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Give power to people on the ground for climate change mitigation
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Give power to people on the ground for climate change mitigation

Put power in the hands of people on the ground to fight climate change


  • Carbon markets are a powerful tool to increase investments in nature and are essential to climate action.
  • This is a question of climate justice, equity – the lack of knowledge by practitioners on the ground continues to be a major hurdle in achieving our climate reduction goals.
  • UpLink has launched the Climate Justice ChallengeWe are looking for innovative solutions to help the communities most affected by climate change.

I’ve spoken with over 50 nature-based carbon project practitioners over the past year of all shapes and sizes. Multinational NGOs managing millions of hectares across multiple continents, to two-person community-based organisations looking to restore 50 ha of mangroves. I should add that there are more of the latter than the first.

These conversations and my own experience in Africa with a nature-based carbon project have taught me that most groups and communities that have the greatest potential for protecting and restoring nature to mitigate climate change are not well-informed about carbon markets or carbon finance. They could be able to access the funds they need to help them. What should an Indigenous community, landowner or manager do to get started in the carbon space? What is the process? Who can they trust What is fair?

A critical problem facing carbon markets today is asymmetry of information – practitioners on the ground don’t understand the carbon finance opportunity and furthermore don’t have the knowledge or experience to wisely engage with carbon market actors.

This is fundamentally a matter of climate justice and equity. If we don’t equip actors on the ground with this knowledge, then thousands if not millions of potential natural climate solution projects will not get access to funding and we won’t reach our climate mitigation goals. Worse, if project practitioners don’t have the knowledge and information they need, then they could be exploited by those who want to profit on carbon markets. We will not only fail in our efforts to address climate change, but also we will see an increase in the global inequalities that contributed to the initial climate crisis.

Where do we start? Open source tools and trust networks

The good news is that a lot of the information land stewards need in order to engage confidently with carbon markets exists already. It is difficult to find and decipher the information in large reports and articles. When I’ve struggled to understand carbon markets, the fastest way I’ve found to get the most valuable information is to connect directly with experts or other actors on the ground that already have a wealth of experience in this area. They are usually able to answer my questions and give me a solid understanding of complex issues in about a tenth of the time it would take me to research.

First, land stewards all over the world could greatly benefit from a central network made up of experts and practitioners in development and carbon markets. There will be space for questions to be posed and answers to be given, so there are no dumb questions. Access to such a network of people with the knowledge and experience to help land stewards not only understand the process but also to determine what is fair. If we want to scale nature-based solutions, we must establish trust and transparency in carbon markets and carbon financing so that land stewards know that they are being fairly compensated for their work on the ground to restore and protect ecosystems.

Second, I’ve come across many tools that different organizations, most of them NGOs, have created to help with internal or project specific assessment. Many of these tools can be extremely helpful to land stewards or project proponents who are just starting their journey. They can guide internal decision making and provide technical tools such as projecting carbon fluxes onto a landscape. A central hub for open-source tools and resources in public domain about nature-based carbon projects would be a great help to land stewards.

On a final note, if you represent a company or organization that is working further down along the carbon credit value chain and are engaging in partnerships with land stewards, please don’t take advantage of their lack of knowledge and experience, take responsibility for it. I trust that we all know when the other party knows more than us, and that in most business negotiations, this is a strategic benefit. We must build trust with land stewards across the globe and ensure they sign fair agreements if we are to scale natural climate solutions. Because our future is in their hands more often than we think. An equitable carbon agreement is the only agreement that can succeed from both a climate and social justice perspective.

I’m hoping that UpLink’s Climate Justice Challenge can begin to shed more light on the current carbon justice challenge facing local and Indigenous land stewards, conservationists and restorationists around the globe. We must ensure that Indigenous communities, as well as local land stewards, have the connections that they need to access the knowledge, resources, and community they require to receive their fair share of climate finance.

If you are a land-steward of any size or shape and are looking for support and resources, the Carbon Commons, an independent virtual community, was founded by land-stewards and is open to all land stewards. The Carbon Commons seeks to increase transparency in the process and provide land stewards with the information they need to make informed decisions. If you are a land-steward who works to restore and protect natural ecosystems, apply here to join the Carbon Commons.

We must not be afraid of the changing climate. Let us embrace the chance that we have to redistribute our wealth and regenerate natural ecosystems. This will help us achieve a stable climate and a global community that works for all.

What a beautiful world!

Do you have an innovative idea to help the most affected communities by climate change and other issues? Send your solution to the Climate Justice Challenge UpLink


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