Climate finance is pouring into mechanisms that pay land managers for the emissions reductions achieved from protecting and restoring forest carbon sinks.
These mechanisms, including jurisdictional REDD+ and the voluntary carbon market, present new opportunities for indigenous communities worldwide – who are widely recognized as the planet’s most effective protectors of forests – but also new difficulties in navigating a complicated, and sometimes unwelcoming, arena.
Forest Trends, with support from the Climate and Land Use Alliance, is launching a new project to provide indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) with targeted and high-quality information, tools, and technical assistance to steer a course in the climate finance space.
The project will develop a carbon training program for IPLCs, beginning in Panama and Brazil. Communities will co-produce a financial analysis with Forest Trends of the likely benefits of various carbon finance opportunities given the characteristics of their territories, land use patterns, and other factors. Additionally, Forest Trends will provide technical assistance to help build productive and equitable working relationships between indigenous communities and jurisdictional governments, climate funds, and voluntary markets.
Forest Trends will also launch a carbon finance information platform specifically for indigenous and community users, presenting resources and data on REDD+, carbon markets, and climate funds based on IPLC’s identified information needs.
“For indigenous organizations and communities to evaluate opportunities, assess their territories’ carbon stocks and flows, negotiate with governments and private carbon market actors, understand their legal rights and the regulatory environment, and so forth, they need to have quality tailored information and the appropriate tools and capacities,” says Beto Borges, Director of Forest Trends’ Communities and Territorial Governance Initiative.
“Information on jurisdictional REDD+ and carbon markets is often presented in very technical or legal language, and not necessarily in indigenous peoples’ first language. More concerningly, we have sometimes seen information on risks de-emphasized in proposals to communities, or hidden in the fine print,” says Marcio Halla, Director of the Territorial Governance Facility and Economic Initiatives Lead at Forest Trends.
The project will also steer a stakeholder process to explore how carbon markets can support indigenous territories with large, ecologically intact forests with a history of little or no deforestation. These lands are known as “High Forest, Low Deforestation” (HFLD) jurisdictions or territories. Somewhat counterintuitively, indigenous communities with strong track records of protecting their forests are unable to access climate finance for forest conservation and restoration. The LEAF Coalition was the first carbon market mechanism to open the door to HFLD credits with its acceptance of the Architecture for REDD Transactions (ART)’s TREES protocol for HFLD. The process will produce a set of recommendations for technical support to HFLD Jurisdictions and Territories, as well as to carbon markets mechanisms.
This project builds on Forest Trends’ decade of experience developing successful forest and carbon finance projects with IPLCs. More than a decade ago, we produced a blueprint for benefit-sharing and IPLC participation in the Brazilian State of Acre’s System of Incentives for Environmental Services (SISA), known as the Indigenous Subprogram of SISA, commissioned groundbreaking research on the legal rights of indigenous peoples in Brazil to forest carbon, and were a partners in the first indigenous REDD project in 2009.
More recently, Forest Trends was a founding member of the Peoples Forest Partnership in 2021, and is the current Secretariat. Forest Trends also co-designed the Territorial Governance Facility in 2022, together with four indigenous and local community organizations: the Asociación Interétnica de Desarrollo de la Selva Peruana (AIDESEP), the Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas de la Amazonía Ecuatoriana (CONFENIAE), the Alianza Mesoamericana de Pueblos y Bosques (AMPB), and the Organización Nacional de los Pueblos Indígenas de la Amazonia Colombiana (OPIAC).