BANGKOK, Nov 18 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The role of
the world's more than 370 million indigenous peoples in fighting
climate change has been largely ignored in national plans to
curb planet-warming emissions issued ahead of upcoming U.N.
climate talks, researchers and activists said on Wednesday.
The Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) found only a
handful of governments included indigenous land and forest
management as part of their climate strategies submitted to the
United Nations in the run-up to negotiations in Paris to thrash
out a new deal to limit global warming.
The RRI reviewed 47 "Intended Nationally Determined
Contributions" (INDCs), designed to form the basis of a new
deal, from countries with large rural or forested areas.
Only five emphasise indigenous land and forest management as
part of their climate change strategies, it said, whereas 26
make no mention of it at all and 16 mention it in passing.
To make their voices count in the two-week talks starting on
Nov. 30, hundreds of indigenous leaders living on the frontlines
of climate change - from sinking Pacific islands to the melting
Arctic and Indonesia's burning forests - will attend the summit.
"It is going to be a tough battle in Paris," Joan Carling,
secretary general of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP)
told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"We continue to be ignored at the national level, so what
we're going to bring to the talks is the reality on the ground."
RRI analyst Ilona Coyle said plans submitted by Brazil,
Guatamala and Peru highlighted the importance of respecting
indigenous peoples' rights.
Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Peru also explained in their
plans how indigenous peoples have been or will be consulted, and
identify them as particularly vulnerable to climate change due
to their dependence on natural resources.
A growing body of research shows that recognising indigenous
peoples' rights is key in combating climate change, yet their
role in preventing deforestation and land degradation continues
to be a blind spot on the climate agenda, experts say.
Deforestation rates are significantly lower in areas where
national governments formally recognise and protect the forest
rights of indigenous peoples, according to a 2014 study by the
RRI and the World Resources Institute.
To improve collaboration, the United Nations and the
International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change
(IIPFCC) have brought together indigenous leaders and high-level
government officials in over 20 countries in recent months to
discuss contributions they can make to slashing emissions.
Several more dialogues are scheduled in the weeks ahead,
including in Brazil, which has more than 800,000 indigenous
Teanau Tuiono, an indigenous leader from the Pacific Caucus,
said the discussion there had strengthened participants' resolve
to protect the environment from climate change.
"We in the Pacific did not create climate change, but rising
sea levels are putting islands and coastal communities under
serious threat," he said. "Nonetheless, we're fighting. Not
Separately, AIPP's Carling said some progress had been made
on deforestation, for example in Vietnam and Cambodia, where
indigenous representatives have been included in national bodies
dealing with forests.
"That would have been unthinkable in the past. But we still
have a long, long way to go," she said.
The IIPFCC has issued demands for the final climate change
agreement in Paris, saying it is "imperative" that the rights of
indigenous people are recognised and respected.
Those should include the right to refuse attempts to seize
indigenous lands for high-carbon investments in agriculture,
logging, mining, oil and gas, dams and roads, as well as
tourism, the forum said.
(Reporting by Bangkok newsroom; Editing by Megan Rowling;
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