Evidence That a National REDD+ Program Reduces Tree Cover Loss and Carbon Emissions in a High Forest Cover, Low Deforestation Country

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Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) is a climate change mitigation policy in which rich countries provide payments to developing countries for protecting their forests. In 2009, the countries of Norway and Guyana entered into one of the first bilateral REDD+ programs, with Norway offering to pay US$250 million to Guyana if annual deforestation rates remained below 0.056% from 2010 to 2015. To quantify the impact of this national REDD+ program, we construct a counterfactual times-series trajectory of annual tree cover loss using synthetic matching. This analytical approach allows us to quantify tree cover loss that would have occurred in the absence of the Norway-Guyana REDD+ program. We found that the Norway-Guyana REDD+ program reduced tree cover loss by 35% during the implementation period (2010 to 2015), equivalent to 12.8 million tons of avoided CO2 emissions. Our analysis indicates that national REDD+ payments attenuated the effect of increases in gold prices, an internationally traded commodity that is the primary deforestation driver in Guyana. Overall, we found strong evidence that the program met the additionality criteria of REDD+. However, we found that tree cover loss increased after the payments ended, and therefore, our results suggest that without continued payments, forest protection is not guaranteed. On the issue of leakage, which is complex and difficult to quantify, a multinational REDD+ program for a region could address leakage that results from differences in forest policies between neighboring countries.