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Norway – a small northern country with only 5 million inhabitants – is at present a global leader in REDD+ financing. In this paper, we explain why and how this happened by telling the story about the emergence of Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI) in 2007 and its institutionalization in the following years. We emphasize how a set of Norwegian climate policy characteristics prepared the ground for NICFI. These characteristics were the relative absence of less expensive potential emission cuts domestically, a tradition of seeking cheaper emission reduction options abroad, and few fiscal constraints due to high petroleum revenues. When the domestic demand for a more proactive climate policy started to increase from 2006 onward, two Norwegian environmental NGOs, The Rainforest Foundation Norway and Friends of the Earth Norway, exploited the window of opportunity that emerged from the tension between high domestic abatement costs and increasing domestic climate policy demands by proposing a large-scale Norwegian rainforest effort. This proposal resonated well with the new emphasis on reduced deforestation as a promising climate policy measure internationally. Towards the end of 2007, these ENGOs managed to convince a broad majority in Parliament that large-scale financing of measures to reduce deforestation globally should become an important part of Norwegian climate policy. Financing NICFI through the growth in the steadily increasing development aid budget dampened opposition from more fiscally conservative actors and facilitated the rapid set-up of a flexible implementing organization directly linked to some of the most proactive politicians. Several agreements with key rainforest countries were rapidly established, and including ENGOs in policy formulation and implementation helped maintaining the momentum and legitimacy for NICFI as a more permanent solution to Norway’s climate policy dilemmas. NICFI’s robustness and high level of legitimacy are illustrated by the fact that the initiative has survived the recent 2013 change of government quite intact. However, we also suggest that the long-time survival of the initiative may be dependent on the future of the UNFCCC process as well as the destiny of the national projects.