Attention to the interactions among land use, legal regulation of access to and usage of land, climate change mitigation and adaptation potential and wider considerations of ecological integrity and resilience is a vital part of strategies to reconcile fulfilment of the Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals with improved social and economic welfare. Evidence is growing that managing land as commons under the direct control of local communities of residents and users is a vital strategy for climate change mitigation and adaptation, capable of linking it with various wider actions for ecological and social regeneration undertaken by community-led initiatives.
The Missing Pathways Report produced by the Climate, Land, Ambition and Rights Alliance (CLARA) is an ambitious attempt to synthesise data on the mitigation and sequestration potential of various different forms of land use. Its key premise is that attention to wider ecological (and social-ecological) context is being sidelined in favour of a reductive focus on the mitigation and sequestration potential of landscape commodification through mechanisms such as REDDS and production of energy crops. This concurs with recent holistic analyses such as that of Charles Eisenstein, who suggests that ecological degradation and consequent weakening of the biosphere's capacity to absorb and buffer changes in atmospheric composition is an equally important, and perhaps more fundamental, factor in climate change as greenhouse gas emissions themselves.
The CLARA report examines the mitigation and sequestration potential of four interlinked strategies for ecological and social-ecological regeneration: protecting globally important carbon sinks such as undisturbed forests, natural grasslands and peat bogs; restoring degraded forests and grasslands; shifting to agroecological and other ecologically restorative forms of agricultural production; and changing production methods and consumer habits in affluent countries and regions such as the EU in order to reduce overall demand, particularly of animal-based foods and timber products. Based on figures from a range of peer-reviewed studies, the report estimates that a global strategy combining these four approaches could reduce annual emissions by 10Gt CO2e and sequester 11Gt CO2e per year by 2050. By safeguarding, enriching and creating ecologically diverse ecosystems and agroecosystems with high levels of resilience, this would also greatly increase the capacity of ecological life-support systems and food production to adapt to climate change. In addition, it would arrest loss of biodiversity and ecologically rich habitat to a degree that makes remaining within, or returning to, relevant planetary boundaries more likely.
The CLARA report also draws attention to the social aspects of land-based mitigation and sequestration, particularly the importance of land tenure. It points out that a disproportionate amount of the land worldwide that has retained its natural vegetation is occupied and managed by indigenous and traditional peoples, a significant number of which lack legal recognition of their ownership or use rights. Additionally, the agroecological farming methods it advocates typically rely for their resilience, contributions to food security, ecological enhancement and elevation of carbon sequestration potential on local cultural and economic self-determination, generally involving collective self-management of lands as commons.  The potential to reconcile and synergise stabilisation and reduction of atmospheric carbon levels, maintenance of biodiversity and broad-scale ecological functionality, food security in the face of climatic and other changes, and respect for human rights depends on placing issues of land ownership and use rights at the centre of approaches to addressing climate change.
Although the CLARA report focuses mostly on the lands and situations of indigenous and traditional peoples inhabiting tropical and sub-tropical forests, its conclusions are in many respects relevant to policy and practice concerning community-led sustainability and climate change in Europe. Many community-led initiatives are experimenting with and applying regenerative methods such as agroecology, agroforestry and regenerative agriculture, and employing inclusive ownership and decision-making methods to enable this. One aim, and possible consequence is reduced dependency on exploitative systems of international production and trade that threaten indigenous lands and livelihoods, via greater localisation of economic activity. Many are inspired in doing so by the livelihood strategies, social organisation and cultural outlooks of indigenous and traditional societies, who are recognised as having much to teach transitions to sustainability in industrialised societies. This also raises the possibility of mutual support and strategic collaboration, based on a shared interest in promoting commons-based forms of land management as a constructive, socially and ecologically regenerative response to climate change. The Local Communities and Indigenous People's Platform established at COP24 by the International Indigenous Peoples' Forum on Climate Change offers a potential forum for exploring and initiating such collaboration.
Key measures that could support self-organisation for socially and ecologically regenerative land use at community level include:
- Change legal restrictions subsidies and incentive frameworks concerning agriculture and land use to prohibit destruction of natural ecosystems and incentivise agroecological farming and ecological restoration
- Introduce structured taxes on agricultural and forest products that penalise ecologically and socially destructive forms of production, and use the proceeds to support, defend and encourage regenerative uses, within Europe and in producer countries outside Europe
- Proactively encourage transfer of land out of consolidated private and profit-driven ownership via land value taxes, structured in order to eliminate the potential to profit from rent-seeking, speculation and conversion to ecologically and socially degrading uses
- Progressively abandon market-based allocation of land and land-use rights in favour of mechanisms that maintain land as common pool resources, making managerial decisions and allocating usage rights based on capacity for social and ecological regeneration
- Dooley, K. & D. Stabinsky, 2018. Missing Pathways to 1.5°C: The role of the land sector in ambitious climate action. Climate Land Ambition and Rights Alliance.
- Eisenstein, C., 2018. Climate: a New Story. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books.
- Kate Dooley, Stabinsky, D., 2018. Missing Pathways to 1.5°C: The role of the land sector in ambitious climate action. Climate Land Ambition and Rights Alliance. P. 9.
- Pretty, J., 2002. Agri-Culture. Reconnecing people, nature and land. London: Earthscan.
- Kenrick, J., 2012. The Climate and the Commons. In Davey, B. (ed.) Sharing for Survival. Dublin: FEASTA..
- Henfrey, T. & G. Penha-Lopes, 2015. Permaculture and Climate Change Adaptation. East Meon: Permanent Publications. P.34.
- Anderson, E., 2010. The Pursuit of Ecotopia. Lessons from indigenous and traditional societies for the human ecology of our modern world. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.
- Henfrey, T. & J. Kenrick, 2017. Climate, commons and hope: the Transition Movement in global perspective. Pp. 161-190 in Henfrey. T., G. Maschkowski & G. Penha-Lopes (eds.) Resilience, Community Action and Societal Transformation. East Meon: Permanent.
- http://www.iipfcc.org/resources. Accessed December 10th 2018.