Land Tenure Journal, No 2 (2011)

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Land tenure challenges in managing carbon property rights to mitigate climate change

Grenville Barnes, Sheryl Quail


Scientific evidence suggests that increasing amounts of carbon in the atmosphere are causing climate change that will result in global warming, sea -level rise and more extreme weather events. In response to anthropogenic climate change, market-based mechanisms have been proposed to mitigate these rising carbon dioxide emissions. One of these mechanisms is known as REDD (Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation). It works to prevent the loss of forests that play a key role in sequestering carbon and regulating the global climate. Globally, REDD has attracted increasing attention as a cost-effective means of reducing emissions, and organizations such as the United Nations and World Bank have accumulated significant funds for its implementation.

From a cadastral perspective, mechanisms such as REDD raise three major questions: 1) Who ‘owns’ or has rights to resources such as forests which contain the carbon pools? 2) How can the governance structure for REDD be designed so that incentives to conserve forests reach the level of those who derive their livelihoods from forest products? 3) If carbon credits are to be exchanged on a carbon market, what cadastral information would be required to secure these rights in a ‘carbon cadastre’? To address these three questions this paper draws on the authors’ land tenure experience in the Amazon basin, Central America and sub-Saharan Africa.

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