In line with the conclusion of the climate change summit in Paris last December (COP21), the Government of Sri Lanka has reinforced its commitment to develop a national REDD+ strategy as a vital part of its contribution to combat climate change. The Forest Department together with the Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Climate Change Secretariat is moving forward to increase forest cover from 29.7% to 32%.

Sri Lanka’s forest cover is not significant compared to global forest coverage while historical deforestation rate is low. This implies low potential for emission reductions and removals, and therefore limited prospects for securing REDD+ result-based finance.

However, the REDD+ strategy would enable Sri Lanka to ensure the protection of the country’s rich bio-diversity, as well as conservation of soil and water catchment areas; Non-carbon benefits are the main focus of REDD+ in Sri Lanka.

The REDD+ programme, which has been underway since 2013, has undertaken in-depth studies and analysis of data on the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation. The objective is to prepare a comprehensive strategy by 2017 which will help realise Sri Lanka’s forest conservation goals.

Explaining the role of the REDD+ programme, National Programme Manager of the Sri Lanka UN-REDD Programme Nalin Munasinghe says: “The vision of the programme is to contribute to improving sustainable land management that will conserve biodiversity, maintain economic growth and minimise risks of natural disasters through a step-wise and targeted approach. We are extremely pleased by the encouragement received from the present government in this area and wish to provide a springboard that will help realise the government’s and President Maithripala Sirisensa’s environmental agenda.”

The Government of Sri Lanka along with other stakeholders including civil society organizations, indigenous people, academics, forest dependent communities and the private sector partners are jointly preparing for a comprehensive national REDD+ strategy that considers all aspects of forestry and beyond. This strategy is aimed at conserving Sri Lanka’s rich biodiversity and natural resources, when addressing the issue of deforestation and forest degradation.