The 3E+ criteria refer to effectiveness, efficiency, equity and co-benefits and are used in the climate debate to assess proposed options and their expected outcomes or to evaluate actual outcomes.


Afforestation is the direct human-induced conversion of land that has not been forested for a period of at least 50 years to forested land, through planting, seeding and/or the human-induced promotion of natural seed sources.


Additionality is the requirement that a REDD+ activity or project should generate benefits, such as reduced emissions or increased removals that would not have happened without the activity (i.e. the BAU scenario).


This term is used in different ways. In REDD+, it typically represents the projected anthropogenic changes in forest carbon stock that would occur in the absence of the proposed project activity or policy intervention. See also BAU and reference level. In project evaluations, baseline can refer to pre-project conditions (e.g. a baseline study involves collecting socioeconomic and ecological data before a project starts, implicitly assuming that any change is due to the project).

Benefit sharing

The distribution of direct and indirect net gains (monetary and nonmonetary benefits) from the implementation of REDD+.

Business as usual (BAU)

A policy neutral reference to future emissions or removals, estimated using projections of future emission or removal levels without any REDD+ activity. The term is also used in a political economy sense to mean the continuation of policies and practices consistent with the status quo in the pre-REDD+ political economy of a country.

Carbon market

A market in which carbon emission reductions are traded, usually in the form of carbon credits (verified or certified emission reductions). Carbon markets take the form of: (i) a voluntary market (where emission reduction targets are not regulated), or (ii) a compliance market (where carbon credits are traded to meet regulated emission reduction targets). The largest carbon market is the EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS).

Carbon offset

A reduction in emissions or an increase in removals made to compensate for an emission made elsewhere. Carbon offsets are measured in metric tons (t) of CO2e.

Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA)

Partnership of international NGOs with a mission to stimulate and promote land management activities that mitigate global climate change, improve the well-being and reduce the poverty of local communities, and conserve biodiversity.


Benefits arising from REDD+ in addition to climate mitigation benefits, such as enhancing biodiversity, enhancing adaptation to climate change, alleviating poverty, improving local livelihoods, improving forest governance and protecting rights.

Compulsory/compliance/mandatory markets

Markets created and regulated by mandatory national or international climate regimes. They allocate or auction GHG emission limits (quotas or caps) to countries, subnational units or companies and allow them to buy carbon credits to meet their cap, or sell them if they emit less than their cap (i.e. trade, also known as cap and trade).

Conference of Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC

The governing body of the UNFCCC. It meets once a year.


The permanent conversion of land from forest to non-forest. In the Marrakesh Accords, deforestation is defined as “the direct human induced conversion of forested land to non-forested land.” FAO defines deforestation as “the conversion of forest to another land use or the long-term reduction of the tree canopy cover below the minimum 10% threshold.”


Degradation refers to changes within the forest that negatively affect the structure or function of the forest stand or site, and thereby lower its capacity to supply products and services. In the context of REDD+, degradation can be measured in terms of reduced carbon stocks in forests that remain as forests. No formal definition of degradation has yet been adopted, because many forest carbon stocks fluctuate due to natural cyclical causes or management practices.


The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations defines forest as having minimum canopy cover of 10%, minimum tree height in situ of 5 m, minimum area of 0.5 ha, and where agriculture is not the dominant land-use. The UNFCCC allows for a more flexible forest definition: minimum canopy cover 10–30%, minimum tree height 2–5 m and minimum area 0.1 ha. Individual countries have their own definitions.

Free, prior and informed consent (FPIC)

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007) upholds the rights of indigenous people to grant or withhold their FPIC for: activities affecting the lands they have traditionally owned, occupied, or used; any proposed relocation and; any legal or administrative measures affecting them. FPIC implies that consent has been obtained without coercion in advance of project authorization and commencement, and that the affected parties fully understand the scope, duration and potential impacts of the activities. In the context of REDD+, proponents seek the consent of all local stakeholders, not just indigenous peoples.

Implementation costs

The costs of setting up a system and putting into place the necessary policies and actions to achieve REDD+

Indigenous peoples

There is no universally agreed definition of indigenous people, although some international legal instruments provide definitions. According to the United Nations, rather than define indigenous people, the most useful approach is for them to identify themselves according to the fundamental right to self-identification set out in declarations of human rights.

Jurisdictional REDD+

REDD+ initiative encompassing a government administrative unit at the district level or higher.


In the context of climate change, carbon leakage happens when interventions to reduce emissions in one area (subnational or national) lead to an increase in emissions in another area. The official UNFCCC term is ‘displaced emissions.’

Measuring, reporting and verifying (MRV)

MRV is a series of procedures associated with the communication of all mitigation actions of developing countries. Measurement refers to the quantification of (i) anthropogenic forest-related emissions by sources and removals by sinks; (ii) forest carbon stocks; and (iii) changes in forest carbon stocks and forest area resulting from the implementation of REDD+ activities. Reporting refers to communication to the international community following the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change best practices guidelines. Verifying refers to checks on the accuracy of the estimation by UNFCCC designated entities.

Opportunity cost

In the context of REDD+, this refers to forgone profits from the most profitable alternative use of forest land.

Payment for ecosystem/environmental services (PES)

A buyer who values environmental services pays the provider or manager of the land use that supplies those services; in return, the seller continues to deliver them. In REDD+, PES refers to a results-based system in which payments are made for reduced emissions or increased removals relative to an agreed reference level.

Policies and measures (PAMs)

In REDD+, PAMs are nationally enacted policies and actions that countries undertake to reduce carbon emissions or increase removals.


REDD+ country actions – including capacity building, policy design, consultation and consensus building, and testing and evaluation of a REDD+ national strategy – that are taken prior to the comprehensive implementation of REDD+.


The REDD+ Social & Environmental Standards initiative aims to build support for government-led REDD+ programs that make a significant contribution to human rights, poverty alleviation and biodiversity conservation.

Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) and enhancing forest carbon stock in developing countries (REDD+)

The term ‘REDD+’ is used in many ways. A broad definition, based on the official COP13 terminology, holds that REDD+ comprises local, subnational, national and global actions whose primary aim is to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and enhance forest carbon stocks (increase removals) in developing countries. A narrower definition is that REDD+ also includes results-based or conditional payments, which was a core idea when REDD+ was first launched. From another perspective, REDD+ may not only refer to actions: it may refer to the overall idea, the objective of reduced emissions and increased removals, the set of policies or actions necessary to achieve that objective, the outcome as measured in reduced emissions and increased removals or the process involving all of these elements. REDD (without the plus) is used to refer only to reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and does not include forest carbon stock enhancement.

Reference level (REL)

Two distinct meanings and different uses may be distinguished for reference levels. First, the reference level is used for the BAU scenario or baseline for changes in carbon stocks, which is used as a benchmark for measuring the impact of REDD+ policies and actions and to define emission reductions. In this sense, reference level can refer to gross emission levels from deforestation and forest degradation, and to net emission levels from all emissions and removals from deforestation, forest degradation, conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks. Second, in a result-based system, the reference level is used as a benchmark for estimating payments to countries, subnational units or projects for emissions reductions.


Reforestation is the direct human-induced conversion of non-forested land to forested land, through planting, seeding and/or the human-induced promotion of natural seed sources on land that was forested, but that has been converted to non-forested land.

Shifting cultivation

An agricultural system in which plots of land are cultivated temporarily, then abandoned when the soil loses its fertility or weeds become dominant. The plot of land is then left to be reclaimed by natural vegetation.


A farmer of a relatively small plot of land (a smallholding), where he or she produces in relatively small volumes, either for subsistence alone or subsistence and sale, often depending wholly or largely on family labor. The size of smallholdings varies significantly across regions, but their defining characteristic is that they are small relative to the land area used by commercial producers in the same region.

Swidden agriculture

An agricultural practice that involves cutting and burning of forests or woodlands to create fields, typically part of a shifting cultivation system (also referred to as slash and burn agriculture).

Ton (t)

One ton is equivalent to 1000 kg (also referred to as a metric ton).

Transaction costs

A cost that is incurred when making an economic exchange. It includes costs related to search and information, enforcement and monitoring. Transaction costs sometimes refer to all costs of REDD+ except opportunity costs.


Independent third-party assessment of a project plan or design against defined standards, e.g. to determine eligibility for CDM or certify by VCS.


Independent third-party assessment of the actual emissions reductions and co-benefits of a particular mitigation activity.

Voluntary market

Markets that function alongside compliance markets. Buyers are companies, governments, NGOs and individuals who are voluntarily buying verified emissions reductions, e.g. to offset their own emissions.

Verified Carbon Standard (VCS)

This is one of the world’s most widely used carbon standards for voluntary carbon offset industry. Carbon emission reductions generated in line with VCS are called VERerified Emission Reductions (VERs).