In the last decade, countries have committed major resources to reducing carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries (REDD). This paper assesses the factors that underpin the transition from net deforesters to net forest growers in China, South Korea, Vietnam, India and Chile. The authors review the literature on forest policy processes and government-led reforestation and restoration programs, and find their success relied on government support at the highest levels, and forest governance reforms (particularly land and resource tenure systems) to incentivize good forest management and tree-planting. However, constraints to wood supply have caused some countries to rely on wood imports and “export” deforestation, diminishing global carbon benefits. Reforestation programs appear to have a clearer benefit for the rural poor in forest areas than REDD programs. However, both depend on improvements to forest governance and forest tenure.