UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

Greater recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights is critical in climate policies and actions in the post 2020 climate regime.

At the first United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, also known as the ‘Earth Summit’, in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, an international treaty was negotiated that aimed to stabilise greenhouse gas emissions at a level that would not cause dangerous interference with the global climate system.

The treaty – the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – is non-legally binding but led to the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 which established legally binding obligations for developed countries to reduce emissions. In 2010, the Cancun Agreements specified that global warming should not exceed 2C above pre-industrial temperatures. A series of safeguards were also adopted that would have to be taken into account in any REDD+ project. Noting the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), these safeguards provide a number of protections for indigenous peoples, including their full and effective participation. This has led to further elaboration of safeguards within various REDD+ mechanisms both to prevent REDD+ doing environmental or social harm and to ensure proper assessment of benefits – the ‘do good’ approach.

With a variety of REDD+ operators, each with their own safeguarding frameworks, there are further challenges in translating the UNFCCC mandate and in developing a common approach to ensure accountability and consistency. In many countries, meaningful efforts to implement the Cancun Agreements and related international obligations such as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, remain in their infancy. Meanwhile REDD+ programmes and pilot projects have moved ahead, resulting in serious mistakes and rights abuses .