REDD+ Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation

FAO and the World Bank join forces to make forest monitoring more accessible and accurate


The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is joining forces with the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) to strengthen the accessibility and accuracy of forest monitoring systems in developing countries around the world. With combined funding of almost USD$1 million, FAO and the FCPF will work together to make FAO’s SEPAL 2.1 more accessible than ever through the creation of professional training and guidance material.

SEPAL is an innovative cloud-based super computing platform with more than 4,000 active users in 160 countries. The latest version, SEPAL 2.1, launched at the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit in September 2019, is operable on mobile devices, and has new Planet Labs data access, allowing users to create critical forest and land cover information, essential for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

With new access to Planet Labs data, FAO and FCPF will develop improved training material for SEPAL, as well as conduct assessments of specific methodological needs of countries working to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (efforts commonly referred to as REDD+). Specifically, FAO will work initially with four FCPF participant countries in Africa – Côte d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana and Zambia – to identify gaps in their current forest monitoring systems and capacities. “These new projects with the World Bank’s FCPF are recognition of FAO’s work on innovative forest monitoring platforms, and as a provider of specialized technical support on forest monitoring,” adds Julian Fox, Team Leader of National Forest Monitoring at FAO. “We hope that these projects can result in expanded and strengthened technical collaboration between the FAO and the World Bank as we enhance countries’ ability to measure and mitigate the impacts of climate change, as well as contributing to the achievement of the broader agenda for sustainable development.”

Through the new initiative, FAO and the FCPF aim to advance technical work on area estimation for forests and land use in a REDD+ context. FAO will bring together the world’s leading experts to advance thinking on good practice in estimating the area of forests and forest change. Methodological guidance will help countries improve the design of their forest monitoring systems. Resulting reference material and technical tools will help developing countries around the world in their efforts to measure and report on forest-related emissions and removals. "This new collaboration with FAO will increase the functionalities of SEPAL 2.1 and provide more training and guidance, enabling forested countries to strengthen their monitoring systems," said Andres Espejo, Senior Carbon Finance Specialist at the World Bank.

High-resolution data tailored to forested country needs

Advances in the accuracy of forest monitoring will be achieved through the recent agreement between FAO and Planet Labs, which will allow eight forested countries to access high-resolution satellite images of their land cover, updated daily by a fleet of more than 190 satellites. This will help bring countries closer to unlocking results-based finance for carbon emission reductions through the FCPF as well as the World Bank’s BioCarbon Fund Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes.

Training activities will include a series of knowledge sharing products and events, including global workshops on the use of the SEPAL 2.1. New learning modules will consist of training manuals, practice videos and webinars that will explain how SEPAL 2.1 can be used to produce accurate data on forests, including estimates of forest carbon.

Country needs assessments for targeted technical assistance

Project activities will be tailored to national needs, as identified through the Global Forest Observations Initiative’s (GFOI) Country Needs Assessment (CNA) process. The CNA is a comprehensive process of identifying and communicating gaps and needs so that international assistance can be better targeted. The CNA process draws on the online resources of the REDDCompass for guidance.

Ethiopia, Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire and Zambia will be supported in identifying gaps and needs in their national forest monitoring systems, which are the basis for measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) for REDD+.

Jacob Amoako, GIS and MRV Officer for REDD+ at the Forestry Commission of Ghana, says: “Sustainable forest management depends on the accessibility of good quality data and the ability to share this data transparently with all the stakeholders involved in managing forests. Ghana would like to move away from depending on international experts and get to the stage where we have sustainability in everything that we do. In this regard, FAO’s support in training country experts to use and apply various forest monitoring tools and techniques to country’s circumstances will help us monitor our forest sustainably.”

The next important milestone of the project will be the South-South exchange event that will take place in early 2020 at FAO headquarters in Rome. The event will gather country representatives from Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Indonesia, Mexico, and Mozambique for a hands-on training session on the use of Planet Labs data for more accurate monitoring of forest cover change.


Useful links:

Forest Carbon Partnership Facility

BioCarbon Fund Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes

FAO’s work on National Forest Monitoring:

FAO’s work on REDD+:

Webinar “SEPAL 2.1 - what’s new?”:

More on Forest Carbon Partnership Facility:

Article Planet satellites bolster FAO’s geospatial toolkit:

The REDDCompass

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