Thursday, October 15, 2009


BLOG ACTION DAY: Property Rights in Climate Change Mitigation

Today, October 15th, is Blog Action Day, on which thousands of participating blogs have agreed to write about the same issue on the same day. Blog Action Day 2009 focuses on the issue of climate change and this blog will contribute by briefly describing the importance of property rights in climate change mitigation strategies.

Land management practices such as tree planting, agroforestry, and zero-till agriculture may provide opportunities for smallholder farmers in developing countries to earn additional income through carbon sequestration payments. Moreover, the promise of such payments may provide the necessary incentive to induce farmers to invest time and resources in adopting these and other long-term conservation practices. It is crucial, however, that schemes designed to pay farmers for their carbon sequestration efforts account for the complexity of land tenure arrangements that exists in many parts of the world.

Millions of households in developing countries use a variety of informal and customary arrangements to govern access to land, forests, and other resources. Such informal tenure systems have often been in place for generations and are widely recognized, accepted, understood, and enforced by the resource users themselves, but often contradict property rights claims made by states or other holders of formal title. In Africa, for example, more than 90 percent of the land is formally claimed by the state. This complexity of property rights raises questions over who should receive compensation for activities that sequester carbon (or other greenhouse gases) on land where property rights are complex and/or ambiguous.

Current international funding mechanisms for greenhouse gas mitigation through afforestation and agriculture focus only on formal land owners and do not recognize or take into account the complexity of existing tenure arrangements. This should change. Future international agreements should consider approaches that recognize and reward those who undertake mitigation activities on customary or common property. Costa Rica and India offer examples where programs to compensate untitled landowners and users of common property for mitigation activities have been implemented with success.

In order to properly account for the importance of property rights in climate change mitigation, the upcoming negotiations in Copenhagen should focus on the following outcomes:

Read IFPRI’s policy brief on The Importance of Property Rights in Climate Change Mitigation for more information.

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