05 Jul 2023

Respectful Indigenous engagement on carbon projects – what does it look like in practice?

Respectful Indigenous engagement on carbon projects – what does it look like in practice?
TEM   |   Carbon Offsets

Traditional landowners and Indigenous communities should be at the centre of nature-based carbon avoidance and removal projects. So what does this Indigenous engagement look like in practice? TEM’s Climate Positive Team is currently working with traditional communities and landowners in Australia, Papua New Guinea, Nepal and Laos. Here David Tow, Managing Director, TEM Asia Pacific, writes about TEM’s approach, including how we engage local communities in Papua New Guinea.

At TEM, we recognise that traditional landowners and Indigenous communities should be at the centre of the planning, design and implementation for nature-based carbon avoidance and removal projects. These communities hold vital knowledge and expertise in caring for country and their early engagement provides the foundation to optimise both the social, cultural, environmental and economic outcomes for traditional landowners, as well as in addressing the challenges of climate change. In doing so, TEM is committed to enhancing transparency within the carbon market and engaging in line with best practice.


The foundations of our approach

Our approach to engaging with local Indigenous communities aligns with the principles outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) of 2007. These principles establish a framework for the minimum standards of survival, dignity and wellbeing of Indigenous peoples.

We recognise that Indigenous consent is fundamental and follow the ‘free, prior, and informed consent’ (FPIC) protocols. This means that our project development team seek input and consent from local Indigenous communities in a manner that is free from coercion, ensuring that stakeholders have access to all relevant information, including costs, benefits, and risks associated with the project and, where necessary, access to independent advice.


Involving communities in projects

TEM teams work directly with Indigenous communities on projects. We know that trust and transparency are key, and our experts have learned over many years how to understand, respect, and follow existing local customs and processes when meeting with local communities and indigenous leaders.

One of the first steps is gaining consent to enter traditional lands, which is an initial requirement for most nature-based projects. This early stage of engagement establishes the foundation for FPIC and enables early communication regarding project design, the impact of climate change and the role of carbon finance.

A key strategy to strengthen community engagement and deepen benefit sharing is to train and employ local community members to support both engagement and project implementation. These trained community members help facilitate broad community engagement to give all groups a voice. Having local, familiar faces to represent the project ensures close, ongoing collaboration with local community members.

We value two-way dialogue with stakeholders to foster constructive relationships over time. By creating open communication through local stakeholder consultations, we are able to gain a deeper understanding of the potential project risks and how to mitigate them. Most importantly, involving local communities in the decision-making processes empowers them to shape project goals that align with their unique needs.


TEM’s Papua New Guinea cookstoves project

In Papua New Guinea (PNG), TEM has begun the implementation of the PNG Improved Cooking Project, initially focused across four provinces in the PNG Highlands. The project involves distribution of high-efficiency firewood cookstoves at no cost to local communities. These projects build clean, efficient stoves that significantly reduce fuel requirements, reducing carbon emissions, as well as significantly improving indoor air quality and reducing health risks for locals. Poor air quality from indoor cooking is one of the largest causes of death globally and has a significant impact on children’s development.

TEM has employed local experts and community members at all stages of project engagement, design and implementation, which has encompassed:

  • a local project management team from the Highlands provinces
  • community engagement workshops across four Highland provinces, attended by over 400 community members and delivered though a local project team from the Highlands
  • employment of 26 local primary school teachers, who worked out of school hours to provide training and support to local communities on the use of improved cookstoves
  • planned ongoing employment of local community members to provide ongoing support to households and communities where the improved cookstoves have been distributed

Picture1                  Untitled design 1

To ensure that information is disseminated in a manner that was devoid of coercion or manipulation, while ensuring comprehensive coverage of costs, benefits and risks, we created visual materials and conducted our engagement in tok pidgin, the primary spoken language.

Project workshops provided a valuable platform for community members to share their first-hand experiences with the use of cookstoves that had previously been distributed during the pilot phase, fostering knowledge exchange among locals. Attendees also provided valuable feedback, including discussions on discouraging the selling of the cookstoves.

These workshops played a crucial role in promoting understanding and engagement with our project, further strengthening our mission to scale nature-based solutions.

We look forward to continuing our work with local Indigenous groups on this project for years to come.


TEM’s high-quality carbon offset projects are verified to the highest international standards, in addition to meeting our own rigorous due diligence processes, to ensure they deliver measurable benefits to both people and the planet. Find out more about them here: https://www.tasmanenvironmental.com.au/offset-projects/

TEM acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the various lands in which we work. We pay our respects to elders, past, present and emerging, and celebrate the diversity of our original peoples and their ongoing cultures and connections to the lands and waters.