Climate Change, bio-cultural diversity and livelihoods: the stewardship role of indigenous peoples and new challenges

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These are the conclusions of a report on the “IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION MEASURES ON INDIGENOUS PEOPLES AND ON THEIR TERRITORIES AND LANDS”, by the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues’ Seventh session, New York, 21 April -2 May 2008 on the Special Theme: “Climate Change, bio-cultural diversity and livelihoods: the stewardship role of indigenous peoples and new challenges” with regard to the Implementation of the recommendations on the six mandated areas of the permanent Forum and on the Millennium Development Goals (Download the full E/C.19/2008/10 report here: unpfii-report-on-climate-change.pdf):

V. Conclusions

66. Indigenous peoples all over the world are greatly concerned about climate change, not only because they are affected by both the problem of climate change and the world’s attempts to mitigate it, but more importantly, because of the contributions that they can make to mitigation and adaptation strategies. There are many strategies that can be used effectively to both mitigate climate change and facilitate adaptation to climate change – such as sustainable land and resource use, sustainable forest management, sustainable agriculture, the protection and enhancement of sinks and reservoirs of GHGs, and small-scale, community-managed renewable energy systems. If these strategies are implemented in such a way that they take into account not only the ecological dimensions of climate change, but also the dimensions of human rights, equity and environmental justice, they will also protect and conserve the territories of indigenous peoples.

67. The capacity of indigenous peoples to adapt to climate change has been highly compromised, not only because of the magnitude of the impacts of climate change, but also because support from the international community has not been forthcoming. As stewards and custodians of the world’s biodiversity, cultural diversity, and traditional ecological knowledge, indigenous peoples can contribute meaningfully to the design and implementation of more appropriate and sustainable mitigation and adaptation measures.

VI. Recommendations of the Special Rapporteurs

68. The international community should take serious measures to mitigate climate change. The survival of the traditional ways of life of indigenous peoples depends in large part on the success of international negotiations in developing strong, enforceable agreements that will truly be effective in combating climate change. We concur with the main argument of the Stern Report that strong and immediate measures to curb greenhouse gas emissions now will be less costly than attempting to adapt to the widespread changes that unchecked climate change will cause in the future.

69. Policy-makers around the world should consider the broad, long-term consequences of the climate change mitigation policies they choose. While allocating their research and development funding and setting the criteria for Clean Development Mechanism projects, they must look beyond the simple question of whether a particular form of alternative energy or carbon absorption technique can provide a short-term reduction in greenhouse gases. Policy-makers should consider the long-term sustainability of any mitigation policy they choose, following the example of indigenous peoples who have been stewards of the land and seas for millennia.

71. The business community and its regulators should incorporate our rights as indigenous peoples into their plans for economic development in our territories. Let us remind governments and businesses preparing for new ventures to consider our stakeholder rights, as well as our land claims rights and our broader human rights.

72. Indigenous peoples must stand together to preserve our rights to maintain our traditional use of plants and animals for hunting and gathering. We as indigenous peoples have preserved the biodiversity of our lands for hundreds of years by caring for nature and using it only in sustainable ways. The places where we have been able to live free from so-called development are now recognized as the most biologically diverse places on earth. With such a track record, we of all people are justified in demanding that we be allowed to continue our traditional uses of plants and animals.

73. UN member states should assist indigenous peoples of the world with their adaptations to the increasingly negative impacts of climate change, while at the same time continuing, in parallel, to work on mitigation measures.

74. The Arctic, because it is an early indicator of climate change for the rest of the world, and because its coastal indigenous peoples are at this time particularly vulnerable, UN member states and agencies should designate the Arctic region as a special climate change focal point.

75. UN member states and international industry should work closely with indigenous peoples in determining positions on who has control or sovereignty over the Arctic, and they should make public declarations supporting the right of indigenous peoples to play a meaningful role in the deliberations over rights of access to the changing Arctic.

76. The social dimension of climate change needs to be considered, so that the social and cultural impacts on indigenous peoples are more visible. It is important to understand the relations formed between people and nations as they address the dumping of GHGs into the global atmosphere commons.

77. The Annex 1 countries should implement their commitments to the Kyoto Protocol by doing all they can to shift their economic systems towards low-carbon systems instead of mainly relying on the purchase of emission credits to offset their emissions. The fast-industrializing developing countries should also undertake serious efforts to cut their emissions and develop low-carbon energy systems.

78. The perpetuation of highly centralized, fossil-fuel-based energy supplies should be challenged. Old centralized electricity grids, which are not suitable for the challenges of diverse and decentralized renewable energy sources, and which are the basis of the dominance of large energy companies, need to be challenged.

79. The principles of common but differentiated responsibilities, equity, social justice and sustainable development should remain as the key principles underpinning the negotiations, policies, and programs on climate change. The human-rights based approach to development and the ecosystem approach should guide the design and implementation of national, regional and global climate policies and projects. The crucial role of indigenous women and indigenous youth in developing mitigation and adaptation measures should also be ensured.

80. The support of the World Bank and other multilateral and bilateral financial institutions for fossil-based energy projects and large-scale hydropower dams is greater than their support for renewable and decentralized systems. Increased support for restructuring and reorientation towards low-carbon, national energy policies should be provided.

81. The promotion of large-scale technologies, whether these are nuclear energy, large-scale bioenergy, or large-scale hydropower technologies, should be discouraged. Plans to build large hydro dams should take into consideration the recommendations of the World Commission on Dams.

82. Adaptation funds should be provided immediately to indigenous peoples who are affected by climate change-related disasters. Indigenous peoples whose lands have already disappeared due to sea-water rise and erosion and have become environmental refugees should be provided with appropriate relocation with the support of the international community.

83. The full and effective participation of indigenous peoples in the forthcoming negotiations for the next Kyoto Protocol commitment period should be ensured. Mechanisms on how this can be done should be brought to the negotiating table. A “Working Group on Indigenous Peoples and Climate Change” should be established within the UNFCCC.

84. Scientists, policy makers and the international community as a whole should undertake regular consultations with indigenous peoples so that their studies and decisions will be informed by indigenous peoples’ traditional knowledge and experiences. The Forum can play a role in ensuring that the traditional knowledge and best practices of indigenous peoples relevant to fight climate change and its impacts will be considered in the negotiation processes leading to the Copenhagen COP and beyond. The Forum should discuss the modality for such an interaction with the UNFCCC.

85. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples should serve as a key framework in the formulation of plans for development and should be considered in all processes related to climate change at national, regional and global levels. The safeguard policies of the multilateral banks and the existing and future policies on indigenous peoples of United Nations bodies and other multilateral bodies like the EC, should be implemented in all climate change-related projects and programs.

86. Indigenous peoples should be given substantial support to nurture and develop their traditional knowledge, their environment-friendly technologies, their cultural diversity and the biodiversity in their territories. Their sustainable, traditional livelihoods should be recognized and reinforced instead of being denigrated and destroyed. There is a need to reform existing laws which discriminate against indigenous land tenure systems and livelihoods. The discussions and negotiations on strengthening the links between climate change, biodiversity and cultural diversity should ensure indigenous peoples’ participation.

87. Policy support, technical assistance and funds should be given to indigenous peoples who are undertaking their own mitigation measures in the areas of building small-scale energy systems, biodiversity conservation, engagement with emissions trading, keeping the oil, coal and gas in the ground and trees in the forests, etc. They should be equipped with the knowledge and tools on how to engage and benefit from the carbon market (if they choose this as an option). They should gain benefits from the environmental services derived from their territories and resources. Processes and mechanisms for the valuation of these environmental services, and methods that allow them to get adequate benefits, should be developed jointly with them.

88. Training workshops and other capacity-building activities undertaken by indigenous peoples to deepen their knowledge on climate change and design and to allow them to implement more effective and appropriate mitigation and adaptation measures should be supported. Efforts to create better documentation of good practices in mitigation and adaptation and to replicate and upscale these practices should likewise be supported.

89. The recommendations and proposals that emerged from the consultations of indigenous peoples and the World Bank on the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility and other carbon funds like the BioCarbon Fund should be implemented by the Bank and other relevant agencies. Indigenous peoples should be centrally involved in the design, implementation and evaluation of the FPCF. Displacement and exclusion of indigenous peoples from their forests, which may be triggered by FPCF-funded projects, should be avoided at all costs. Indigenous peoples, through their representatives, should have a voice and a vote on the decision-making body of the FPCF and of other climate change funds that will have impacts on them. Those who opt not to participate in REDD or in the FPCF-supported projects should be respected.

90. The Permanent Forum and the Human Rights Council Expert Mechanism on Indigenous Peoples should evaluate whether existing and proposed climate change policies and projects adhere to the standards set by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, ratified in September 2007. These bodies, together with the members of the Inter-Agency Support Group for Indigenous Issues, should collaborate with States and indigenous peoples to effectively ensure that the implementation of the Declaration is central to the design and implementation of climate change policies and programmes.

91. Indigenous peoples’ organizations and the members and secretariat of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and members of the IASG should jointly develop a roadmap towards the 2009 COP in Copenhagen using the recommendations presented in this paper. The Forum welcomes the offer of the Greenland Home Rule Government to ensure indigenous peoples’ participation in Copenhagen. The Forum supports the forthcoming “Global Summit on Indigenous Peoples and Climate Change” which is being organized by the Inuit Circumpolar Council with the assistance of other indigenous peoples’ organizations.

One thought on “Climate Change, bio-cultural diversity and livelihoods: the stewardship role of indigenous peoples and new challenges

    Indigenous peoples researcher said:
    Tuesday, March 25, 2008 at 07:52 (370)

    Indigenous peoples need to be given a louder and more equal voice in the debates over climate change. They are being effected more then many other cultural groups because they have been pushed to marginalized ecological areas by colonial and imperial processes. I’m glad to see this, but we need to do much more.

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