After COP27, the time has come for community-led climate change action.

Now that the dust has settled on COP27 in Egypt, many of us working in climate change are asking what was achieved, and many observers are asking “what is the climate COP really meant to achieve anyway”.

To paraphrase Christiana Figueres in the most recent episode of the excellent climate change podcast “Outrage and Optimism”, COP is essentially a structure and a form to facilitate the multinational negotiations which have delivered the what and the how of the response to the climate crisis. Now it is more about the who and the how far”. 

In the world of nature conservation where protecting natural ecosystems is a powerful way to address both climate change and biodiversity loss, the “who” is now becoming clearer and clearer – it is going to have to involve local communities and indigenous people. A report published in March this year by The Forest Declaration Platform makes a well-researched case for this, and our own experience at Carbon Tanzania only serves to reinforce the findings.

From Community-focused to Community-led

Working with indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) has long been a stated goal of conservation organisations, but all too often the work has been framed as “community-focused” while true community conservation must be community-led. 

The report identifies five key elements that underpin the successful management and protection of forests – firstly the legal recognition of IPLC lands, closely followed by the securing of a broad range of land rights that secure those lands; thirdly the right to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC), followed by the practical respect of these land rights by governments, which allows for the active empowering of communities to protect and manage forests through financial and institutional support and involvement in decision-making processes. 

“Fine words butter no parsnips” is a distinctly English phrase that captures the challenge that remains once all of the above ideal and required principles are in place – that of channelling the finance required to underpin the conservation efforts of IPLCs.

The Paris Agreement was ground-breaking in many ways, but perhaps one of the most forward-thinking elements of it was the commitment to have the private sector involved in delivering the finance for climate action, rather than relying on conventional, and often concessional, donor and ODA funding mechanisms. The report is silent on this aspect, and at Carbon Tanzania, our model addresses many of the recommendations while also solving the finance piece using carbon finance obtained as revenues from the sales of carbon credits through the Voluntary Carbon Market.

Beyond FPIC

And probably the most important aspect of our approach is the recognition that community engagement must go way beyond the initial FPIC process.

It is absolutely essential in any nature-based carbon project to ensure that communities are integrally involved in the initial design and ongoing implementation of the project activities, monitoring and reporting This leads to the long term ability to verify the climate impacts of the conservation work in the form of high-quality, market-ready carbon credits. We’ve shown it can be done in Tanzania, and we are confident that this model can be replicated elsewhere, and could potentially be deployed to help forest nations meet their NDCs.

These reports tend to be addressed at an NGO and donor audience, but we should not limit these types of good practice recommendations to governments and donors. The private sector should take good note of them and use them as a basis for funding emission reductions through carbon credits purchases in ways that will satisfy the increasingly and rightly rigorous expectations of the market for high-integrity. The scale of the challenge requires every solution we can throw at it, but these solutions do not need to be at the expense of indigenous land rights.

Carbon Tanzania team with Hadza community member in the Yaeda-Eyasi Landscape project area.

Written by Director of Finance and Sales Jo Anderson


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