Land Tenure Journal, No 2 (2011)

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Toward land administration systems to support climate change mitigation payments

David Mitchell, Jaap Zevenbergen


Climate change mitigation projects in developing countries have the potential for significant negative impacts on land users. In particular, land users with socially legitimate but informal tenure that is not recorded using a statutory process are at risk of exploitation from the powerful elite. A detailed understanding of de facto property rights is important in protecting the rights of legitimate beneficiaries of climate change mitigation projects, and this is recognized in international declarations. Land administration systems have the potential to assist in formally recognizing and recording both de jure and de facto rights to land and resources. This paper analyses the requirements for land administration in the implementation of climate change mitigation policies through payments for environmental services (PES). The authors review existing approaches to administering land tenure on climate change mitigation projects, and consider how current and innovative approaches to land administration may be applied.

This discussion draws on a review of the literature as well as a review of seven climate change mitigation projects in Africa, Asia and South America. The authors argue for the importance of formally recording and recognizing de facto land rights and point out the risks of ignoring these rights, while acknowledging the complexity and difficulty of incorporating this understanding into the design of climate change mitigation projects.

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