Leaving forests in communal hands cuts carbon emissions from deforestation, helps communities and offers long-term economic benefits: Everyone wins
The worlds indigenous communities need to be given a bigger role in climate stabilisation, according to a new study that shows at least a quarter of forest carbon is stored on communal land, particularly in Brazil.
The research by a group of academic institutions and environmental NGOs is the most comprehensive effort yet to quantify the contribution of traditional forest guardians to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.
Authors say the expansion of tribal land rights is the most cost-effective way to protect forests and sequester carbon an issue that they hope will receive more prominence at the upcoming United Nations climate conference in Marrakech.
The paper by the Rights and Resources Initiative, Woods Hole Research Centre and World Resources Institute aims to encourage governments to recognise indigenous land rights and include tribal input in national action plans. Currently this is not the case for 167 of 188 nations in the Paris agreement, including Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which are home to some of the worlds biggest forests.
It is also likely to feed into a growing debate in Brazil, which has won kudos for recognising more indigenous land than any other country in the past decade but is now under a new government that has yet to be tested in international climate talks.
Based on satellite surveys of 37 tropical countries, the study estimates community-claimed lands sequester at least 54,546m tonnes of carbon roughly four times the worlds annual emissions.
Ownership of a 10th of that land is public, unrecognised or contested, which raises the risk that it could fall into the hands of developers, farmers, miners or others who want to clear the forest for short-term financial gain at the expense of long-term environmental costs.