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Indigenous peoples commit to climate action at UNSG Climate Action Summit

Photo credit: Indigenous Peoples Major Group facebookpage

Climate change disrupts indigenous peoples’ way of living and damage their livelihoods. Indigenous peoples should, therefore, be heard and included in national climate action.


September 25, 2019.- At the UNSG Climate Action Summit, indigenous peoples gave a statement on their commitments to climate action. IWGIA supports the statement and proposed climate actions, and we call for the international community to support indigenous peoples and their pledges by taking a rights-based approach to all global climate action. Find parts of the press release published by the International Indigenous Peoples' Forum on Climate Change (IIPFCC) below.

Press release issued 23 September 2019, New York City, NY - The International Indigenous Peoples’ Forum on Climate Change (IIPFCC) met in New York City at the United Nations before the UNSG Climate Action Summit to finalize the Indigenous Peoples commitments on climate action.

Mr Tuntiak Katan from the Shuar people of Ecuador will present a brief statement today (23 September) inside the UNSG Climate Action Summit on behalf of the Indigenous Peoples outlining our three commitments to 1) Lead the implementation of holistic plans to protect biocultural diversity, ensuring the inclusion of our most marginalized; 2) Develop actions to secure indigenous peoples’ rights to lands, territories and resources, self-determination and free, prior and informed consent (FPIC); 3) Access the development of renewable energies in accordance with our self-determination and FPIC. Read his bilingual statement here, read the full statement in English here  or in Spanish here.

Indigenous peoples commit to:

1. Leading the implementation of holistic plans to protect our biocultural diversity, ensuring the inclusion of our most marginalized.

2. Develop actions to secure our rights to lands, territories and resources, self-determination and free, prior and informed consent (FPIC).

3. Access the development of renewable energies in accordance with our self-determination and FPIC.

Read all the commitment and actions here

The commitments put forward by Indigenous Peoples were developed in response to the call for proposals for climate action from the UN Secretary General. Indigenous Peoples have been raising concerns regarding the environment, climate and our unique rights for decades. Kuupik Kleist from Greenland states, “Inuit have been bringing forth warnings about global warming to the international community since the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.”

The proposed actions reflect the reciprocal relationship we have with our lands, territories, and resources and our responsibility to protect them for generations to come. “I want to be a good ancestor. Indigenous Peoples commitments to climate action ensure that we are thinking of the seven generations to come,” stated Chief Howard Thompson, Haudenosaunee.

The continued degradation of Indigenous Peoples’ lands, territories, resources, and biocultural diversity causes and compounds the impacts of climate change and reduces our adaptive capacity. “Pacific Nations are facing an immediate crisis. We don't have the luxury of adaptation and mitigation. We need to see a dramatic reduction in emissions now - we can't afford to wait around,” explained Mike Smith, Aotearoa.

With the arrival of delegations to the General Debate of the 74th session of the General Assembly, the IIPFCC demands that States and other relevant actors uphold their commitments to the rights of Indigenous Peoples and commit to all actions possible to maintain global warming under 1.5 degrees to protect the social, environmental, economic, and cultural lifeways of Indigenous Peoples. Kittisak Rattanakrajangsri, Chair of the Asian Indigenous Peoples Pact, echoed this call: “Asian Indigenous Peoples call upon all the states to enhance their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) by putting collective land tenure rights and cultural values of Indigenous Peoples in the center of all climate actions. We will continue to sustainably manage, use and protect our land, territories and resources using our knowledge systems, for our survival, and for our future generations.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Land underlines the crucial role of Indigenous Peoples and their knowledge systems contribute to the implementation of the Paris Agreement objectives. If efforts continue to support our rights to lands, territories, and resources, we can increase the amount of carbon captured from 100tC/ha to 625tC/ha, scale-up agroecosystems for sustainable food production, and restore harmony with nature and all life forms. Clearly, Indigenous Peoples are uniquely positioned to lead transformative change in the face of a climate emergency. Read the full press release here.

Read more about how IWGIA support indigenous peoples in taking climate action here.

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