It has been just over a week since the attacks on Paris, and the world has changed. While my heart goes out to all those impacted by terrorism from Beirut to Baghdad, it is imperative to steady our course toward climate solutions. Parisian officials have unfortunately cancelled all rallies scheduled to take place during the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), citing safety concerns (understandable).
Luckily, U.S. officials, including President Obama, have maintained a constant concern over climate change and continue their efforts with vigor. Presidental candidate Bernie Sanders has chimed in, expounding the importance of addressing climate change, acknowledging its link to terrorism. There is, however, another reason to maintain concern for the environment.
The UN insists that the talks in Paris need to be more inclusive of indigenous and rural global communities since the annual event is quite frankly the only opportunity they have to speak on climate change and how it impacts them. Indigenous agrarian-based communities control 65% of the world's landmass while only contributing a tiny fraction of carbon emissions. Worse yet, they suffer the greatest from the consequences of those carbon emissions.
Please, continue your efforts in Paris, if not for your immediate community, then for the community of those greatest impacted by climate change.
19 November 2015 – Indigenous peoples own, occupy or manage up to 65 per cent of the Earth’s land surface, yet they have largely been excluded from national plans prepared for next month’s United Nations climate change conference in Paris, according to the UN Development Programme (UNDP), which is working to address the issue.
Together with the International Indigenous Peoples’ Forum on Climate Change, UNDP is bringing indigenous leaders and high-level government officials together, often for the first time, to ensure that the priorities of indigenous peoples, whose lands are often seized for intensive greenhouse gas-emitting development, are embedded in national proposals for the conference, widely known as COP21.
“This pioneering initiative, underway in 21 countries around the world, aims to ensure that the global climate agreement reached in Paris recognizes indigenous land and natural resource rights, and the crucial role of indigenous peoples in climate change mitigation,” UNDP said in a news release.
It highlighted research showing that secure rights to indigenous and community-held land protect against deforestation, which with other land uses represents 11 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions blamed for climate change.
It noted that a review by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) of 119 national plans to combat the problem submitted as of last month makes no mention of indigenous peoples.
Forests owned and controlled by indigenous peoples and local communities contain about 37.7 billion tons of carbon, 29 times more than the annual emissions of the world’ passenger vehicles, according to estimates by the World Resources Institute and Rights and Resources Initiative.
But more than 80 per cent of all lands utilized or occupied by indigenous peoples lack legal protection, and are highly vulnerable to being seized by private companies, individuals, and governments themselves, in a non-stop drive toward carbon-intensive investments in agriculture, logging, mining, oil and gas, dams and roads, and tourism.
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