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New spatial analysis reveals Indigenous peoples hold legal/consent rights to carbon along 66% of Australia’s coastline

New spatial analysis launched reveals Indigenous Peoples hold legal or consent rights to undertake carbon projects along 66% of Australia’s coastline, however despite this there are minimal opportunities to participate in the blue carbon market due to a lack of applicable methods.  

The Indigenous Carbon Industry Network (ICIN) report, ‘Blue Carbon in Australia: Understanding the opportunity for Indigenous People’, [below] calls for Indigenous rights to be upheld and respected, and offers globally tested recommendations for government and the carbon industry to improve practice.   

“Indigenous Peoples have cared for sea Country for millennia and are thriving in the Indigenous Carbon Industry where they own and run carbon projects on their own land, with projects reducing emissions, creating jobs and benefiting whole communities through genuine economic self-determination,” said Sarah Parriman, Director ICIN and proud Aboriginal woman of Yawuru and Jabirr Jabirr descent.

“We want to see this same success extend to the blue carbon space. Without Indigenous leadership and inclusion, Australia’s blue carbon potential will not be realised,” added Ms Parriman.

Report authors recommend Australia’s Federal, State and Territory laws recognise the rights of Indigenous Peoples to own and sell carbon in coastal ecosystems where the Crown may otherwise have interests (outside of private or Indigenous owned lands).

"There are now many examples internationally of blue carbon projects placing Indigenous Peoples and their knowledge at the forefront, Australia must step up or risk falling behind global best practice,” added Ms Parriman.

Recognising the strong and ongoing connection that Indigenous Peoples have to their lands and waters, the report recommends the Australian carbon industry adopt default governance models that position Indigenous Peoples as blue carbon project owners, or at a minimum equal joint partners.

Other factors working against Indigenous participation in blue carbon include the current only existing Australian Carbon Credit Unit (ACCU) Scheme blue carbon method ‘Tidal restoration of blue carbon ecosystem’ being largely inapplicable to Indigenous Peoples lands and prohibitively high project startup costs.

“Look what happened with the savanna fire management carbon method, this is an example of our rights and knowledge being respected and placed in the forefront, and it is now acknowledged as the most successful fire management program in the world, and it is led by Indigenous land managers,” concluded Ms Parriman.

This report has been launched as part of the National Environmental Science Program (NESP) Indigenous Engagement and Blue Carbon project led by Charles Darwin University (CDU) in collaboration with project partners the North Australia Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance (NAILSMA) and ICIN. An interactive version of the map is available on the Seamap Australia website. The NESP project is supported with funding from the Australian Government.

For the purposes of this report, ICIN identified Indigenous interests through the narrow lens of legal mechanisms for Indigenous engagement in the ACCU Scheme, these include Class 1 = Indigenous legal right, Class 2 and 3 = Indigenous Eligible Interest Holder (EIH) consent requirements. The majority of the 66% figure applies to coastline in the Northern Territory, Queensland, and Western Australia. In New South Wales, 27% of the coast is subject to a pending native title claim (Class 6), and recommendation 11 of Climate Change Authority (CCA) 2023 review into the Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) Act is that Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) also applies to claimants.

ICIN is the national peak body supporting Indigenous engagement in the carbon industry. The company is owned by its Full Members which are 28 Indigenous organisations that produce Indigenous carbon credits.

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