As the dust settles after Copenhagen and the barriers to reaching global consensus on combating climate change are put into stark relief, REDD still has potential to become a UNFCCC success story. In relation to REDD, there is agreement on many core issues and significant momentum remains towards a REDD mechanism firmly engrained in the post-2012 climate change framework. Yet most debate occurs in the abstract with policy and methodological decisions made with minimal conception of how these issues will play out in REDD participant countries. This article aims to break this trend and takes a prominent REDD pilot activity as its reference point. The Ulu Masen Project in Aceh , Indonesia , while only in its infancy, provides valuable lessons on legal frameworks, benefit-sharing and financing. Through analysis of UNFCCC negotiations on REDD and an examination of how relevant issues have been addressed in the Ulu Masen Project, the article aims to contribute to a more grounded, practical debate on a future UNFCCC REDD mechanism.