Research Finds Collective Forestlands Key to Meeting Climate Mitigation Targets
UN Photo/Eva Fendiaspara
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The baseline study, described as “the most comprehensive assessment to date of carbon storage in documented community lands worldwide,” points out that one third of the forest carbon documented in the study is located in areas where indigenous peoples and local communities lack formal recognition of their tenure rights, “putting them, their lands, and the carbon stored therein at risk”.

Indigenous peoples and local communities manage at least 17 percent, or 293,061 million metric tons, of carbon stored in the collective forestlands of indigenous peoples and local communities, which is equivalent to 33 times the global energy emissions in 2017.

The report states that this global estimate is “five times greater than shown in a previous analysis of aboveground tropical forest carbon”.

10 September 2018: “If appropriately leveraged, natural climate solutions can contribute upwards of 37 percent of cost-effective CO2 mitigation by 2030 and evidence shows Indigenous Peoples and local communities are key to achieving such outcomes.” This is one of the key conclusions from the global baseline study described as “the most comprehensive assessment to date of carbon storage in documented community lands worldwide.”

The report titled, ‘A Global Baseline of Carbon Storage in Collective Lands: Indigenous and Local Community Contributions to Climate Change Mitigation,’ covers forested lands occupied by indigenous peoples and local communities in 64 tropical countries. The report was authored by researchers from Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC), Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and World Resources Institute (WRI), in close collaboration with the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN), the Mesoamerican Alliance of Indigenous Peoples and Forests (AMPB), and the Coordinators of the Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA).

The study draws on newly generated global carbon density data from WHRC, updated forest tenure data from RRI, spatially explicit land tenure data from LandMark, and spatial data from an ongoing collaboration with AMAN to create an accurate assessment of carbon stored in indigenous and local community lands and forests.

According to the study, indigenous peoples and local communities manage at least 17 percent, or 293,061 million metric tons (Mt), of carbon stored in the collective forestlands of indigenous peoples and local communities, which is equivalent to 33 times the global energy emissions in 2017. The report states that this global estimate is “five times greater than shown in a previous analysis of aboveground tropical forest carbon.”

Progress towards legal recognition of community forest tenure rights is “wholly inadequate, amounting to just over 14 percent of forest area as of 2017.”

In other key findings, the study concludes that: 22 percent of the forest carbon (217,991 Mt) found in the 52 tropical and subtropical countries covered in the baseline is stewarded by communities; soil organic carbon accounts for almost 65 percent (113,218 Mt) and nearly 90 percent (105,606 Mt) of the total forest carbon managed by communities in tropical and non-tropical forest countries, respectively; and the baseline “remains an underestimate” of carbon stored in collective forestlands worldwide.

The report notes that up to 2.5 billion people worldwide make their living in rural economies through the stewardship of community forests and other community lands. The report points out that one-third of the forest carbon (72,079 Mt) documented in the study is located in areas where indigenous peoples and local communities lack formal recognition of their tenure rights, “putting them, their lands, and the carbon stored therein at risk.” In particular, the vast stores of carbon within collective lands in carbon-rich countries such as Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) remain undocumented.

The report underscores the role of secure land tenure in ensuring that indigenous peoples and local communities are able to pursue locally adapted livelihoods and protect globally important ecosystems. Drawing on a recent RRI assessment of community land tenure in 58 countries “that encompass nearly 92 percent of the global forest estate,” the report notes that progress towards legal recognition of community forest tenure rights is “wholly inadequate, amounting to just over 14 percent of forest area as of 2017.”

The study concludes that tropical forest governments “are failing to act on evidence that legally recognized indigenous and community forests tend to store more carbon and experience lower rates of deforestation than other forests.” It notes that while the forest area recognized for communities has grown nearly 40% since 2002 to a total of 15% of forests globally, the pace of recognition since 2008 has remained slow, “just as the need for climate solutions has become more urgent than ever.”

The report includes a five-point call from the indigenous and community alliances supporting the baseline initiative to individual governments, the international community, and investors and corporations to: 1) significantly scale up recognition of community-based tenure; 2) secure the free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) of indigenous peoples, local communities, and rural and indigenous women as part of a continuous cycle of engagement; 3) improve and continuously expand indigenous peoples’ and local communities’ access to critical knowledge; 4) prioritize bilateral and multilateral investments in indigenous- and community-led initiatives associated with global efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest land degradation; and 5) end the criminalization and persecution of indigenous peoples and local communities defending their lands, forests, and natural resources.

The report was released ahead of the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS), taking place from 12-14 September 2018 in San Fransisco, US. [Publication: A Global Baseline of Carbon Storage in Collective Lands: Indigenous and Local Community Contributions to Climate Change Mitigation] [Summary of Findings] [RRI Press Release] [Land Portal News Release]


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