In the context of growing concerns about environmental aspects of reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries (acronym REDD+), we conducted a comparative analysis of three sets of globally-applicable standards and one instrument of REDD+ initiatives for safeguarding biodiversity and ecosystem services: (1) social and environmental principles and criteria, (2) REDD+ social and environmental standards, (3) climate, community, and biodiversity project design standards, and (4) strategic environmental and social assessment. We found that their projected proximal outcomes for biodiversity and ecosystem service treatments, and approaches to achieve them, are not uniform (e.g., differences in spatial coverage for expecting positive impacts, prioritized REDD+ activities, and expected level of rigor in biodiversity and ecosystem service monitoring). We also found that all four include identification of the priority areas for biodiversity and ecosystem services, plus monitoring and mitigation of the negative impacts of REDD+ activities. These all require substantial time and resources to fully address what the three standards and the instrument actually stipulate. We thus propose options for harmonizing their use to facilitate scaling-up of efforts to strengthen safeguards, from the project level to the national level, while respecting individual national contexts and taking advantage of each standard’s characteristics.
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