Indigenous peoples and climate change - the campaign for rights and representation continues

Down to Earth No.80-81, June 2009

Indigenous peoples are continuing to press for their rights to be respected in all climate change initiatives which affect them. They also want recognition for the role they have played in using the earth's resources sustainably and living low-carbon or carbon-neutral lifestyles. This was the message at the Bonn climate meeting, from Tebtebba, (Indigenous Peoples' International Centre for Policy Research and Education).1 "We are the ones who have protected our forests from rampant deforestation and prevented the oil, gas and coal in our territories from being extracted even at the cost of life and limb," said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz in an April statement.

Corpuz warned that if indigenous rights were not recognised in the bid to include forests in mitigation measures, then "we see serious threats to the future survival of forest peoples and their cultures."2

Indigenous groups and other CSOs had earlier been outraged at Poznan when government delegates from the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia insisted on the removal of any reference to indigenous peoples' rights in the official text on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), after it was included in the draft. They demanded its re-insertion in any agreement to be signed at Copenhagen.3

Indigenous groups have been consulting across the globe to share information on the impacts of climate change and the results of research on indigenous peoples' mitigation and adaptation measures, and to agree on strategies to ensure that their rights are protected in international agreements.

A global indigenous consultation on REDD in November in Baguio City, Philippines,4 was followed by regional meetings on climate change, including an Asia regional meeting in Bali, hosted by AMAN, Indonesia's indigenous peoples' organisation, in February.5 In March, an international conference in Manila on extractive industries and indigenous peoples considered the disproportionate impacts of these industries on indigenous peoples.6

In April, Anchorage in Alaska was the venue for the Indigenous Peoples' Global Summit on Climate Change. The Anchorage Declaration issued by the participants reaffirmed the need to respect the rights of indigenous peoples and said that the UNFCCC agreement must reflect the spirit of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The Declaration called for emissions reductions targets for developed countries of at least 45% below 1990 levels by 2020 and at least 95% by 2050. Among the other action points were a call on the UNFCCC's decision-making bodies to recognise and engage the International Indigenous Peoples' Forum on Climate Change and its regional focal points in an advisory role, and to immediately establish an indigenous focal point in the UNFCCC funding mechanisms.

The Summit also called on countries to abandon false solutions to climate change such as nuclear energy, large-scale dams, geo-engineering techniques, 'clean coal', agrofuels, plantations and market-based mechanisms such as carbon trading, the CDM and forest offsets.

The Declaration ended with an offer to "share with humanity our Traditional Knowledge, innovations and practices relevant to climate change, provided our fundamental rights as intergenerational guardians of this knowledge are fully recognized and respected."7



1 A useful Guide on Indigenous Peoples and Climate Change can be downloaded from Tebtebba's website at
2 Tebtebba Statement at the Contact Group of the AWG-LCA on Mitigation
3 See FERN-Forest Peoples Programme Special Report on Poznan.
4 See Summary Report of the Global Indigenous Peoples' Consultation on REDD at
5 See Asia Summit on Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples at
7 The Anchorage Declaration, 24/Apr/09,