FOR reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) to be successful in the Pacific, it is critical that the issue of carbon ownership or the right to benefit from sequestered carbon and reduced emissions be properly ascertained as an important first step.
Secretariat for Pacific Communities (SPC) Land Resources Division (LRD), acting director Inoke Ratukalou revealed this to participants at a workshop in Nadi last week on forest carbon rights in Melanesia.
"A clear definition needs to be formulated of forest carbon stocks, linked to the rights associated with the resources that store the carbon and the land where those resources reside.
"It was for this reason that we, with the support of German Agency for International Co-operation (GIZ), commissioned national studies in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to look at this issue and suggest how it could be effectively handled under the appropriate legal reforms," Mr Ratukalou said.
He said 95 per cent of total land area in Melanesian island countries was owned and managed by customary landowners and land tenure systems in existence, forests that grew on them were owned by clans and tribal groups.
And any forest-related operations, such as harvesting timber, required extensive consultation between state agencies and landowners.
In Fiji, 90 per cent of forested land was communally owned and the iTaukei Land Trust Board (TLTB) administered the land on behalf of landowning groups or mataqali.