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The UN-REDD Programme has directly supported five countries in preparing their forest reference level /forest reference emission level (FRL/FREL) submission to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). With their FRELs now submitted, the Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Paraguay, Viet Nam and Zambia now have a benchmark for assessing their country’s performance in implementing REDD+. 

In January 2016 alone, nine countries submitted FRL/FREL to the UNFCCC (Chile, Republic of Congo, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Paraguay, Peru, Viet Nam and Zambia). This represents a significant step forward in the global efforts to monitor and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions from forestry and brings the total number of countries that have submitted a FRL to 15. 

The FRL is one of four elements (along with the National REDD+ Strategy, National Forest Monitoring System and a Safeguards Information System) countries are required to develop to participate in REDD+ under the UNFCCC. These elements are a prerequisite for countries that aspire to receive results-based payments for successful REDD+ implementation.

FAO not only supported countries in launching their FRELs but also in establishing National Forest Monitoring Systems that sometimes include multipurpose forest inventories that take into account forest carbon estimates in the context of REDD+ readiness. Some of these countries include Ecuador, Panamá, Zambia, Cambodia and Paraguay. 

FAO through the UN-REDD Programme trained and provided continuous technical support to national counterparts to process satellite imagery. Earth orbiting satellites supply images and other data essential for producing estimates of land cover area and changes in land cover and land use over time. In the context of REDD+, countries need this information to estimate deforestation (activity data), occurring within their national territory from year to year, to estimate emissions from forestry. See stories and results from Republic of Congo and Zambia.

FAO supported countries in the use of methods and guidance established through the Global Forests Observation Initiative (GFOI) to assist national counterparts to analyse data and produce statistically rigorous results suitable to meet the requirements of the UNFCCC. Data analysis included visual review and revision of maps and the comparison of mapped areas with known reference areas in order to assess the accuracy of the products. Map accuracy assessment is a key element necessary to produce area estimates corrected for errors that may be present in the maps. These adjusted areas also come with confidence intervals so countries have an open and transparent measure of the accuracy of their reported figures.

FAO through the UN-REDD Programme has also supported countries with setting up and analysing data from National Forest Inventories (NFI). A NFI, consisting of carefully measured field-collected information, is considered the ‘gold standard’ for data used in a NFMS and provides emission factors for estimating historical emissions from forestry as part of the FRL construction. FAO specialists assisted countries with statistically rigorous and efficient sampling designs and data analysis enabling countries to produce estimates of forest characteristics, area changes and biomass, see stories on Viet Nam and Zambia.

FAO’s ability to provide technical assistance to countries has been enhanced by several key innovations in the last several years. The newly developed System for Earth Observation Data Access, Processing and Analysis for Land Monitoring, or SEPAL, facilitates countries’ access to and processing of earth observation data.  SEPAL is an easy-to-use platform for processing and interpreting satellite data using a cloud-based supercomputer and as such overcoming barriers of poor internet connections and low computing power on local computers. SEPAL was used to analyse activity data for four of the above-mentioned countries. To facilitate flexible and efficient data collection, analysis and reporting, several countries used free and open-source software tools, designed by FAO as part of the Openforis initiative.

In addition to the support provided in establishing a NFMS, the UN-REDD Programme also supports countries by explaining UNFCCC’s FRL requirements and informing countries on the technical considerations for Forest Reference Level construction under the UNFCCC.

Related Links

Forest reference emission level publications produced by the UN-REDD Programme:

UNFCCC submissions:

Methods and guidance documentation from the Global Forest Observations Initiative: