Prioritizing COVID-19 recovery and climate recovery plans by Indigenous peoples


The Indigenous World 2021 report released in April 2021 criticizes “building back better” COVID-19 economic national recovery policies world-wide as largely contradictory to climate recovery efforts. Economic recovery plans that prioritize large-scale infrastructure development and resource extraction over Indigenous sustainable development and regenerative practices work against efforts to slow down global warming; they further threaten Indigenous rights to land and ignore Indigenous experiences with COVID-19.

In April 2020, the planet experienced a 17% reduction in annual CO2 emissions, which if sustained over the next ten years could limit global warming to 1.5 oC set by the Paris Agreement. The 2021 IPCC Report, released on the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (August 9, 2021) pointed to human impacts on the future of the planet and to the vital role of Indigenous peoples to enhance climate efforts worldwide. However, the shift to online, virtual meetings due to COVID-19, resulted in a steep decline in Indigenous engagement in the United Nations sustainable development activities. In turn, local and national recognition of Indigenous peoples’ engagement in climate efforts is increasingly important during the pandemic.

In September 2021, in Canada, the rate of reported COVID-19 cases among First Nations people living on reserve was 3.5 times the respective rate of the general public.  Considering Indigenous experiences with COVID-19 and that Indigenous climate adaptation practices are foundational to the planet’s survival, Indigenous solutions must be supported in both climate and COVID-19 recovery plans.


By Leela Viswanathan


(Image credit: Brendan Beale, Unsplash)