Carbon Rights - Press room

New Analysis by RRI and McGill University Reveals Potential Risks of Climate Investments in Forest Carbon in Absence of Effective Safeguards and Community Rights

A new analysis by the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) and scholars at McGill University shows that the vast majority of tropical forested countries seeking to benefit from international forest carbon markets have yet to define in law and in practice the rights of Indigenous Peoples, local communities, and Afro-descendant Peoples over carbon in their customary lands and territories.

As nature-based solutions continue to attract public and private investments and the world’s most powerful actors jump into the global carbon market, clarity on who benefits from selling carbon offsets is urgent. This study underscores some of the most serious risks of expanding carbon markets without first securing the territorial rights of Indigenous Peoples, local communities, and Afro-descendant Peoples.

The analysis looks at the status of the legal recognition of the rights of Indigenous Peoples, local communities, and Afro-descendant Peoples to the carbon in their lands and territories across 31 countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Together, these countries hold almost 70 percent of the world’s tropical forests, including the five countries with the earth’s most tropical forests: Brazil, DRC, Indonesia, Peru, and Colombia.

The findings show that overall, few of the 31 countries explicitly recognize community carbon rights, and even fewer have tested the operational and political feasibility of established rules.

Key findings from the research include:

  • Only 3 of the 31 countries studied explicitly recognize community rights to carbon on lands owned by or designated for communities (Ethiopia, Peru, Republic of the Congo).
  • Just 3 countries (Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica) tie carbon rights to various types of land or forest ownership.
  • Only 5 countries (Costa Rica, Indonesia, Mexico, Philippines, and Vietnam) have mechanisms that define how carbon and non-carbon benefits will be shared and only one of these (Vietnam) was verified as being partially operational.
  • 19 of the 31 countries have feedback and grievance redress mechanisms to support engagement in REDD+, protect communities, and ensure fair and transparent transactions. Of these, only Costa Rica and Mexico have operationalized these mechanisms.

The analysis further finds that while a handful of countries have established frameworks to regulate carbon linked transactions, the vast majority have only partially or inadequately defined them, indicating that the majority of the countries assessed are ill-prepared to engage in forest carbon transactions.

Read the full press release here.