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A Global Baseline of Carbon Storage in Collective Lands

Author: Rights and Resources Initiative; Woods Hole Research Center; World Resources Institute; Environmental Defense Fund; Alliance of Indigenous Peoples of the Archipelago; Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests; Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin

Date: September 10, 2018

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.

  • Key Findings
  • Graphics
  • Related Analyses

Key Findings

  1. Indigenous Peoples and local communities manage at least 17 percent (293,061 Mt) of the total carbon stored in the forestlands of assessed countries—a global estimate that is 5 times greater than shown in a previous analysis of aboveground tropical forest carbon, equivalent to 33 times the global energy emissions of 2017.
  2. Twenty two percent (217,991 MtC) of the forest carbon found in the 52 tropical and subtropical countries in this analysis is stewarded by communities, and one-third of this (72,079 MtC) is located in areas where Indigenous Peoples and local communities lack formal recognition of their tenure rights—putting them, their lands, and the carbon stored therein at risk.
  3. Soil organic carbon accounts for almost 65 percent (113,218 Mt) and nearly 90 percent (105,606 Mt) of the total forest carbon managed by communities in tropical and non-tropical forest countries, respectively. By protecting their forests and lands, communities are not only maintaining the carbon stored in the trees (above and below ground), but are also in effect protecting vast reservoirs of carbon that would otherwise be released to the atmosphere if the overlying forests were destroyed.
  4. Carbon storage in collective lands is far greater and more extensive than what can be assessed through available data. This assessment remains an underestimate of carbon stored in collective forestlands worldwide. The full extent of forests and other lands held by indigenous and local communities—and particularly those where communities have yet to achieve legal recognition of their rights—is unknown and spatially explicit data concerning these areas remains lacking. Thus, vast stores of carbon within collective lands in carbon-rich countries such as Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo remain undocumented.

Graphics

Related Analyses