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Climate change and REDD+: property as a prism for conceiving Indigenous peoples’ engagement*

Kathleen Birrell, Lee Godden and Maureen Tehan

Keywords: carbon markets; Indigenous peoples; forest subsistence; REDD+; co-option; neo-colonialism; competing property conceptions

Abstract

The rapid emergence of carbon markets internationally, and rising concerns about the impact of such schemes on Indigenous and local community interests, rights and traditional knowledge, present a strong need to examine legal regulation, protection and promotion of equitable outcomes for the effective engagement of Indigenous peoples and local forest subsistence communities in climate change mitigation. This is particularly so in the context of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD and REDD+ as it later became known) – a scheme that will significantly affect the ‘property’ rights and interests of such communities. The pace and enthusiasm for investment in, and implementation of, this scheme necessitate scrutiny of the foreseeable consequences at a local level, including the potential of this global project to act as a form of neo-colonialism, co-opting Indigenous and local community interests where the value of the carbon ‘offset’ may not accrue to local inhabitants of the forested areas. Accordingly, this paper seeks to present a series of fundamental questions raised by the programme, particularly in respect of differing conceptions of property, as it uniquely relates to and impacts upon Indigenous peoples.

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