New WRI report makes business case for providing indigenous communities with improved land rights
Providing indigenous communities in Brazil and Guatemala with land rights could provide a major economic boost, as well as reducing carbon emissions, according to a new report today that aims to make the business case to governments for tackling deforestation.
A working paper released today by the World Resources Institute (WRI) shows the financial benefits of securing community forest tenure far outweigh the costs.
In Brazil, a modest investment of $19 per hectare (ha) in establishing tenures would yield $1,473 per ha of benefits over 20 years, while a $63 investment in Guatemala would yield $1,899 per ha in benefits, the report claims.
The financial benefits include boosting the market for timber products, climate change mitigation, water regulation, tourism, avoiding conflict, and job creation from stronger community links.
For the two areas studied in Brazil and Guatemala, secure rights to community forests could prevent the release of more than 5.4 billion tons of CO2 over 20 years - equal to the emissions of more than one billion cars in a year - the report calculated.
Previous WRI research has focused on the environmental benefits of land rights, but Peter Viet, director of WRI land and resource rights initiative, said the new report is intended to underline the business case too.
"The costs-benefit analysis shows you get quite a climate bang from the relatively low cost investment that it takes to secure community rights," he said, adding that the research was targeting heavily forested countries such as Brazil, Bolivia and Democratic Republic of Congo, that could benefit from a strong community land rights law and investment.
The report has been released ahead of the Paris climate summit starting at the end of this month, where world leaders are expected to sign a global deal on tackling climate change that is due to come into effect in 2020.
A full report on the WRI's findings, including policy recommendations, is expected to be released next summer, but the group was keen to highlight its initial findings ahead of the UN meeting, said Viet.
The report also aims to direct climate finance from the public and private sectors towards initiatives to improve land use rights for communities.
"We're very keen on reaching those responsible for managing the climate funds and the guidelines being developed for how those climate funds are allocated," said Viet. "We do know that the existing climate funds have invested in securing collective community rights. We think those investments are underexploited in the portfolio of investment in these climate funds."
The Paris Climate Summit is expected to agree a new package of funding for climate-related projects in developing countries with governments having previously agreed to mobilise $100bn a year of funding from 2020. However, the issue of funding remains one of the major sticking points at the talks with disagreements continuing over how the money should be raised and which projects should benefit from new funding packages.
A number of countries, including the UK and Norway, have committed funding to forest protection programmes, while the forest component of the proposed climate agreement which aims to increase funding for forest protection, known as REDD+, is one area where negotiators appear to be broadly in agreement. However, WRI is keen to see more funding mobilised towards programmes that include collective community rights.
Viet added that WRI hopes the findings could also encourage more private investors or the green bonds market to back land use rights and said a number of high-profile companies with zero deforestation commitments had already shown an interest in the findings.
"It's very clear that as the costs of companies acquiring contested land rises that they are looking to de-risk their strategies," he added. "Whether they do that by encouraging governments to identify land that is securely held, or working with the communities to make sure their land rights [are]... in fact secure."
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