Acknowledging that the implementation of reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) entails both potential risks and benefits, Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have sought to ensure that countries, in carrying out REDD+ activities, address and respect a range of social and environmental safeguards.

The importance of these safeguards was underlined by the 2013 Warsaw Framework for REDD+, which made the provision of information on how REDD+ countries take into account the safeguards a condition for accessing results-based payments. Yet while the safeguards offer broad guidance, they leave significant discretion to REDD+ countries on how to implement them, calling into question their effectiveness.

This article examines how countries can put REDD+ safeguards into practice at the national level, focusing on the environmental safeguard on protecting natural forests and biodiversity. It analyses the contents of this safeguard as formulated at the international level, and examines how a systematic gap analysis of policies, laws and regulations can help to identify how countries can best address and respect environmental safeguards in practice. It concludes on the prospects for the effectiveness of this safeguard as well as the potential for REDD+ to deliver environmental benefits.

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