Climate Change and Natural Resource Management

Land rights are critical for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Land and resource governance systems create incentives for sustainable or unsustainable land uses. Effective land and resource governance promotes careful management and can encourage restoration and stewardship of land, resources, and ecosystems more broadly, which can help to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

View the new USAID Climate Strategy 2022 – 2030 Resource Page here.

When land tenure and resource rights  are poorly defined or are poorly enforced, natural resources and ecosystems can be quickly degraded because incentives to conserve and protect the resources are weak or absent. This can lead to overgrazing of pastureland,  wildlife poaching, deforestation, ineffective watershed management, degradation of mangroves and peatlands,  poorly planned extractive industry investments, and other outcomes that can directly or indirectly contribute to climate change. Degradation and misuse of natural resources also limits prospects for long-term economic growth and the diversified livelihood options that might come from more effective natural resource management, such as tourism, fisheries, and forestry.

For example, in unpredictable ways, climate change will provoke adjustments in the use and value of land and other natural resources; simultaneously, climate change will intensify human migration and displacement. Climate-related movement is already on the rise, and experts estimate that an additional 143 million “climate migrants” will be displaced from their homes in sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America by 2050. These people will need to be integrated, for the short or longer-term in different locations, and will require clear and just pathways to land and resources for their housing and livelihoods.

When land and resource rights are clear and secure, they can facilitate sound management and promote the conservation and restoration of natural resources and ecosystems, which can help to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Investing in the formal recognition of land rights, clarifying legal and policy frameworks related to who owns and controls carbon rights,  promoting responsible land management, inclusive land use planning, and natural climate solutions (especially in tropical forests, which are some of the most effective landscapes for carbon sequestration), represent cost-effective ways to achieve significant climate mitigation, especially working in partnership with Indigenous Peoples.

Effective land and resource governance systems can also address climate-related displacement and conflict at multiple scales, from local disasters to global migration frameworks. Migrants may be more resilient during relocation when they receive support to securely access land for housing or to grow food. If migrants have titles or other proof of the housing and land they leave behind, they may also be better able to protect these assets from wrongful occupation or receive compensation if their assets are destroyed. Finally, capturing land and property information as people move can facilitate a future return. 

Helping to protect or strengthen tenure security over land and other important resources can also encourage individuals and communities to adopt practices that promote adaptation to climate change. With secure tenure rights, people are more likely to make investments that take a longer period of time to demonstrate benefits, as is the case with tree planting to support agroforestry and activities that enhance soil fertility, such as regenerative agriculture. Also, addressing tenure concerns may be increasingly important for disaster risk planning to support climate-resilient land use planning, identify areas for community relocation and provide access to equitable property insurance. 

USAID has made substantial investments in climate change mitigation and adaptation since 2010. Increasingly, these programs are demonstrating that clear and secure land rights are critical for their success and sustainability. As we implement USAID’s climate change policies and priorities, we are consolidating and making available the case studies, tools, publications and media from our efforts to strengthen land and resource rights for climate action.


Blog Posts

Climate Change is Not Gender Neutral

A Q&A with PepsiCo and USAID on making the business case for women’s empowerment and combating climate change in West Bengal, India Cross-posted from the USAID Medium blog Climate change is not gender neutral. It impacts women and girls — in all their diversity — more severely. USAID works with global companies like PepsiCo to...Read More

Documenting Individual Land Rights to Save Zambia’s Forests

Cross-posted from USAID Medium In his leadership role, John Zimba, Chief Sandwe of the Nsenga People of Zambia’s Eastern Province has personally taken steps to help his people, particularly women, formally secure the rights to their land and the forests within their communities. The chief and his constituents are already seeing the benefits from protecting...Read More

Chiribiquete: Protecting Colombia’s Largest National Park

USAID is partnering with the Government of Colombia to strengthen the capacity to increase sustainable land use and decrease deforestation to protect an iconic UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Serranía del Chiribiquete was first declared a protected area in 1989 when it covered 1.3 million hectares. The government has since expanded the park to its...Read More

Land Titles Downstream Will Protect Forests Upstream in Cambodia

By USAID Greening Prey Lang Originally published March 22, 2021 on USAID Greening Prey Lang Exposure site Kampong Thom province is one of Cambodia’s agriculture hubs. Across the province rivers originating in Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary support vast irrigation systems. The irrigation systems are frequently managed by Farmer Water User Communities (FWUC). One community irrigation...Read More

5 Ways USAID Empowers Women as Leaders Against the Climate Crisis

This blog was originally published in USAID Medium. With a seat at the table, women contribute to decision making on natural resources and climate solutions One of the greatest threats to our global community is climate change, and research shows women are more vulnerable than men to its consequences. Women and children are 14 times more...Read More

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