FN Carbon Collaborative
Report: Voices from the Field: Indigenous Carbon Case Studies (external link)
Indigenous peoples are crucial to maintaining humanity’s rich cultural fabric. Their knowledge and ways of life are being lost and are threatened by a changing environment, over which they often have little control. The issues related to ownership and management of natural resources on Aboriginal lands are a frequent source of controversy and conflict that often require trade-offs between economic development and the protection of the environment (Smith & Madras, 2009).
In contrast, harnessing carbon markets can provide Indigenous peoples with the financial resources they require to maintain their natural landscapes and traditional lifestyles. In doing so, they will contribute towards mitigating climate change and preserving biological and cultural diversity which are rapidly being lost.1
The First Nations Carbon Collaborative (FNCC) is a three-phased community-driven project that aspires to build capacity within First Nations so they can participate in and benefit from existing and emerging carbon markets. The initiative is spearheaded by the International Institute for Sustainable Development, the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources and three First Nations2 living within Canada’s frontier forests.
The FNCC is of critical importance as First Nations’ rights to the carbon stored on their lands and its related potential revenues are for the most part not yet recognized by the Canadian government. This is in stark contrast to the international stage, where Indigenous peoples’ carbon rights are currently being addressed and debated. Furthermore, building the capacity of First Nations to access carbon markets has also been largely overlooked. Ambiguously defined carbon rights along with a lack of capacity effectively prevents First Nations from accessing carbon markets, even though many of them live within and around the Boreal Region, which stores 30% of the world’s carbon (Woods Hole Research Center, 2007). This initiative will fill an important research void at the nexus of ecosystem degradation, climate change, carbon markets, Indigenous rights and sustainable development within Canada’s frontier forests.
The FNCC will empower First Nations by enabling them to articulate, develop and market carbon offsets in natural landscapes (forests, peatlands and wetlands) within their traditional lands. The project will explore the breadth and depth of First Nation carbon rights and capacity for accessing carbon markets. It will assess how best to engage in carbon conservation without unfairly limiting the rights of Indigenous peoples to exist in and use their territories. Policy makers will be provided with a broad review and analysis of carbon rights policies as they relate to First Nations and their various governance structures, as well as specific examples from the work done with the three First Nation partners. The information required for First Nations to access carbon markets will be widely distributed using a variety of effective and culturally relevant communication mediums. The project will be carried out over three phases and will provide important insights and examples that can influence First Nation carbon rights policies and enhance capacity for participating in carbon markets.
Phase I. Background Research
A literature and best practices review will examine the international state of Indigenous peoples’ carbon rights and how they are being used to access carbon markets. The research findings will contribute to the establishment of Indigenous carbon rights in Canada. In addition, a survey of 20-30 First Nations will be completed to understand current capacities, needs and interests in carbon markets. Finally, a carbon summit will be held to share the information gathered. The information gathered and lessons learned on Indigenous carbon rights will be documented in a policy paper which will be presented to relevant audiences.
Phase II. Carbon Offset Project Resource Development
This phase consists of developing tools to assist First Nations to undertake carbon offset projects. The major output of this phase will be a carbon project toolkit, including an excel-based carbon project screening tool which will provide a step by step process for developing carbon offset projects. The tool will include a user manual in print, audio and video formats. Each step within the process will be accompanied by guidance materials such as community education materials, legal guidance documents, sample budgets and examples of similar projects.
The manual will begin by providing balanced and unbiased information on carbon offsets and markets. The communities will then be in a position to understand the potential opportunities and drawbacks offered by carbon markets and if accessing them would be advantageous. Guidance for community engagement will also be provided in the manual so that broad-based awareness for a potential carbon offset project can be achieved. The manual will also describe the required expertise for developing a carbon offset project enabling the communities to identify where capacity gaps may have to be filled.
The carbon project-screening tool and its user manual will then provide the community with a step-by-step process to determine if they have an economically viable carbon offset project. The easy to use and culturally relevant tool will allow First Nations to estimate the value of their land-based carbon3. Although the exact structure of the toolkit is yet to be determined, a high level sample of its logic and content is shown below. It is important to note that while this flow chart depicts the process linearly, it’s possible that the complex nature of these projects will require multiple concurrent streams being carried out simultaneously.
The carbon project screening tool will be improved and refined by applying it to develop carbon offset projects with two First Nations (one with and without carbon offset knowledge) who will assess its functionality. Based on their feedback, the tool will be modified and ultimately designed to assist First Nations with varying capacities develop viable carbon offset projects. The main deliverable of Phase II will be the carbon project screening tool and the user manual.
Phase III. Building Capacity Roadmap
Phase III will consist of disseminating the carbon project screening tool and its user manual as well as establishing an institutional structure for the FNCC to strengthen the capacity of First Nations to implement their carbon rights and undertake carbon offset projects over the long-term. Phase III will culminate in the “First Nation Carbon Conference” which will bring together the capacity building, policy, and educational components of the FNCC project.
The screening tool and its user manual will be disseminated using a wide range of mediums. Hard and soft copies of all research materials and the user manual will be made available to First Nations online and by mail. In keeping with the majority of First Nations oral tradition and teaching approach the instructional guide will be provided in audio and video formats. Social networking tools such as Facebook, Twitter and My Space will be used to reach out to the Aboriginal youth.
A First Nation carbon working group will be established to continue building capacity within First Nations to develop carbon offset projects by providing them with the required information and assistance to use the carbon project screening tool. A website to be developed by the FNCC will facilitate peer-to-peer capacity building and learning between “carbon market ready” and aspiring First Nations.
The “First Nations Carbon Conference” will provide an opportunity for First Nations from across the country to discuss the potential benefits and drawbacks of accessing carbon markets and sharing information and experiences related to developing carbon offset projects. The business, policy and capacity building aspects of accessing carbon markets will be examined from a First Nations perspective. This will allow First Nations to provide important insights for policy makers involved in establishing carbon offset markets and designing measurement and risk mitigation protocols for land based carbon.
1 The degradation of ecosystems which are essential for human wellbeing has led to considerable losses of biological and cultural diversity. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005) reports that approximately 60 per cent of the ecosystem services they assessed are degraded or used unsustainably. Just as importantly, humanity’s cultural diversity, which embodies humankind’s wealth of knowledge and potential for development is being threatened by the loss of natural environments. The most optimistic scenario, estimates that 50% or more cultures are on the brink of extinction (Davis, 2004).
2 The three First Nation partnerships represent the different First Nation governance structures within Canada (Poplar River First Nation (PRFN) - governance under treaty, Carrier Sekani Tribal Council (CSTC) - governance under no treaty and T’licho Nation - self-governing First Nation).
3The tool will provide insights on obtaining carbon related data for afforestation, avoided deforestation, reforestation, wetland and peatland restoration and management projects (i.e. carbon market data, risks to carbon stock risks and mitigation options).