Supporting indigenous communities to address the climate and biodiversity crises

by Léna Prouchet, University of Exeter

Supporting Indigenous communities to address the climate and biodiversity crises
by Léna Prouchet, University of Exeter             

I am a Ph.D. researcher at the University of Exeter’s Environment and Sustainability Institute (profile). My project is funded by and in partnership with the UK-based charity Cool Earth which works alongside rainforest indigenous communities to halt deforestation and its impact on climate change. In my submission I refer to the terms of reference and will cover:

Jump to: Executive Summary and Policy Recommendations

What are the benefits and motivations for donors and for recipient countries?

One of the seven core priorities of the current Official Development Assistance (ODA) budget is “climate and biodiversity” (Taylor, 2021). As the climate and biodiversity crises can only be addressed at a global scale, cooperation to mitigate their impacts is required between all countries.

Tropical forest preservation represents a key area. Tropical forests are highly biodiverse and provide a wide range of ecosystem services (e.g.: food, water, clean air) and store the equivalent of 90 years of global fossil fuel emissions at today’s level (Hubau et al., 2020). Conversely, forest degradation is a major driver of climate change and multiplies the risks of pandemics from zoonotic diseases.

Therefore, supporting through the aid budget the preservation of the rainforest worldwide is one the most effective tool to mitigate the climate and biodiversity crises, which are having and will have effects in the entire planet.

What is the role of different development actors such Non-Governmental Organisations?

The role of some non-governmental-actors, and especially of indigenous organisations, to address the climate and biodiversity crises has been largely ignored to date.

In fact, indigenous communities receive less than 1% of climate mitigation aid (Rainforest Foundation, 2021), whereas 80% of terrestrial biodiversity is found on indigenous land. Additionally, deforestation rates on indigenous territories are consistently and significantly lower than the average rates in similar regions (Blackman & Veit, 2018). In this context, one of the best and most cost-effective strategies to avoid deforestation is to redirect financial support towards indigenous organisations.

In addition to funding, indigenous organisations should be included in decision-making processes. Allowing indigenous organisations to design and implement projects ensures that these initiatives are culturally adapted. This is especially relevant, as conservation and development initiatives in tropical forests that lack active leadership from Indigenous Peoples and local communities are less likely to be successful and to bring positive outcomes in the long run (The Nature Conservancy, 2017).

Executive Summary:

Policy recommendations:

Further reading:

Blackman, A., and Veit, P. (2018) “Titled Amazon indigenous communities cut forest carbon emissions”, Ecological Economics, 153, pp. 56-67. Available at:

Etchart, L. (2017). The role of indigenous peoples in combating climate change”, Palgrave Communications, 3(1), pp. 1-4. Available at:

Hubau, W., et al. (2020). Asynchronous carbon sink saturation in African and Amazonian tropical forests. Nature, 579(7797), pp. 80-87.Available at:

Rainforest Foundation (2021)Falling short: Donor funding for Indigenous Peoples and local communities to secure tenure rights and manage forests in tropical countries (2011–2020)”. Available at:

Taylor, R. (24th June 2021) “Importance of foreign aid programme” House of Lords Library. Available at: [Accessed on 13/09/2021]

The Nature Conservancy (2017) Strong Voices, Active Choices: TNC’s Practitioner Framework to Strengthen Outcomes for People and Nature. Available at: [Accessed: 30/12/2020]