Empowering marginalised communities in carbon markets - Hindustan Times
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Empowering marginalised communities in carbon markets

ByHindustan Times
Jan 20, 2024 07:06 PM IST

This article is authored by Shailendra Singh Rao, founder, Creduce.

The climate crisis is one of the most pressing issues facing humanity today. Its adverse impacts are being felt globally, with increasing temperatures, rising sea levels, changing precipitation patterns, and more frequent extreme weather events. However, the effects of the climate crisis are disproportionately impacting marginalised communities who have contributed the least to the problem.

Green Earth(Representational photo / Creative Commons) PREMIUM
Green Earth(Representational photo / Creative Commons)

Carbon markets are fast emerging as a key mechanism through which climate action is facilitated globally. These markets put a price on carbon to incentivise emissions reduction and channel investment into sustainable solutions. However, marginalised communities often lack access and agency in these spaces. Empowering them in carbon markets can thus revolutionise climate action by driving inclusivity, social justice, and greater emissions reduction.

Disproportionate climate impacts intensify the vulnerabilities of marginalised populations, spanning socioeconomic, gender, ethnic, age, disability, and migrant status. From rising sea levels to floods, these communities bear a disproportionate burden. Indigenous groups face heightened displacement due to floods, while rural women in developing nations grapple with the impacts of desertification on their livelihoods. Despite their critical role in climate solutions, marginalised groups encounter barriers in carbon markets—ranging from awareness gaps and financial constraints to complex regulations and limited capacity. Language barriers, social discrimination, and geographic remoteness further impede their participation, hindering their ability to shape decisions affecting their well-being. Equity demands urgent and inclusive action.

India holds immense potential for transforming climate action by empowering marginalised rural communities and urban informal settlements within carbon markets. Exemplary projects in India illustrate inclusive models, such as training women self-help groups in the Sunderbans for mangrove restoration and blue carbon credits. Replicating the Humbo Ethiopia project, marginalised women in West Bengal lead afforestation efforts, earning revenue from carbon credits. Urban waste pickers integrate into waste-to-energy projects, with initiatives like Pune Municipal Corporation training cooperatives for plastic offset projects. Indigenous tribes benefit from forest conservation, participating in global carbon markets with entities like the Forest Carbon Trust.

These projects highlight that marginalised Indians can actively engage in climate solutions, given financial support, skill training, and streamlined market access, underscoring the need to mainstream similar empowering approaches across the country for inclusive climate action that fosters prosperity, not poverty.

Technology and innovation also hold exciting potential to bridge gaps hampering marginalised community participation in carbon markets. Some examples:

  • Bridging financial access barriers: Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) financing models are overcoming the prohibitive upfront costs of adopting clean energy solutions in poor rural communities through incremental payments via mobile money. Decentralised ledger technologies like blockchain enable fractional trading of carbon credits, expanding access for smallholders.
  • Enhancing inclusion: Satellite data, drone mapping and web-based monitoring systems are reducing geographical barriers. Machine learning and Big Data analytics can parse local community inputs in diverse languages. Real-time translation apps enable information dissemination.
  • Capacity building: Digital tools enhance training and remote skill-sharing. Augmented and virtual reality systems build climate literacy. Chatbots handle complex customer queries across languages. All these solutions expand digital access to carbon markets.

Targeted innovation and technology adoption thus show potential to revolutionise the inclusion of remote, linguistically diverse and digitally excluded populations in climate action.

Enabling policy frameworks and regulatory environments is equally vital to drive the inclusion of marginalised communities in carbon market mechanisms. Studies show that countries with higher environmental policy stringency have better local community engagement in climate mitigation.

The REDD+ scheme under the United Nations, which rewards developing nations for forest conservation, mandates safeguards for indigenous community rights and livelihoods.

Most experts argue that standalone regulatory guidelines specifying requirements and incentives for the inclusion of marginalised communities will expand representation. The policy also plays a key role in directing finance and investment flows from carbon markets towards excluded groups through appropriate incentives.

Thus conducive, inclusion-oriented policies and regulations can drive the revolution required to activate community-centric climate action.

Inclusive climate action relies on engaging marginalised groups through community-focused, grassroots partnerships. Localised approaches, driven by sustained community involvement, ensure initiatives address specific needs. Empowering communities fosters ownership and collaborative partnerships, enhancing access to funding and support. Placing communities at the forefront of sustainability efforts, incorporating their experiences and indigenous knowledge, yields tailored solutions. This approach fosters lasting, regenerative, and socially just climate action by expanding access, ownership, and capabilities within vulnerable populations.

Financial viability is crucial to motivate marginalised community engagement in sustainability and climate action. Carbon markets and payment mechanisms for ecosystem services provide a unique opportunity for vulnerable populations to economically benefit from preserving nature and promoting decarbonisation. Well-structured programmes can generate substantial revenues for marginalised groups, enhancing local capacities for climate-resilient development. Overcoming information gaps and transaction barriers enables vulnerable communities to access ecosystem service revenue models, fostering self-determined local stewardship. Appropriately designed financial incentives from carbon credit markets hold exciting potential for empowering marginalised communities economically and advancing climate mitigation opportunities.

Targeted, culturally relevant climate education and skills training enable meaningful participation of marginalised groups in sustainability solutions. Programmes bridging information gaps on technical concepts like carbon pricing, project design, monitoring and policy mechanisms build vital capabilities. Grassroots educational collaborations enhancing climate literacy and showcasing green livelihood opportunities also expand community engagement. Structured capacity-building creates avenues for vulnerable populations to lead in community-based emissions reduction initiatives. Mainstreaming localised pedagogical efforts globally is thus essential to activate mass climate action in an inclusive, bottom-up manner. Education plays a powerful transformative role in revolutionising climate solutions by empowering grassroots climate leaders from amongst historically marginalised communities.

The strategies explored in this paper only touch the surface of the transformative impact achievable by empowering marginalised communities within carbon markets and climate action. Ongoing technological advancements, such as distributed ledgers, AI-driven language translation, and digital identity systems, will enhance inclusion for efficient benefit transfers. Evolving policies and financial frameworks will redirect investments toward community-centric and regeneration-focused climate solutions. Collaborative efforts among corporations, non-profits, governments, and multilaterals can rapidly replicate and scale successful empowerment stories globally. A revolution rooted in social justice and radical inclusion has the potential to drive grassroots climate action, promising a future where community-driven sustainability initiatives mitigate emissions and dismantle systemic marginalisation.

Empowering marginalised communities to engage with and benefit from carbon markets is crucial for effective the climate crisis action. Despite existing barriers, targeted initiatives focusing on capacity building, financial access, policy incentives, and community project ownership showcase successful inclusion models. Aligning climate action with social justice through these approaches creates comprehensive, long-term solutions. Granting agency to vulnerable populations most affected by the climate crisis is essential for urgent systemic change. Technology, education, economic incentives, and participatory mechanisms collectively hold transformative potential, revolutionising climate action through inclusive, grassroots participation.

This article is authored by Shailendra Singh Rao, founder, Creduce.

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