Malaysia Forest Fund
Contact Us +60 3 8958 1118
Follow Us


The UNFCCC decisions on REDD Plus also recognise the potential of REDD Plus actions to deliver positive social and environmental impacts that go beyond climate change mitigation, e.g. by improving livelihoods for forest-dependent communities, helping to conserve biodiversity-rich forest areas, and enhancing other ecosystem services provided by forests

The decisions further highlight the need to prevent adverse impacts on people and the environment. For example, REDD Plus actions could have negative consequences if they give rise to conflicts over land tenure and access to resources, or if they cause land use pressures to shift from one area to another.

The UNFCCC safeguards for REDD Plus, as adopted at the 16th Conference of the Parties (COP16) in Cancun, Mexico, constitute seven broad principles, covering social, environmental and governance-related aspects. They are also known as the “Cancun Safeguards”. Safeguards are measures to protect or to avoid risks (do no harm), while promoting benefits (do good).

Safeguards as REDD Plus implementation requirements

According to the relevant UNFCCC decisions, countries implementing REDD Plus should meet three main requirements in relation to these safeguards:

  1. Promote and support the Cancun safeguards throughout the implementation of REDD Plus actions;
  2. Develop Safeguards Information System for providing information on how the Cancun safeguards are being addressed; and
  3. Provide summaries of information on how all of the Cancun safeguards are being addressed and respected throughout the implementation of REDD Plus actions.

The three key UNFCCC safeguards requirements are:

  1. Safeguards need to be ‘addressed’ and ‘respected’ throughout REDD Plus implementation.
  2. National-level safeguards information system (SIS) needs to be put in place.
  3. Summaries of safeguards information (also known as Summary of Information, or “SOI”), reporting on addressing and respecting, need to be produced periodically.

When undertaking REDD Plus activities, the following safeguards should be promoted and supported:

  1. That actions complement or are consistent with the objectives of national forest programmes and relevant international conventions and agreements;
  2. Transparent and effective national forest governance structures, taking into account national legislation and sovereignty;
  3. Respect for the knowledge and rights of indigenous peoples and members of local communities, by taking into account relevant international obligations, national circumstances and laws, and noting that the United Nations General Assembly has adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
  4. The full and effective participation of relevant stakeholders, in particular indigenous peoples and local communities;
  5. That actions are consistent with the conservation of natural forests and biological diversity, ensuring that the [REDD Plus] actions are not used for the conversion of natural forests, but are instead used to incentivize the protection and conservation of natural forests and their ecosystem services, and to enhance other social and environmental benefits;
  6. Actions to address the risks of reversals;
  7. Actions to reduce displacement of emissions.

How will implementing the Cancun Safeguards benefit Malaysia?

The Cancun Safeguards – which aim to safeguard against risks as well as enhance benefits – can play a vital role in ensuring that the implementation and outcomes of REDD Plus in Malaysia are effective and sustainable. Implementing the Safeguards can provide a number of benefits to the forest sector and beyond:

  • Because the Safeguards can reduce potential negative impacts while promoting positive outcomes, the quality of REDD Plus implementation can be strengthened;
  • The Safeguards pay particular attention to issues such as reducing the risks of reversals (or impermanent) as well as social and environmental concerns, that can improve the sustainability of REDD Plus actions, results and finance over the long-term;
  • The Safeguards, including through explicit attention to building on existing national processes, can help to ensure that REDD Plus contribute to broader national goals and programs, such as the Sustainable Development Goals, national forest policies, and biodiversity conservation priorities.
  • Adherence to the Safeguards can also help to build confidence among relevant partners and stakeholders and provide assurance that REDD Plus is meeting expectations of environmental sustainability and social equity.
  • The Safeguards and the operation of the SIS can promote greater transparency across REDD Plus implementation, consistent reporting on REDD Plus actions, more accessible information for stakeholders, and improved data sharing across sectors.