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Climate Summit Day One: Indigenous Peoples Stress Need for Participation
Cancun, Mexico

Climate Summit Day One: Indigenous Peoples Stress Need for Participation

Nearly 200 world governments are at the United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Change in Mexico charged with negotiating future commitments under the Kyoto Protocol.

Countries joined with the UNFCCC more than a decade ago to reduce global climate change and find ways cope with its inevitable changes.

The European community and 37 industrial countries approved the Protocol, which sets binding targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to an average of five per cent against 1990 levels over the five-year period 2008-2012.

Some countries support an amendment to the Protocol. Others are in opposition. But people do not hold high expectations for an international treaty, said Robert Gruenig, senior policy analyst for the National Tribal Environmental Council.

“They’re looking to (the summit in) South Africa next year.”

Gruenig said it is expected that a number of issues close to resolution – forest protection, aid for developing nations and technology sharing – will make significant progress this year.

Gruenig and Kim Gottschalk, staff attorney with the Native American Rights Fund are in Cancun to look out for tribal interests in the U.S., as well as to ensure indigenous peoples are not left out of the process.

“As of now they are asked to give an opening and closing statement,” said Gruenig. “That is not sufficient by any means, as a lot changes as the negotiations proceed. Indigenous peoples need to have direct participation and be allowed to speak on the floor.”

Indigenous peoples are on the front lines of the impacts of climate change whether they live on islands or in coastal areas, the Arctic, the deserts, urban areas forests or mountain regions, and their situation is dire.

The Indigenous Caucus held a preparatory meeting Nov. 27 and 28, and formulated a statement they presented during the Nov. 29 opening session. They expressed appreciation for their participation in the critical discussions “upon which all of our survival depends.”

They then moved to demanding a change in the models of production and consumption that produce climate change, as well as decisive action for real solutions by State Parties at this session. “The threats to our survival and the violations of our internationally-recognized human rights as a result of climate change are increasing on a daily basis,”
it read.

“Market-based mitigation strategies such as the Clean Development Mechanism, and carbon offsets, including forest offsets and REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) further threaten our human rights, including our right to free prior and informed consent among many others. Our land and territories, food sovereignty, bio-diversity, cultural practices and traditional life ways are being placed in further jeopardy, and we reject these false solutions.”

They want all aspects of the work to be negotiated at the summit in ways that ensure the rights of Indigenous Peoples in all countries are respected, upheld and recognized in all final texts and agreements, consistent with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and other international human rights norms and standards.

They’ve called for the implementation of formal mechanisms and methods that ensure the full and effective participation of Indigenous peoples. And they’ve called on the Parties to adopt strong and concrete agreements to produce real solutions that reduce emissions while also making a firm commitment to protect our human rights.

“Our survival is in the balance. Our responsibility to our Peoples,our future generations, our Sacred Mother the Earth and to each other as brothers and sisters of the human family, requires and demands immediate and decisive action.”

Four alternative climate summits are taking place alongside the official proceedings. A summit of non-governmental organizations; one run by the Mexican government; Klima Forum, first held in Copenhagen in 2009; and La Via Campesina (the International Peasants’ Movement), an organization of over 148 organizations that advocate family-farm-based sustainable agriculture.

Via Campesina will accommodate thousands affected by environmental destruction – farmers, landless, Indigenous Peoples and activists from all sectors during the summit, to propose solutions to confront climate change.

They are bringing in 4,000 Mexicans – Indigenous Peoples, farmers and their allies, and a few hundred from the Global South. The Bolivian government is flying in 90 people, and Venezuela is flying in a similar number. Caravans are en route to Cancun from the U.S. and Canada, and more people are coming in from Europe.

The U.S.-based Indigenous Environmental Network brought in a contingent of 23 people. IEN’s executive director Tom Goldtooth spoke Nov. 29 at the Climate Justice Now press conference. They are holding a panel on the Canadian Tar Sands issue at KlimaForum Wednesday, and another this weekend on ‘No REDD.’

La Campesina as declared Dec. 7 an International Day of Action, with a massive march and protest in Cancun, and they’re calling for “Thousand of Cancuns” around the world,
with social movements, organizations and people around the world organizing thousands of protests and actions during the summit to “reject false solutions and to support a  people’s agenda for climate justice.”

This year’s summit runs Nov. 29 through Dec. 10. Last year’s climate summit produced the Copenhagen Accord, an agreement drawn up by the U.S., China, India, Brazil and South Africa that yielded few /commitments to keep global greenhouse gasses from rising.

The action by the five nations angered some of the countries that were excluded from the process, especially poorer nations experiencing the earliest and worst impacts of climatic changes. The Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, a group of Latin America nations known as the “ALBA countries,” refused to back the Accord.

The Accord did provide for $100 billion a year by 2020 to fund climate efforts in developing countries.

While leaders at Copenhagen vowed to stop global temperatures from rising above two degrees Celsius, many of the scientists in attendance claimed that the world is on a path of increasing temperatures to 3.5 degrees Celsius by 2100. Some experts recently raised that increase to 4 degrees C, or 7.2 degrees F, by 2060.

Former Shoshone-Bannock chair James Steele attended last year’s summit, and he said the message was clear. “The U.S. must lead the world by enacting a strong, science-based cap on greenhouse gas pollution. Failure is no longer an option. The cost of inaction is too high, for our people as well as our wildlife and natural resources.”