REDD+ Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation

Lessons learned from accuracy assessments of emission factors and biomass maps in relation to REDD+


International climate negotiations have identified the need to establish national forest monitoring systems that use a combination of remote sensing and ground-based forest inventory approaches. This is to estimate anthropogenic forest-related greenhouse gas emissions by sources, and removals by sinks, to support REDD+ implementation and assess performance when implementing REDD+ activities. Countries and jurisdictions are advancing in the development of their Reference Levels to measure the performance of their REDD+ related activities. Countries have to generate forest cover change information in order to estimate activity data. The activity data combined with Emission Factors allows to estimate (historical) emissions.

FAO and through the collaboration under the UN-REDD Programme (FAO, UNDP and UN Environment), the Forest Carbon Facility of the World Bank (FCPF) and Silvacarbon, as well as other capacity development and implementation programmes support countries with the estimation of emission factors.

The Global Forest Observations Initiative’s (GFOI’s) Research and Development Coordination component, and the Basque Center for Climate Change (BC3) organized a third workshop in mid-February 2018, to assess lessons learned so far from Accuracy Assessments in the context of REDD+, mainly focusing on emission factors and biomass maps.

At the BC3 Centre in Bilbao, Spain, more than 20 experts addressed issues related to uncertainties of emission factors and biomass maps. Among the participants were leading specialists, statisticians and representatives from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry of Indonesia, as well as the National Forestry Commission of Mexico.

What is the guidance needed by practitioners to meet the IPCC good practice criteria related to bias, and is the existing guidance sufficient to meet knowledge gaps?

The UN-REDD Programme and FCPF/World Bank and other capacity development and implementation programmes support countries with their estimation of Activity data and emission factors and this workshop was an opportunity for stock-taking on the status and discuss data sources and issues faced when supporting countries. The participants identified which components requiring more attention for determining the uncertainty of EFs and mapped out how global / regional / pantropical biomass maps can be used to increase precision in national estimates. This is especially relevant for countries that do not have a National Forest Inventory (NFI) and for countries that completely lack data.

FAO Forestry Officer and REDD+ Remote Sensing Lead and Inge Jonckheere, and FAO National Forest Inventory and Greenhouse Gas Inventory Expert Luca Brigazzi of FAO summarised the outcome of the workshop as follows:

The use of biomass maps to improve the estimation of emission factors, as well as biomass changes at a country level, is a relatively new field of application that can pose technical challenges. A set of guidelines and a decision tree to make the best use of biomass maps in the context of REDD+ would be an important outcome of this workshop. This will include specific recommendations for map producers on the type of map metadata needed to enable users to derive biomass estimates that are unbiased and more precise. The participants stressed the need for further research on this topic.

The GFOI working groups will produce recommendations to address the sources of uncertainty related to the estimation of emission factors and provide some practical guidance on the application of the Monte Carlo Approach in the context of REDD+. Some country case-studies will be given to provide practical examples of how parties have approached and solved these technical issues.

 “Practical and sound methodologies are essential for sustainable and multi-purpose monitoring systems that countries will use and improve over time, keeping in mind the need to assess impacts of practices and report results. GFOI is looking to support these efforts by exploring technologies and methodologies and providing practical guidance and technical capacity for operationalization,” stated BC3 Scientific Director Prof Maria Sanz Sanchez.



 GFOI is the Global Observation of Forest Initiative. Read more here:

The workshop was a collaboration among the following, which also provided financial support to the event:

  • Basque Centre for Climate Change (BC3)
  • Center for International Forest Research (CIFOR)
  • European Space Agency (ESA)
  • GFOI R&D Coordination component
  • GOFC-GOLD Land Cover Office
  • US Silvacarbon Program
  • Wageningen University
  • FAO  / UN-REDD Programme

This workshop was a follow up on two earlier technical REDD+ workshops: a first organised jointly by FCPF and FAO in April last year at FAO HQ (read more here) and the GFOI GOFC-GOLD  expert meeting in Norway in June 2017 with the goal of developing concrete country examples and experiences into more specific guidance.

For more information, please contact:

Inge Jonckheere, Forestry Officer, Remote Sensing Lead, REDD+/ NFM Cluster, [email protected].

First published on the UN-REDD Workspace.

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