It is often implied by forest carbon critics that REDD+ projects are disadvantageous for indigenous people and will deprive them of their rights of the land. However, a new study released by the World Resource Institute and Rights & Resources Initiative argues the contrary; that instead of hindering these communities, REDD+ is supporting them.
The Study’ Findings
The study named “Securing Rights, Combating Climate Change,” is based on the research undertaken in legally-recognised community forests in 14 countries and gives detailed, clear evidence that indigenous people and other inhabitants of the forest act as ‘guardians’ of the forest, but only if their rights to the land are clear. A separate study released in May by the Centre for Global Development also found a link between the presence of indigenous and good land supervision and maintenance.
Both studies and their evidence support the idea that community rights can be strengthened through mechanisms that use carbon finance to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+).
“Many countries with REDD+ strategies identified strengthening community forest rights as part of their own strategy,” states the report. “Respect for the rights of local communities and Indigenous Peoples is an internationally agreed safeguard to ensure REDD+ does not harm people or the environment.”
It goes on to say that the success of a REDD+ strategy also relies upon community rights:
“If a community’s forest rights are weak or non-existent, then the community will also likely lose their rights to carbon in the forest,” it says. “This will undermine their ability to engage in REDD+ initiatives equitably, effectively, and independently.”
This means, that in the absence of either community rights or government action (or in Indonesia’s case, both), the outcome is bleak with the level of deforestation likely to be much higher.
Brazil’s indigenous territories are a model of success, according to the report, where legal recognition and government protection have helped indigenous communities resist deforestation pressures and maintain healthy forests. It states how rates of deforestation were 11 times lower in community forests with strong legal recognition and government protection than in other areas of the Brazilian Amazon.
Finally, the authors of the report provide five recommendations based on evidence to professionals working in climate change, lands rights and forestry:
1. Provide Indigenous Peoples & local communities with legal recognition of rights to their forest
2. Protect the legal forest rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities
3. Support communities with technical assistance and training
4. Engage forest communities in decision-making on investments affecting their forests
5. Compensate communities for the climate and other benefits provided by their forest
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