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Climate fund aims to help indigenous people protect world's forests

by Megan Rowling | @meganrowling | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 11 January 2022 21:00 GMT

An indigenous Amazon delegate looks on during the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, Britain, November 2, 2021. REUTERS/Phil Noble

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Forest communities have received a tiny share of global climate finance - but a new initiative plans to change that by channelling money to groups on the ground

By Megan Rowling

Jan 11 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A global fund launched on Tuesday aims to boost climate financing to indigenous and local communities to help them secure land rights and preserve forested areas worldwide, from the Congo Basin to the Andes, the initiative's backers said.

Governments, philanthropists and companies are expected to contribute to the Community Land Rights and Conservation Finance Initiative (CLARIFI), which will distribute funding among groups working to conserve forests and other ecosystems on the ground.

Over the last decade, less than 1% of international climate finance has gone to indigenous and local communities to manage forests that absorb planet-heating carbon emissions and are rich in biodiversity, but the new fund hopes to change that.

"For too long indigenous peoples and local communities have received shockingly little climate funding," said Stanley Kimaren ole Riamit, founder-director of Kenyan group Indigenous Livelihoods Enhancement Partners and a CLARIFI steering committee member.

The fund will act as the "missing link" between donors that want to curb climate change and conserve biodiversity, and forest groups with the skills to do that, said Solange Bandiaky-Badji, coordinator of the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), an NGO which is leading CLARIFI with the Campaign for Nature group.

She said the initiative - which has not announced a funding target - would help local people map their lands and have their ownership formally recognised, as well as enabling them to develop community-led management and conservation plans.

Donor governments including Britain, the United States, Germany, Norway and the Netherlands pledged about $1.7 billion at November's COP26 climate summit to help indigenous peoples and forest communities advance their land rights by 2025.

But at least $10 billion will be needed by 2030 to boost the legally recognised territories of indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples and local communities to cover about half the world's tropical forests, according to RRI and Campaign for Nature.

Securing their rights and traditional way of life will help achieve global goals to conserve at least 30% of the planet by 2030 and rein in climate change, CLARIFI's backers said.

According to RRI, a third of the Earth's tropical forest carbon store is at risk without recognising community rights to land, making it easier to clear forests to produce commodities such as beef, palm oil and timber.

CLARIFI will start by testing systems to channel funding directly to communities in the Congo Basin and tropical Andes mountains, using a grant of $25 million from the Bezos Earth Fund, set up by the founder of e-commerce giant Amazon, said Bandiaky-Badji.

Besides grants, CLARIFI will also provide technical and organisational support to build the ability of local groups to tap into and deploy funding to protect the world's ecosystems.

Committee member, Pasang Dolma Sherpa, who directs Nepal's Center for Indigenous Peoples' Research and Development, said CLARIFI addresses "a need long felt by indigenous and community organisations for a vehicle that mobilises funding directly to them for activities not yet supported adequately by any donor".

Read more:

What can world leaders do to make COP26 deforestation pledge a success?

This story was updated at 10pm on Jan. 11, 2022, to clarify how the grant from the Bezos Earth Fund will be used.

(Reporting by Megan Rowling in Barcelona @meganrowling; Editing by Helen Popper. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org/climate)

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