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It’s your forest but my carbon

2011/11/16 16:33:43

REDD will require that rights to forests be clarified and secured in the hands of stewards, with both the legitimacy and capacity to affect what happens to the forest. Forest ownership is normally associated with land ownership. Nevertheless, land ownership does not necessarily coincide with the right to alter forest vegetation and carbon stocks. In this regard, REDD may be based on incentives for avoiding carbon emissions or enhancing carbon sequestration (i.e. forest maintenance and protection) or, alternatively, on rewards for those owning the land in which the carbon is found.


Domestic regulatory schemes should clearly determine who owns the right to the carbon sequestered in forests. Carbon ownership may either be a separate proprietary interest, or be linked to forest or land ownership. In this connection, one major consideration relates to whether the property law system in question treats land and natural resources, including ecosystem services, as fundamentally belonging to the state (i.e. public domain) or as wholly belonging to private land owners. A related regulatory issue is whether concessions are granted for ecosystem services such as carbon.


Theoretically, existing contractual and statutory arrangements may be sufficient to solve questions

associated with carbon and forest ownership. However, lack of clear rules may engender uncertainty on how these rights can be securely established, maintained and transferred. These uncertainties are likely to lead to increased transaction costs to figure out the legal status of disputed forests and carbon rights. It is therefore advisable that regulations be adopted to solve the specific questions raised by carbon ownership and associated liabilities. The answers will vary from one jurisdiction to another, and greatly depend on domestic laws on property, taxation, and natural resource utilization.


The implementation of REDD activities is likely to push up the cost of land and attract outside investors, and welldefined forest and land tenure arrangements are commonly regarded as a crucial indicator of ‘readiness for REDD’.

REDD may therefore provide a powerful impetus to define forest land tenure. However, processes aimed at clarifying forest and land tenure could go in either direction for non-titled land owners: they could be granted legal rights to their customary lands, or they may be evicted as more powerful stakeholders reap the benefits of REDD. In this connection, while there may be trade-offs between environmental and social goals in the short term, in the long run REDD will need to benefit poor people and forest communities to be sustainable.1 Determining the rights and

responsibilities of land owners, communities, and loggers is therefore key to effective forest management for carbon sequestration.

Organized by China Green Carbon Foundation  

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