Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (REDD+) is a policy mechanism being negotiated under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from developing countries through the sustainable management of forests, while providing co-benefits of biodiversity conservation and livelihood support. Implementation challenges include linking remote sensing and national forest inventories of carbon stocks, to local implementation and measuring carbon loss from forest degradation. Community-based forest monitoring can help overcome some of these challenges. We show that local people can collect forest condition data of comparable quality to trained scientists, at half the cost. We draw on our experience, to propose how and where local REDD+ monitoring can be established. Empowering communities to own and monitor carbon stocks could provide a rapid and cost-effective way of absorbing carbon dioxide emissions, whilst potentially contributing to local livelihoods and forest biodiversity conservation.