Kimberley Land Council

Firing up for Climate Change

Climate change

Reintroducing Indigenous fire management practices to control wildfires, reduce emissions, enhance biodiversity, and provide livelihoods, improve public health and increase resilience for remote Indigenous communities.

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Lead Organization

Kimberley Land Council

Broome, State of Western Australia, Australia

http://www.klc.org.au

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To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

Uncontrolled wildfires are a major threat to lives, property, livelihoods, traditional food sources, biodiversity, and the global climate. With climate change, the frequency, scale and intensity of wildfires are expected to increase, underscoring the need to implement effective strategies to tackle this problem. The Project will support Indigenous communities in fire-prone landscapes to reduce the scale, intensity and emissions of wildfires by reintroducing Indigenous fire management (IFM) practices. Through replicating the approached used in northern Australia and verifying the emissions reduction benefit of these activities, these communities will be assisted to generate carbon market related income-streams, allowing for the management activities to become self-sustaining. Through this approach, the Project will address the dual challenges of uncontrolled wildfire and remote Indigenous community livelihoods.

Problem Statement

Uncontrolled wildfires are a major threat to lives, property, livelihoods, traditional food sources, biodiversity, and the global climate. Wildfire smoke alone is estimated to kill around 340,000 people annually. In 2017, insured losses from wildfires totalled USD14 billion. Between 1997 and 2016, wildfires emitted a net average of 2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e) greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions into the atmosphere each year. With tropical savanna fires making the greatest contribution to wildfires globally, in many cases, it is poor and marginalised Indigenous communities living in remote fire-prone savanna landscapes that are worst affected by the problem. For thousands of years, Indigenous peoples undertook traditional fire management practices to reduce the damage caused by uncontrolled wildfires. These practices generally involved actively burning the landscape in cooler and wetter seasons to reduce fuel loads and reduce the scale of and intensity of wildfires. In modern times, however, these practises have largely been interrupted, increasing the prevalence of wildfires in hot and dry periods. Policies of prevention and suppression – the dominate government response to wildfire threat – have largely failed to address the problem, and, in many cases, have exacerbated it. With climate change, the frequency, scale and intensity of wildfires are expected to increase. NSA predicts that wildfires could increase by up to 35% by the end of the century, underscoring the need to implement effective strategies to tackle this problem.

Solution Overview

The ISFMI (a collaboration between the Kimberly Land Council, Baker & McKenzie Law for Development Initiative, and Charles Darwin University) will support Indigenous communities in fire-prone landscapes to reduce the scale, intensity and emissions of wildfires by reintroducing IFM practices.By replicating the approached used in northern Australia, these communities will also be assisted to develop carbon market related income-streams, allowing for the management activities to become self-sustaining. Through this approach, the Project will address the dual challenges of uncontrolled wildfire and remote Indigenous community livelihoods. In Australia, Indigenous land managers have partnered with scientists to prove they can reduce emissions from savanna fires by as much as 50% through reintroducing IFM practices. Today, there are 25 Indigenous-led savanna fire management emissions reduction projects across northern Australia registered under the Australian Government’s Emissions Reduction Fund. Those projects have created more than 400 seasonal jobs and incomes in remote areas with few other economic opportunities. From 2013, the ISFMI explored the feasibility of adapting Australia’s approach to other tropical savanna landscapes. It found widespread suitability for implementing the same approach, identifying similar problematic fire dynamics and evidence of interrupted IFM practises. The Project will establish up to 20 pilot projects in fire-prone landscapes to demonstrate the replicability of the approach used in Australia. It will also expand the existing ISFMI Network to build an active community of practice and disseminate the lessons learned from the Project more broadly.

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