November 3, 2016

Indigenous rights are crucial to the Paris climate agreement

Securing the land rights of indigenous people is crucial to keeping global temperature rises below the agreed threshold.

Wabuamri Village community association with Forest Protection Agreement | Cool Earth

Community forest contains over 54 million tonnes of carbon. That’s four times the global carbon emissions in 2014 and a quarter of the total carbon stored by the world’s tropical forests. Without land rights and financial security, there’s a risk these indigenous people will be displaced and the forest destroyed, releasing the carbon into the atmosphere.  It’s estimated that at least one tenth of the carbon in tropical forests is in land managed by indigenous communities, but they legally own just a fraction of this.1

“The global community needs to recognize the scientific evidence: keeping tropical forests intact prevents carbon emissions, and forest peoples do the job better than anyone else. We need to take concrete steps toward recognising rights, before global warming reaches the breaking point.”

Katie Reytar, World Resources Institute

Next week, countries will gather in Morocco for COP22, after agreeing to limit the rise in global temperature to less than two degrees last year in Paris. Deforestation contributes about a quarter of climate warming emissions globally. In the Amazon, this rises to nearly 60%.


But there’s good news. Areas of rainforest where indigenous land rights are recognised and protected have deforestation rates two or three times lower than other areas, according to a recent report by the Rights and Resources Initiative, Woods Hole Research Center, and World Resources Institute.

This research backs up Cool Earth’ own findings, where canopy loss in our Asháninka community-led partnership is less than one percent compared to 28% in surrounding areas. Securing land for people that live there, giving control back to them, and giving them security for the future is a far more cost-effective means of achieving the ambitious climate targets set by the Paris Agreement than other methods. Not only that, it also improves lives for some of the world’s poorest people.



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