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The former ski resort on the Chacaltaya mountain, located 5,421 metres above sea level in the Andes mountain range, in La Paz department, Bolivia, on Sept. 3, 2021.AIZAR RALDES/AFP/Getty Images

A global fund launched on Tuesday aims to boost climate financing to Indigenous communities to help them secure land rights and preserve forested areas from the Congo Basin to the Andes, the initiative’s backers said.

Governments, philanthropists and companies are expected to contribute to the Community Land Rights and Conservation Finance Initiative (CLARIFI), which will distribute funding among groups working to conserve forests and other ecosystems on the ground.

Over the past decade, less than 1 per cent of international climate finance has gone to Indigenous and local communities to manage forests that absorb planet-heating carbon emissions and are rich in biodiversity, but the new fund hopes to change that.

“For too long indigenous peoples and local communities have received shockingly little climate funding,” said Stanley Kimaren ole Riamit, founder-director of Kenyan group Indigenous Livelihoods Enhancement Partners and a CLARIFI steering committee member.

The fund will act as the “missing link” between donors that want to curb climate change and conserve biodiversity, and forest groups with the skills to do that, said Solange Bandiaky-Badji, co-ordinator of the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), an NGO which is leading CLARIFI with the Campaign for Nature group.

She said the initiative - which has not announced a funding target - would help local people map their lands and have their ownership formally recognized, as well as enabling them to develop community-led management and conservation plans.

Donor governments including Britain, the United States, Germany, Norway and the Netherlands pledged about US$1.7-billion at November’s COP26 climate summit to help indigenous peoples and forest communities advance their land rights by 2025.

But at least US$10-billion will be needed by 2030 to boost the legally recognised territories of Indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples and local communities to cover about half the world’s tropical forests, according to RRI and Campaign for Nature.

Securing their rights and traditional way of life will help achieve global goals to conserve at least 30 per cent of the planet by 2030 and rein in climate change, CLARIFI’s backers said.

According to RRI, a third of the Earth’s tropical forest carbon store is at risk without recognizing community rights to land, making it easier to clear forests to produce commodities such as beef, palm oil and timber.

CLARIFI will start by passing on grants of US$25-million from the Bezos Earth Fund - set up by the founder of e-commerce giant Amazon - to communities in the Congo Basin and the tropical Andes mountains, said Bandiaky-Badji.

Besides grants, CLARIFI will also provide technical and organizational support to build the ability of local groups to tap into and deploy funding to protect the world’s ecosystems.

Committee member Pasang Dolma Sherpa, who directs Nepal’s Center for Indigenous Peoples’ Research and Development, said CLARIFI addresses “a need long felt by Indigenous and community organizations for a vehicle that mobilizes funding directly to them for activities not yet supported adequately by any donor.”

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