Respect for Indigenous Rights a ‘Must’ for COP21 Signatories
By admin November 8, 2016

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The Paris Climate Change Agreement (COP21) entered into force on Friday, 4 November, marking an historical moment for our generation towards the fight against climate change. All governments that ratified the agreement, including US, China, India and the EU, now have an obligation to keep global temperatures to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The signing of this crucial agreement is matched by real progress in many countries, as fossil fuel industries continue to see opportunities for development within a low-carbon world. Despite the success of the ratification, attention has to now shift to the National Determined Contributions (NDCs), in other words, the post 2020 commitments and actions that countries are willing to take under the new framework of the Paris Agreement.

In this regard, one week before the Paris Agreement came into force, indigenous leaders from the Amazon forest countries including Ecuador, Brazil and Venezuela, gathered in Lima to ask their respective governments to acknowledge indigenous peoples fundamental ability to conserve the forest. “The irony for us is that, while the Temer government has ratified the Paris Agreement, it also refuses at the same time to recognize the rights of indigenous peoples to their lands” an indigenous Tucano from Brazil’s northern Amazonas state said.

Among the nine countries covered by the forest, five have ratified the agreement, while Columbia, Ecuador, Suriname and Venezuela have not. Ecuador has just begun drilling in Yasuni national park that houses two semi-nomadic groups of Waorani indigenous people. At the same time in Venezuela, according to the Organizacion Regional de Pueblos Indigenas de Amazonas, indigenous people make up to 2 percent of the population and land titling was repeatedly paralyzed due to state interest in mineral deposits in their territory.

A recent report from the World Resources Institute shows evidence that a potential investment strategy towards securing lands rights for indigenous people represents one of the most cost-effective ways to tackle climate change. In fact, slowing deforestation and sequestering carbon in indigenous forests would not only provide economic benefits, but equally allow gains carbon mitigation. According to the report, only 21 of 197 emissions reduction commitments include indigenous rights and among the countries involved, only Bolivia is part of the Amazon group.

Within the Paris Agreement, only the preamble includes indigenous rights, which however are not legally binding for the signatories. From the first drafting of the Agreement, this issue raised concerns among small farmers, rural workers and of course indigenous people, who saw the agreement as “an agenda set from the rich”.

The 2016 Paris Agreement on climate change set up a rigorous stepping-stone and a strong signal towards a more sustainable and environmentally friendly economy. Yet, many improvements still have to be taken into consideration when it comes to countries to set up their own national efforts to commit to the agreement. Indeed, for those countries covered by the Amazon forest, indigenous rights must not represent just a policy under the umbrella of a bigger Agreement, but more of a moral and legitimate obligation towards those people that until now have not seen their rights recognized and respected. If countries all over the world are committed to reducing carbon emissions and deforestation, they should also start to recognize indigenous people’s land rights in the Amazon Forest.

For more information:

Amazonians call on leaders to heed link between land rights and climate change

Oil drilling underway beneath Ecuador’s Yasuni national park

COP21: indigenous peoples fear rights might be dropped

Adoption of the Paris Agreement

Draft of Paris climate deal omits references to human rights

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