New RFN study:

Lack of transparency and regulation threaten the social and environmental integrity of REDD+ projects in Colombia

A new RFN study finds REDD+ projects in Colombia need far more transparency and regulation at the national level to safeguard Indigenous peoples’ rights related to these projects and offers five recommendations to address the issue.

BELLAVISTA: The indigenous village of Bellavista in Southern Colombia. Photo: Ronny Hansen/RFN

4 December 2023

Colombia hosts the second most REDD+ projects in the world, many of them already operating in the voluntary carbon markets. To better understand how REDD+ projects are impacting Indigenous Peoples and local Communities (IPLCs) in Colombia, Rainforest Foundation Norway commissioned a study to map REDD+ projects in Colombia and identify key social and environmental challenges of their implementation.

The study, conducted by the consultant Dominique Schmid and her co-author Carolina Castro, maps the extent of REDD+ projects in the Colombian Amazon and how they overlap with IPLCs territories. Almost all REDD+ projects in the Colombian Amazon, 33 of 36 projects, are located on Indigenous territories and they cover at least 56% of the area of legally recognized Indigenous territories in the Colombian Amazon.

Together, the projects have an estimated gross market value of over USD 390 million. Currently, there is no central and public database to register REDD+ projects and project areas, risking projects overlapping and double counting, which we found examples of. 

Lack of regulation and transparency presents challenges to IPLC rights

The study also presents interviews with community members and leaders to learn about their views on the projects. The lack of transparency about contractual details that currently exists in voluntary carbon markets means that many community members remain in the dark about the benefits and conditions of the REDD+ project their community participates in.

Projects are also creating threats and violating the fundamental right of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC), despite Indigenous people’s rights to free and prior consultation being enshrined in the Colombian constitution. The study shows how we need far more transparency and regulation at the national level to safeguard Indigenous peoples’ rights related to REDD+ projects in Colombia.

To address the report’s findings, we recommend the following:

  1. The Colombian government should greatly enhance the transparency and regulation of the carbon project sector in Colombia.  
  2. There needs to be a central and public database to log REDD+ projects and project areas, with mandatory public disclosure of accurate spatial data of the projects. This is to give more opportunity to multiple stakeholders to access detailed information about REDD+ projects but also to avoid issues of double counting. 
  3. Social safeguards should be improved for Indigenous communities. By actively involving local communities in the design of project activities, project developers could ensure equitable and more long-lasting projects.  
  4. There is a need for broader socialization activities of REDD+ projects, as activities are often concentrated around a few locations per project, having limited reach. 
  5. There is a need to revise the legal requirement for FPIC in REDD+ projects, as well as the need to go beyond FPIC and apply rights of self-governance and self-determination, to make the project truly initiated, owned and managed by the communities.”

REDD+ projects in the Colombian Amazon: social challenges and lack of transparency

Proyectos REDD+ en la Amazonía Colombiana: desafíos sociales y falta de transparencia

View the data set for the report

Julia Naime

Senior Adviser, Policy

Torbjørn Gjefsen

Senior Adviser, Policy
(+47) 970 16 842