Status of Legal Recognition of Indigenous Peoples’, Local Communities’ and Afro-descendant Peoples’ Rights to Carbon Stored in Tropical Lands and Forests

Author: Rights and Resources Initiative & McGill University

Date: June 2, 2021

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.
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