MREDD+: Mexico’s Vision for Sustainability

A group of scientists, research associates, communications experts, and government staff from the U.S. and Mexico recently met at the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC) to address the needs of REDD+ in Mexico, also known as MREDD+. The focus of this meeting was on the organization of MRV, or Measurement, Reporting, and Verification. To fully appreciate the significance of this meeting, it helps to first understand these three scientific acronyms:

REDD+ is a United Nations program: Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation. The ‘plus’ symbol represents an effort to address issues beyond deforestation and degradation to include the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests, and forest carbon stocks. The purpose of REDD+ is to attach a financial value to carbon stored in forests, offering monetary incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands, and to invest in low-carbon emissions strategies for sustainable development.

Deforestation and forest degradation, primarily through agricultural expansion, conversion to pastureland, infrastructure development, destructive logging, and fires, account for roughly 15% of global heat-trapping or “greenhouse” gas emissions. This happens when carbon stored in forest vegetation is released into the atmosphere as forests are disturbed or cut down. Why does this matter? These greenhouse gas emissions contribute to global warming and the negative effects of climate disruption. The reduction of emissions from the forest sector, therefore, plays an integral role in efforts to curb global warming.

MREDD+ refers to a REDD+ project unfolding in Mexico comprised of a five-year, USAID supported initiative aimed at setting solid climate change mitigation policies and strengthening those already in place. The timing is critical—Mexico has just signed a climate bill into legislation—an action that could serve as a model for the U.S. and other countries to learn from. If MREDD+ is to be successful, it will need to evolve into a manageable and verifiable process that relies on a system of accurate measurement or MRV: Measurement, Reporting and Verification. Essentially, MRV is the process of orchestrating and documenting this large scale, public-private, multi-national conservation program.

The MREDD+ workshop held recently at the Woods Hole Research Center brought together collaborators from WHRC, the Mexican and U.S. Forest Services, The Nature Conservancy, and the Mexican Fund for Nature Conservation to strategize for MRV. Although this diverse team has been charged with its on-the-ground implementation in Mexico, the project will also function as an important pilot effort for broader REDD+ goals. “Mexico can help us think through many of the issues,” noted Dr. Josef Kellndorfer, the lead WHRC scientist involved with MREDD+. Kellndorfer’s team is responsible for producing map data sets and other products that will support the Mexican Government’s efforts to measure, verify and report on carbon stocks.

MRV logistics to be considered include determining timeframes, what products and measurements are needed (a carbon stock map being an example of a WHRC product), coordination of baseline reporting, financial mechanisms and government structures, plus many other details needed to make the grand vision become a reality. An important scientific and institutional consideration is the sharing of data collected by different people working for a range of organizations. This data has to be combined and made accessible in a comprehensive manner. Implementation of the final plan will require dialogue – and transparency – between these organizations and government. “We do not want a black box approach,” remarked Jose Carlos, a Mexican government official attending the workshop. He acknowledged that institutions conducting original research are often protective of their findings, but noted that the success of MREDD+ will depend upon open sharing of information. Ultimately, to realize the grand vision of MREDD+, dedicated teamwork will be required to guide this multi-faceted project from research and planning to implementation and application.