Wednesday, May 29, 2024

New Fund Boosts Indigenous Inclusion as Only 6% of Nations Act Sustainably

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New research out of The Ohio State University shows only six percent of countries are able to provide food, water, and energy to their citizens in a sustainable way. And it comes as a new fund aims to protect Indigenous and local communities as the carbon market heats up.

The Ohio State researchers established a method for assessing the extent to which countries across the globe supply their citizens with food, water, and energy without surpassing nature’s capability to satisfy those necessities. The research found that out of 178 countries, a mere six percent could meet the needs of their citizens in an ecologically sustainable manner both in carbon sequestration and water consumption.

While 67 percent of countries were able to manage water usage safely and sustainably, only nine percent did so in terms of carbon sequestration or the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The study, which was published in the journal One Earth, revealed that the U.S. belonged to the majority of countries capable of providing water safely and justly to its citizens. However, it falls short in terms of ecologically sustainable carbon usage.

Bhavik Bakshi, co-author of the study and a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Ohio State, said most engineering disciplines traditionally ignore the role that nature plays in supporting “our activities and more broadly, our well-being.”

“In this study, we sought to ensure we could quantify these challenges in a way engineers could use to make better decisions,” Bakshi said.

Bakshi has spent decades promoting sustainable engineering, which focuses on designing products or systems that positively impact nature. He further explained that the study aimed to quantify these challenges so that engineers could make more informed decisions.

Amazon cities biodiversity
Courtesy Los Muertos Crew | Pexels

The researchers used a system called the framework of planetary boundaries and the concept of a “safe and just operating space” to create the study’s framework. This framework identifies a country’s ecological ceiling, which outlines the limits within which human activities must operate to minimize the risk of causing irreparable harm to Earth.

Bakshi explained that human activities should ideally exist between the limits of a society’s ecological ceiling and its social foundation, which describes the resources necessary to avoid critical human deprivation of food, water, or energy.

Using recent water and carbon sequestration data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and other international agencies, Bakshi and his co-author, former Ph.D. student Yazeed Aleissa, analyzed the needs of 178 countries in relation to their regions’ ecosystems. They discovered that most countries emit significantly more carbon than their national ecosystem can handle, but they tend to operate near their water supply limits.

The findings come as The Climate and Land Use Alliance (CLUA) and Leonardo DiCaprio’s Re:wild announced the launch of the Kawari Fund. “Kawari” means a panoramic view of the forest or the landscape in the Inga language (a variation of the Quechuan language), spoken in southern Colombia. The new fund is aimed at helping scale the carbon market while addressing issues including social integrity, adequate representation and informed participation of IP and LCs in carbon negotiations.

“It is critical that we reduce emissions, but too often we’ve seen carbon initiatives jeopardize the rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities, resulting in the displacement of communities, new rules over lands and resources that the communities have not agreed to, or disruption of local governance,” Minnie Degawan, director of the Kawari Fund, said in a statement. “Unless the process leading to the creation of carbon credits incorporates the rights, opinions and knowledge of Indigenous peoples and local communities, the voluntary carbon market will fail to effectively do what it is largely meant to do: address the triple interconnected crises of climate change, biodiversity loss and human wellbeing.”

Mount Iglit-Baco National Park
Mount Iglit-Baco National Park | Courtesy Re:wild

According to the fund, managed by Re:wild, the carbon market plays a key role as governments and the private sector aim to reduce their carbon footprints. Carbon credits often comes by way of restoration or protection projects.

Kawari says grants given out by the fund will support biodiversity and Indigenous peoples while transforming climate financing mechanisms — such as REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation). Programs like REDD+ have been criticized for focusing on credit and profits instead of ensuring fair benefit sharing. The Fund says for-profit companies, often called “carbon cowboys,” exploit Indigenous territories to secure carbon rights and disregard the local community in doing so.

“CLUA fully supports the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities to determine whether and how they wish to engage with carbon markets–both in their decision-making processes and the outcomes they seek,” said Lindsey Allen, CLUA executive director. “The Kawari Fund aims to ensure carbon agreements with Indigenous peoples and local communities that choose to participate are built on prior, informed, and voluntary consent.”

According to Levi Sucre Romero, regional coordinator of the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests and co-chair of the Global Alliance of Territorial Communities, the issues of land tenure, benefit sharing, consultations and agreements between governments and Indigenous peoples and local communities is critical to ensuring high-integrity carbon credits in forest. They play key roles in addressing the climate crisis, Romero said. “The Kawari Fund will help bridge the gaps between the rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities and policies, laws and projects implemented by governments.”

amazon rainforest
Courtesy Nate Johnston | Unsplash

The Fund’s launch could help global carbon sequestration efforts find balance. The Ohio State researchers found that 37 percent of countries are unable to provide for their citizens in a safe and just manner in terms of carbon sequestration, while ten percent are unable to do so with water. They also noted that a nation’s socioeconomic status does not always determine its ability to provide for its citizens sustainably.

Some countries, such as those in the Middle East, North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, lack vegetation necessary for carbon sequestration. But they could leverage other tools like carbon capture technologies and global trade. The researchers also point to the role renewable energy and plant-based diets play in meeting the goals.

“[I]t’s imperative that experts look for ways to develop society in an ecologically sustainable manner,” the researchers said. “At the same time, in order to be socially just, countries need to secure resources to meet the basic needs of all of its citizens.

“If you are exceeding the ecological ceiling, then you’re not sustainable from an environmental perspective. If you’re below the social foundation, then you’re not meeting basic human needs, and that can be frustrating from an equity point of view.”

Bakshi says that from a positive perspective, the new research provides opportunities for engineers and other professionals to both innovate and develop new ways of doing things right. “Whoever is going to figure that out is going to be the future of a more sustainable and just world.”

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