The California REDD+ Experience


The ongoing political history of California's initiative to include jurisdictional REDD+ offsets within the cap-and-trade system.

November 24, 2014
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Jesse Lueders, Cara Horowitz, Ann E. Carlson, Sean B. Hecht, Edward A. Parson

Executive Summary

For the last several years, California has considered the idea of recognizing, within its green-house gas cap-and-trade program, offsets generated by foreign states and provinces through reduced tropical forest destruction and degradation and related conservation and sustainability efforts, known as REDD+. During their deliberations on the issue, state policymakers have heard arguments from stakeholders in favor of crediting REDD+ offsets, and those against. After years of planning and cooperative efforts undertaken with states in Brazil, Mexico, and elsewhere, California is still determining whether to embrace REDD+ offsets.

The most salient and potentially persuasive arguments in favor stem from the opportunity to influence and reduce international forest-related emissions contributing to climate change, while simultaneously reducing the costs imposed by the state’s climate change law. The state is still grappling, however, with serious questions about the effectiveness of REDD+ in addressing climate change, as well as the impacts of REDD+ on other social and environmental objectives. The suitability of the state’s cap-and-trade program as a tool for reducing emissions outside the state, given the co-benefits that accrue to local communities from in-state reductions, remains another key area of debate. The outcome of this policy discussion will depend on interrelated questions of program design, future offset supply and demand, and the weight given to the importance of prioritizing in-state emissions reductions and co-benefits.

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