Grabbing land to save the planet? Why we need to safeguard legitimate land tenure rights to stay within 1.5 Degrees and protect biodiversity | Land Portal

This session addressed the fact that the rights implications and the social and economic consequences of current climate change and biodiversity strategies in the context of the Rio Conventions for millions of people are not sufficiently acknowledged, researched, and addressed. The presenters and participants discussed the urgent need to have public, academic and policy debates about the impact of land-based climate and biodiversity strategies on poor communities and the development trajectories of rural economies. Furthermore, the contributions of local and indigenous communities to climate change mitigation and biodiversity protection need to be acknowledged and safeguarded, based on tenure security.


Key Takeaways

  • The discourse and policies on climate change mitigation and biodiversity protection have mainly focused on technical aspects while they have serious implications for people´s rights.
  • In most contexts where land-based climate change mitigation measures are implemented there are: Extremely limited demographic data, no official mapping of customary tenure, legal frameworks that do not support collective land rights and a minimal official recognition of collective lands.
  • Nationally determined contributions and National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans need to include credible pathways to rights-based conservation.


"Land-based measures are at the heart of climate change mitigation and biodiversity protection. Whether these will have a positive or a negative impact on rights, lives and livelihoods depends on the actions taken now. Currently, there is a strong indication of negative impacts." 

-  David Betge




Presentation 1

Grabbing Land to Save the Planet?

David Betge, Research Associate, TMG Research


“Land-based measures are at the heart of climate change mitigation and biodiversity protection. Whether these will have a positive or a negative impact on rights, lives and livelihoods depends on the actions taken now. Currently, there is a strong indication of negative impacts.” 

- David Betge


The presentation provided an overview of land-based commitments related to global climate change mitigation and restoration efforts. 1.2 billion hectares of land have been committed globally. The presentation highlighted the fact that many countries in the global South committed large quantities of land through their Nationally Determined Contributions and other mechanisms, with some countries committing more land on paper than their total available landmass. While land-based and nature-based solutions can and should play a central role in climate change mitigation and biodiversity protection, the protection of legitimate rights needs to be ensured. There is a danger that with increasing urgency of climate change measures, there will be trade-offs between rights protection and climate change mitigation with negative effects on people´s lives and livelihoods. TMG Research is currently developing bottom-up monitoring and reporting tools that can enable tracking such negative effects. Similar tools should become a standard in climate- and biodiversity-related projects.


Presentation 2

Environmental land grabs in Central Africa

Ana Osuna Orozco, Head of Programs, Rainforest Foundation UK


“Forest protection and restoration measures have directly led to significant displacements in central Africa. Only the protection of legitimate tenure rights can ensure mitigation and retoration measures without displacement.”


The presentation provided an overview of recent work done by Rainforest Foundation UK in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Republic of Congo related to forest-based climate change mitigation and biodiversity protection measures. Many of these had severe negative impacts on local populations because authorities and external actors did not respect the legitimate tenure rights of forest dwellers and forest users. In context, where state structures are weak it is the duty of project developers, implementers and donors to ensure that climate change mitigation and biodiversity protection measures do not come at the detriment of indigenous and local communities.



Presentation 3

Bottom-up or Elite Capture?: How REDD+ Projects Create New Challenges For Indigenous People in Colombia

Dominique Schmid, Utrecht University


“While Colombia has very strong protections of indigenous rights, the REDD+ mechanisms often fail to adhere to their own standards.” 

- Dominique Schmid


Colombia currently hosts the second most REDD+ projects in the world, with an increasing interest from investors to conduct projects on Indigenous lands. These projects are largely presented as bottom-up initiatives with objectives evolving around the Indigenous communities’ cultural, social, economic, and political plans. The bottom-up argument is used as a justification to omit the constitutionally granted prior consultation, in addition to the argument that the projects’ objectives do not impact communities. The presented study focused on four REDD+ projects in the Colombian Amazon. Based on in-depth interviews with members of 10 participating communities, the communities involvement in and knowledge of these projects as well as the resulting consequences, were investigated. The results suggest that not only community members largely expect a prior consultation for such projects, and demonstrated very limited knowledge about the projects and the exclusion of many leaders from decision-making, which puts into question the bottom-up notion of the project developers. The results also challenge the argument of no impact as they show that projects slowly undermine the foundation of trust within and between communities and that already the prospective monetary boom is a conflicting factor that is prone to elite-capture.

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