Sink or swim: How Indigenous and community lands can make or break nationally determined contributions

The critical importance of Indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) have long been left out of the climate change solutions conversation. If the international community is to have any chance of meeting the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C, that needs to change. In forested areas, protecting IPLCs and their land can go a long way in reducing carbon emissions and protecting carbon sinks.

This report analyzes the contribution that IPLCs make in reducing carbon emissions in forested areas in four countries – Brazil, Colombia, Peru, and Mexico—and explores ways that IPLCs can be better integrated into countries’ governance structures, policies, and NDCs. It outlines the disproportionate impacts that climate change has on IPLCs (as well as other marginalized groups) and acknowledges the role that IPLC knowledge can play in developing climate solutions.

Key Findings:

  • NDCs and other related policy documents fall short in establishing actions, targets, and policies relating to IPLCs and their lands. The countries assessed include limited references to IPLC lands in the context of fairness, rights and IPLCs involvement in the policy planning processes but fail to acknowledge the crucial role of their lands in meeting national targets.
  • On a per hectare basis, at least 80% of forested IPLC lands in the four countries are net sinks of CO2e, sequestering annually at least 30 Mg CO2e/ha on average. On average, these lands sequestered more than twice as much CO2e/ha as non-IPLC lands.
  • IPLCs lands account for 28% of above ground carbon stored in forests globally. Annually, they sequester an amount of CO2e equivalent to, on average, 30% of the four countries’ unconditional 2030 targets. Without these contributions, other key economic sectors would have to pick up the slack to achieve the emission reduction targets promised. For instance, Brazil and Colombia would have to retire 80% of their vehicle fleet and Mexico would need to retire 35% of its vehicle fleet to account for the loss of carbon sequestered by IPLC lands, whereas Peru would have to retire their entire vehicle fleet to make up for just half of the loss of IPLC contributions
  • Existing governance frameworks in the four countries fall far short of what is needed to realize the mitigation potential offered by IPLC lands. In all four countries, these lands are under constant threat from ranching, mining, and logging, much of which is illegal and linked to corruption and collusion between governments and illegal actors. Governments need to accelerate titling efforts and ensure IPLCs have full rights to the land they own, recognize and respect their right to free, prior, and informed consent, take measures to ensure rights are respected in practice, and actively empower IPLCs to manage their forest through adequate finance and support.
  • To reconfirm commitment to the Paris Agreement, all four countries in the research have signed on to the 2021 Glasgow Declaration on Forests and Land Use aimed at strengthening efforts in the sector to be 1.5C compatible. Hence, meeting or enhancing NDCs’ targets in this key sector will require accounting for the carbon sinks of IPLCs lands

This report is written in collaboration with World Resources Institute (WRI) and published by the Forest Declaration Assessment. It is available in three languages: English, Spanish, and Portuguese.