WASHINGTON - Protecting forest rights of indigenous people in countries like Brazil and Guatemala would generate "substantial economic benefits", according to a study released Wednesday by the Washington-based World Resources Institute, or WRI.
According to the report "The Economic Costs and Benefits of Securing Community Forest Tenure: Evidence from Brazil and Guatemala", a "relatively modest" investment to ensure the rights of these forest dwellers would generate significant economic, social and environmental returns.
The main benefit would be in the form of non-emission of carbon dioxide, or CO2, into the atmosphere.
In the two areas studied in Brazil and Guatemala, the report found it would avoid the emission of more than 5,400 million tonnes of CO2 in the next twenty years; a figure equivalent to CO2 emitted by more than 1,000 million cars a year.
"Secure rights in community forests of Brazil and Guatemala are a positive investment for both countries, which carries important implications for many other countries," said economist and co-author of the report Erin Gray.
In case of Brazil, where indigenous territories in the Amazon occupy 13 percent of the country's area, WRI calculates emissions could be avoided in such a way that the state would "benefit" up to $161.7 billion in two decades.
In Guatemala, protection of the Maya Biosphere Reserve could generate benefits worth $605 million during the same period.
"The global implications are huge. Indigenous Peoples and communities have some legal rights to about one-eighth of the world's forests although they actually hold and use much more under customary arrangements. When we invest in strengthening their rights, we now know we are not only doing the right thing, we are also making a smart investment in a more climate-stable world," said Juan-Carlos Altamirano, WRI economist and the report's co-author.