Characteristics of the remote sensing data used in the proposed UNFCCC REDD+ forest reference emission levels (FRELs)
Developing countries must submit forest reference emission levels (FRELs) to the UNFCCC to receive incentives for REDD+ activities (e.g. reducing emissions from deforestation/forest degradation, sustainable management of forests, forest carbon stock conservation/enhancement). These FRELs are generated based on historical CO2 emissions in the land use, land use change, and forestry sector, and are derived using remote sensing (RS) data and in-situ forest carbon measurements. Since the quality of the historical emissions estimates is affected by the quality and quantity of the RS data used, in this study we calculated five metrics (i-v below) to assess the quality and quantity of the data that has been used thus far. Countries could focus on improving on one or more of these metrics for the submission of future FRELs. Some of our main findings were: (i) the median percentage of each country mapped was 100%, (ii) the median historical timeframe for which RS data was used was 11.5 years, (iii) the median interval of forest map updates was 4.5 years, (iv) the median spatial resolution of the RS data was 30m, and (v) the median number of REDD+ activities that RS data was used for operational monitoring of was 1 (typically deforestation). Many new sources of RS data have become available in recent years, so complementary or alternative RS data sets for generating future FRELs can potentially be identified based on our findings; e.g. alternative RS data sets could be considered if they have similar or higher quality/quantity than the currently-used data sets.