The report by the International Resource Panel (IRP) and the UN Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (REDD) programme outlines how integrating forest conservation into a Green Economy approach can conserve and even boost the economic and social benefits forests provide to human society.

REDD is the approach to cut greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation – estimated at up to 20% of the global total – through payments for services.

The programme has been expanded to REDD+ which includes the conservation and sustainable management of forests, and the enhancement of forest carbon stocks.

It claims that investing $30bn in REDD+ programmes will not only speed up the transition to green and sustainable growth it will ensure the long-term wellbeing of tens of millions in developing countries.

The report, Building Natural Capital: How REDD+ Can Support a Green Economy, lays out recommendations to deliver the new integrated REDD+ and Green Economy approach, including better coordination, stronger private sector engagement and changes in fiscal incentive frameworks.

It will also recommend a greater focus on assisting policymakers to understand the role forests play in “propping up economies and equitable benefit sharing”.

According to the UN, forests support the livelihoods of 1.6 billion people, with the value of ecosystem services from tropical forests estimated at an average of $6,120 per hectare each year.

However, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) says that despite these economic gains, forest loss averaged 13 million hectares per year between 2000 and 2010.

The report says that “this market and policy failure will undermine sustainable development by destroying the natural capital that supports so many economies”.

UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Achim Steiner said: “The true value of forests comes to life when national and local decision making processes are directed towards natural capital investment, supporting livelihoods and achieving sustainable economic growth.

“The ecosystem services provided by tropical forests are estimated at around $6,120 per hectare per year. Despite this clear macroeconomic case, the total yearly forest loss averages 13 million hectares per year – equivalent to the surface of a football field being destroyed every three seconds,” added Steiner.

Leigh Stringer

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie