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The Rights Path

Fern 12 October 2021

by Fred Pearce

The world needs a great global forest restoration. But to succeed, it will require the restoration of the rights of forest dwellers: the people who know forests best and have the most reason to defend and nurture them, says Fred Pearce, award-winning writer and Fern board member.

To keep global heating to 1.5 degrees C or below we must not only stop burning fossil-fuels, but also protect and restore natural carbon-capturing ecosystems such as forests. 

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has called for a trillion more trees to be planted, which would require planting a thousand trees a second for the next 30 years, and take up an area the size of the US.

But there is compelling scientific evidence that successful forest restoration does not require an orgy of planting, but the restoration of natural forests. Mostly that means standing back and giving nature room to reassert itself.

Research shows that natural restored forests will ultimately capture forty times more carbon than plantations. They harbour more biodiversity, as well as being more valuable to local communities, and more resilient to changing climatic conditions.

The science is also clear that the most successful forest restoration projects – those able to deliver lasting benefit at scale –happen at the instigation and with the support of Indigenous and forest communities.  Indigenous conservation and restoration of forests deliver more biodiversity than national parks and nature reserves.

Globally, forest peoples claim customary rights — and are effective guardians — over more than half of the world’s forests. But they are reckoned to have legal ownership of only around 15 per cent of them.

Now, the danger is that the growth of carbon-offsetting markets and other initiatives aimed at incentivising forest restoration as a nature-based solution to climate change, will become an increasing threat to the rights of forest communities — to their land, their forests, and the carbon within them.

To read more visit Fern.