Indigenous Peoples' Climate Change Portal

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Indigenous people speak up on climate change Print

By Kevin James Moore

8 April 2010 [MediaGlobal]: Indigenous people are highly vulnerable to the impact of climate change. With their invaluable knowledge of the most fragile ecosystems, including indigenous people in conversations on climate change is crucial for success. The voice of indigenous people can make a significant difference that may benefit everyone.

“[Indigenous people] have very long histories of adapting to the changes in the climate and they continue to adapt up to the present,” Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, chair of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) told MediaGlobal. “Therefore it is important that they are able to share how they are affected by climate change and also how they are adapting.”

A seminar held from 25-26 March in Manila, the Philippines was attended by the parliaments of 12 countries of the Asia-Pacific region to discuss the impact of climate change on indigenous people. The seminar was meant to raise the awareness of parliamentarians in Asia and the Pacific on indigenous people’s concerns and activities relating to climate change, explained Corpuz.

Indigenous people constitute approximately a third of the 900 million rural poor, and 70 percent populate the Asian-Pacific region, according to the Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development (AFPPD).

Corpuz explained how indigenous people are being affected by increasingly severe weather, “Obviously, because of the magnitude and fast paced changes brought about by climate change, indigenous peoples find it harder to adapt thus it is important that they are provided the support they need in terms of policy changes, finance and technology development.”

“There are many things which can be learned from indigenous peoples in terms of how to mitigate climate change,” said Corpuz. The knowledge indigenous people of the rainforest possess can help prevent the effects of deforestation. “Their knowledge and technologies in protecting these forests should be supported and integrated into national forest programs.” Using their traditional knowledge indigenous people have managed rainforests with their practice of sustainable agriculture. Corpuz explained, “They have developed crops which are resistant to droughts or floods and they continue to nurture these.”

In their delicate ecosystems even some of the solutions to climate change are negatively impacting the lives of indigenous people. Hydroelectric dams, a renewable energy source, are being constructed on indigenous people’s territories and can lead to their displacement, explained Corpuz. In addition, land needed to produce biofuels, which include palm oil and jatropha, are raising concerns as well. In Indonesia and Malaysia oil palm plantations are expanding into indigenous areas and are causing conflicts between indigenous peoples and the government and plantation owners, said Corpuz.


“Indigenous peoples have pushed the need to respect their rights before any climate change solutions is designed and implemented,” said Corpuz. “At the negotiations on Reduced Emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD), indigenous peoples ensured that there are texts in the agreements that our rights to our forests must be respected and protected before any REDD project is brought to our communities.”

Tebtebba (Indigenous Peoples’ International Centre for Policy Research and Education), of which Corpuz is executive director, has funded the participation of 16-20 indigenous representatives to the various negotiating sessions of the UNFCCC. The UNFPII will hold its ninth session at the United Nations between 19-30 April, to discuss indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights.

“There are various efforts being done to raise the involvement of indigenous peoples at the local, national, and global levels.” Corpuz believes, “the world is…recognizing that [indigenous people’s] traditional knowledge in managing forests, mangroves, rivers, and seas, are going to be needed for climate change mitigation and adaptation.”