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Indigenous peoples and climate finance for the forest sector

Blog | Fri, 03 Jun, 2022 · 14 min read
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Training and dialogue with indigenous peoples on carbon finance for the forest sector


The achievement of the Paris Agreement goals will rely on a combination of financial and policy mechanisms and action from public and private actors across all sectors of the economy to urgently reduce global emissions. Carbon markets can play a key role in the transition process, incentivizing the development of low-carbon initiatives and forest conservation by creating an economic incentive for reducing emissions as cost-effectively as possible. This role is recognized and facilitated through Article 6 of the Paris Agreement and the associated Paris Rulebook, adopted in Glasgow at COP26.  

The role of carbon markets in climate finance is growing as transactions continue to increase, particularly in the Voluntary Carbon Markets (VCM). According to Forest Trends, since 2016, offsets equivalent to 1.1 billion metric tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions (BtCO2e) have been transacted voluntarily. Accelerating ambition and implementation of climate action in forests, as part of countries’ goals in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), is necessary to reach net zero emissions. Carbon markets serve as one mechanism to drive the investment needed to achieve these goals.  If designed and implemented effectively, carbon markets represent a potential opportunity to access critically needed finance to support forest conservation and restoration efforts. However, integrity in carbon markets is essential to ensure that the use of carbon credits strengthens – rather than undermines – global action towards achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement.

High-integrity in carbon markets must ensure the application of robust environmental and social safeguards and respect the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities. Indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) are recognized as the most effective forest stewards and, therefore, should have access to more finance for their continued efforts to protect and restore forests. They have expressed a need for further capacity building on carbon markets to facilitate their informed engagement to participate in standard-setting, accessing finance and exercising their rights.  

If indigenous peoples, countries and other stakeholders accessing carbon markets are going to be able to meet demand from private sector buyers, market-based standards, NGOs and local stakeholders for high-quality units with demonstrated additional sustainable development impacts, there needs to be greater upfront investment in capacities to build robust and integrated systems. This includes establishing participatory processes, ensuring appropriate community engagement from design to implementation, ensuring consistency with the rights and interests of affected indigenous peoples and local communities and developing processes for ensuring just and equitable benefit sharing arrangements for indigenous and local communities.  

 A webinar, hosted by the Forest Declaration Platform and the UN-REDD Programme, aimed to provide the space for capacity building on these topics, by convening indigenous peoples and local communities with technical experts during the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. 

Frances Seymour, Distinguished Senior Fellow at World Resources Institute (WRI), and Jennifer (Jing) Tauli-Corpuz, Global Policy and Advocacy Lead for Nia Tero, delivered opening remarks. Frances highlighted the need to level the playing field between carbon market buyers and sellers in a way that respects indigenous peoples as the rightful stewards of forests. She summarized the history of carbon markets and their intersection with IPLCs and recognized that climate finance has not yet reached the community level. Jennifer underlined the importance of acknowledging free, prior and informed consent and securing tenure for indigenous peoples as a matter of high integrity in carbon markets.

Kimberly Todd, Technical Specialist from UNDP’s Climate & Forest Programme, provided an introductory presentation on carbon finance in the context of achieving Paris Agreement goals (see slides here in English,  Spanish, French, and Portuguese) providing an overview of carbon markets, the main components of Article 6 and compliance markets, key decisions taken at UNFCCC COP 26 in Glasgow, voluntary carbon markets and considerations for social and environmental integrity in carbon markets.

The audience also heard about two carbon market projects from indigenous communities in Tanzania and Brazil. Isack Bryson, Yaeda Project Manager, explained the lessons and successes of the Yaeda Valley Project and highlighted the power of its participatory planning process, which involves local communities in all aspects from planning to budgeting and monitoring. Chief Almir Narayamoga Surui of the Paiter Surui People in the Brazillian Amazon shared lessons from the Surui Forest Carbon Project and stressed the undeniable importance of government support and recognition of indigenous sovereignty and autonomy.

The panel that followed presented high-integrity carbon market standards for forests and opportunities for indigenous peoples. Panelists included: Lucia Madrid, Senior Policy Manager from Architecture for REDD+ Transactions (ART) Secretariat, Daniel Ortega, co-Chair of the Expert Panel from Integrity Council on Voluntary Carbon Markets (IC-VCM) and Mark Kenber, Co-Executive Director for External Affairs for the Voluntary Carbon Markets Integrity Initiative (VCMI). They shared opportunities for indigenous peoples to engage with global standards and benefit from carbon markets, with an emphasis on how these initiatives can ensure the perspectives and experiences of IPLCS are incorporated in their outcomes.

The discussion then shifted to indigenous perspectives on what must take place in these high-integrity carbon market initiatives. Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, member of the Mbororo pastoralist people in Chad and President of the Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad (AFPAT), set the tone by imploring indigenous peoples be recognized as equal partners in carbon finance, not as recipients or beneficiaries. Tuntiak Katan, member of the Shuar People, Vice Coordinator of the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA), shared a similar message on mutual collaboration and stressed the importance of strengthening traditional knowledge and practices as a viable solution to the climate crisis.

The event ended with closing remarks by Leticia Guimarães, Senior Global Technical Advisor on Climate and Forests at UNDP, who offered three main takeaway messages:

  1. Indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) are the most effective forest stewards and their efforts need to be recognized and further incentivized through performance-based finance and carbon markets. IPLCs must be in the driver’s seat of carbon market initiatives that affect their territories. 
  2. IPLCs want direct access to climate finance for forests, therefore a greater upfront investment is needed to establish participatory processes and ensure appropriate community engagement from design to implementation. Financial intermediaries are a recent trend, and IPLCs need to evaluate which organizations are best positioned to represent their interests.  
  3. The rights of IPLCs need to be safeguarded and further enhanced by carbon market mechanisms and processes that are consistent with strengthening their rights and interests and allowing for just and equitable benefit sharing.                                                                                                                                                                       Recordings of the event are available in English, Spanish, and Portuguese on the Forest Declaration Platform YouTube  page, here. (Note: due to technical difficulties, the French recording only includes the final panel and closing remarks.) 

 Resources from Speakers:

 Other relevant resources:


Nina Kantcheva, Senior Policy Advisor, Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities, UNDP Climate & Forests.