A new report by the Forest Declaration Assessment says that fulfilling the Paris Agreement won’t be possible without acknowledging and supporting the crucial role of Indigenous peoples and local communities’ (IPLCs) restored and protected lands.

Titled “Sink or swim”, the authors of the report, Climate Focus and the World Resources Institute (WRI), focus on the potential of IPLC lands in Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru to mitigate climate change. The report then peers into whether this potential is reflected in the respective countries’ climate-related policies and nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to meeting the Paris Agreement’s targets.

The release of the report comes days before the UN is set to release an assessment on climate mitigation with recommendations on how best to reduce carbon emissions and keep global temperatures below 1.5 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels.

Juan Carlos Altamirano, the WRI economist who led the report’s research calculating emissions sequestered in IPLC lands, told Mongabay that they had always been aware that IPLC lands were carbon sinks. But their investigation showed that this was the case in at least 90 per cent of the research target areas.

In the four Latin American countries, research also revealed that each hectare (2.5 acres) of IPLC lands sequesters an average of 30 metric tons (33 tons) of carbon every year, about twice as much as lands outside IPLC protection. This equates to about 30 per cent of the four countries’ Paris Agreement targets for 2030.

Without these contributions, states the report, other key economic sectors would have to pick up the slack to achieve the emission reduction targets promised. For example, Brazil and Colombia would have to retire 80 per cent percent of their vehicle fleets to account for the loss of sequestration services their IPLC forests provide.

“Sometimes politicians or developers think that these lands are unproductive […] that raising cattle or cutting the trees for timber will make more sense from an economic point of view,” says Altamirano.

“But they don’t take into account all the ecosystem services that these lands are providing. And if you don’t take care of them, it will be even more difficult to do regular economic activities like agriculture or raising cattle.”

Read the full article about protecting Indigenous land by Dimitri Selibas at Eco-Business.