natural ecosystems store large amounts of carbon, both in the vegetation and in the soil. Compared to temperate forests, tropical forests are denser and undergo less significant seasonal fluctuations in carbon flux, constituting important carbon stocks that contribute to the stability of the global climate. Tropical forests are home to about 50% of terrestrial biodiversity and play a key role in regulating the supply of water resources and in soil conservation. According to the United Nations, about 1,6 billion people depended on forests for subsistence in 2011.
Deforestation and forest degradation are greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting activities, particularly carbon dioxide (CO2), contributing to climate change. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change the Forestry and Other Land Use sector had a net share of 11% in total global emissions in 2010.
Besides aggravating climate change, deforestation brings other negative impacts on society and the environment. Putting pressure on endangered species of fauna and flora with the destruction of habitats, directly affecting the livelihood of millions of people, compromising the water supply of millions more and contributing to the loss of fertile soil, erosion and siltation, among others. Deforestation and forest fires also affect local climate, by reducing the moisture in the affected areas, and can affect the flow of rainfall on a larger scale.
In that sense, paragraph 70 of decision 1/CP.16 expresses the accorded perception of the role of forests in the mitigation of climate change:
70. Encourages developing country Parties to contribute to mitigation actions in the forest sector by undertaking the following activities, as deemed appropriate by each Party and in accordance with their respective capabilities and national circumstances:
a. Reducing emissions from deforestation;
b. Reducing emissions from forest degradation;
c. Conservation of forest carbon stocks;
d. Sustainable management of forests;
e. Enhancement of forest carbon stocks.
REDD+ has been designed to provide incentives to developing countries to conserve, sustainably manage and restore their forests. Conserving and restoring tropical forest land provide benefits to both climate change mitigation and adaptation, while providing other benefits for biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services for people living in the forests and far beyond.