RRI research strengthens the growing body of evidence—captured in reports by the IPCC, IPBES, and others—that recognizing community land rights leads to lower deforestation rates, higher carbon storage, and higher biodiversity. This includes tracking the amount of carbon stored in indigenous and community lands. Communities manage nearly 300 billion metric tons of carbon, including 22 percent of tropical and sub-tropical forest carbon. Ensuring that their rights to these lands are recognized and protected is vital to keeping the forests standing and the carbon from being released into the atmosphere, which would hasten the climate crisis. Recognizing rights is also critical for meeting targets to restore damaged lands.

Given their key role in conservation, restoration, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and biodiversity protection, Indigenous Peoples and local communities—and in particular indigenous and community women—would appear to be natural allies for governments, conservation organizations, and other actors seeking to stem the loss of forests and biodiversity. However, joint research between RRI and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples found that “fortress conservation” is still common. This model, which upholds sequestering lands and forests and emptying them of people, not only drives human rights violations against local peoples, but is also ineffective as it ignores the traditional knowledge and lived experiences of communities.

RRI therefore engages with international climate instruments to ensure that rights are not just included as a safeguarding measure to prevent human rights violations, but also embraced as a key means of achieving global goals to protect our climate. RRI research on the critical connection between secure community land rights and improved climate outcomes featured in the most recent IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land. To ensure the findings featured in discussions about the report and subsequent climate discourse, RRI worked with indigenous and community organizations from 42 countries spanning three-quarters of the world’s tropical forests to produce an indigenous and community response to the report. The response ensured that community land rights was a central element of discussions around the report, and opens a window for future advocacy to ensure that land rights are part of the sustainable development, climate, and conservation goals.

Resources Recap

Key Rights & Climate Analyses

  • A Global Baseline of Carbon Storage in Collective Lands

    Forests and other lands are essential for achieving climate and development ambitions. If appropriately leveraged, natural climate solutions can contribute upwards of 37 percent of cost-effective CO2 mitigation by 2030, and evidence shows Indigenous Peoples and local communities are key to achieving such outcomes. This report presents the most comprehensive assessment to date of carbon storage in documented community lands worldwide.

  • At a Crossroads: Trends in Recognition of Community-Based Forest Tenure from 2002-2017

    This analysis reports on trends in global forest tenure over the fifteen-year period from 2002-2017. It is the fourth in a series of analyses monitoring the legal recognition of forest tenure around the world according to four categories of legally recognized (statutory) forest tenure: government administered, designated for Indigenous Peoples and local communities, owned by Indigenous Peoples and local communities, and privately owned by individuals and firms.

  • Indigenous Peoples & Local Community Tenure in the INDCs

    A review of submitted Intended Nationally Determined Contributions to determine the extent to which Parties made clear commitments to strengthen or expand the tenure and natural resource management rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities as part of their climate change mitigation plans.

  • Securing Rights, Combating Climate Change

    An analysis of the growing body of evidence linking community forest rights with healthier forests and lower carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

  • View More RRI Analyses