Granting forest dwellers legal rights to their traditional lands helps fight deforestation and climate change, but the vast majority of the world's forests remain under government control with limited access for communities, researchers said.
Only about 14 percent of forests, or about 527 million hectares, were legally owned or designated for local communities in 58 countries surveyed by the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), a Washington D.C.-based advocacy group.
"Given the evidence that deforestation rates are often lower and carbon sequestration greater in forests where indigenous peoples' and local communities' rights are legally recognized, there is an urgent need to scale up tenure reform," they said.
"Yet governments are failing to act, just as the need for climate solutions has become more urgent than ever."
RRI's study was released as philanthropists pledged more than $450 million to rescue shrinking tropical forests that suck heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, ahead of a global climate change summit in San Francisco.
In Asia, which accounts for about 60 percent of the world's population, forest tenure recognition has progressed "modestly", with China accounting for most of the gains, according to RRI.
In India, a new planned forest policy could open the door for private firms to grow commercial plantations.
In Thailand, communities are being evicted from national parks under a law aimed at conserving forests.
An Indonesian government proposal to return customary lands to indigenous people has fallen short of its target, while recognition of ancestral domains in the Philippines has slowed, rights groups say.
"Over the coming years, government progress in the recognition of community-based tenure could stagnate, preventing the world from achieving key development and climate milestones," RRI said in its report.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)