Paris Climate Summit: last chance to stop climate change and respect indigenous peoples rights?

Paris Climate Summit: last chance to stop climate change and respect indigenous peoples rights?

In the aftermath of the terrible terrorist attacks that have shocked the whole world, it will be a different climate change summit (COP21) to the one that the UN and France had imagined.

The world is therefore looking to Paris with mixed feelings of anguish and expectation. Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are expected to deliver an agreement that will become the basis for a future climate change regime after 2020. Three determining actions are key: (i) limiting temperature increase to 1.5°C (ii) stepping up climate finance, and (iii) taking commitments OR simply offering contributions. The latter will decide whether or not Paris delivers a binding agreement based on climate justice and a rights-based approach.

A look at the national contributions contained in the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) presented by many Parties show that overall these would allow for increases in temperature of 2.5-3°C, far more than is needed to limit the destructive impacts of climate change. More will have to be done, in terms of phasing out dependence from fossil fuels, which in turn would include halting the invasion of indigenous peoples’ lands and criminalising activists opposed to extractive activities.

As to finance, contributions remain below the expected 100 billion USD a year (to 2020). Shortly before Paris the Green Climate Fund (GCF) decided to step up disbursements in the coming year to fund its first eight projects. One of these, a wetland mitigation project in indigenous lands in Peru, raised concerns surrounding the effective capacity of the GCF to respect Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) and indigenous peoples’ rights.  For the first time a broad coalition of indigenous peoples’ organisations sent a clear message to the GCF Board calling for the adoption of an indigenous peoples’ policy based on international human rights standards and obligations such as the UN Declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

As further evidence of the renewed capacity of Indigenous peoples’ organisations to mobilize, hundreds of indigenous peoples’ leaders from all regions will gather to engage with governments and other stakeholders (NGOs and private sector) on the key demands generated in various regional consultations. First and foremost any climate change agreement must contain clear commitments to respect human rights and the rights of indigenous peoples in climate programmes and actions – a policy proposal shared by a wide alliance of constituencies. Secondly, the Paris outcomes will have to acknowledge the contribution of traditional knowledge and livelihoods of indigenous peoples to mitigation and adaptation.

An important case shows that this can be possible only if land rights are respected and recognised. FPP partners from Guyana - the South Central People’s Development Association (SCPDA), a federation of Guyana's Wapichan communities and their traditional management plan - will be awarded the prestigious UNDP Equator prize. SCPDA’s recognition underlines the importance of access to finance and the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples in climate change programmes and processes. A specific fund will be required to enable direct access for indigenous peoples from North and South. At COP21, an IP Pavilion will showcase examples of how indigenous peoples protect their lands, territories and resources and play a crucial role in response actions to climate change.

Paris will also host a series of parallel initiatives by civil society organisations, movements for climate justice, and will feature the ‘Paris – Lima action agenda’. Particularly relevant to indigenous peoples is the section on business contributions to take deforestation out of commodity supply chains, and in particular the role of palm oil supply in violating forest peoples’ rights. Representatives of communities of Ucayali in the Peruvian Amazon, and FPP partner organisation FECONAU will be in Paris to highlight the social and human rights impacts of palm oil in Peru, evidencing the need for major trading blocs such as the European Union to adopt an action plan to stop imports of commodities linked to illegal deforestation and the violation of the rights of indigenous peoples.