Indigenous Rights and Climate Action in 2023
During the UN Forum Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP27 and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Convention of the Parties (COP)15, held in late 2022, Indigenous advocates centred “the loss and damage to Indigenous rights” and the ongoing need for global action on climate change. While numerous challenges to climate change remain in 2023, Indigenous-led solutions to climate change are critical to ending further biodiversity loss.
According to the OHCHR, COP27 revealed that signatories of the Paris Agreement made little progress on their pledges to embed Indigenous rights in climate actions. The Paris Agreement included reference to Indigenous rights. However, for some Indigenous advocates at COP27, the emphasis on climate financing overshadowed any efforts to include Indigenous perspectives, and discussions about Indigenous rights in climate policy and decision making. For instance, according to Indigenous Climate Action, the development of a loss and damage fund “in which countries responsible for high carbon emissions compensate vulnerable countries suffering from climate impacts,” centered economics, and consequently, shifted attention away from Indigenous rights and further support for the role of Indigenous peoples in protecting biodiversity. And while the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change (IIPFCC) considered the establishment of the loss and damage fund to be a success, they hoped the funds would also “directly reach Indigenous Peoples.” Cultural Voices recorded a number of Indigenous voices from around the world, sharing perspectives about key decisions made at COP27.
The Kunming-Montreal Biodiversity Framework (GBF) was an agreement made by nearly 200 countries at the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) in December 2022. Nations committed to engage in activities that would prevent further land and ocean biodiversity loss, on 30% of the planet, by 2030. Although Indigenous leaders considered the GBF to be a landmark agreement, they were concerned by the lack of clear targets to prevent the extinction of endangered species. Furthermore, Indigenous leaders were concerned that the GBF would lump all Indigenous people in a global pan-Indigenous identity, as expressed through Indigenous rights, rather than recognizing the distinct cultural and social contexts and traditions of thousands upon thousands of Indigenous nations worldwide.
According to the U.S.-based United Nations Foundation Climate and Environment Experts, issues at the forefront of climate action in 2023 include climate finance, food systems, and subnational action on climate change. However, rather than focusing solely on general climate change issues and failed attempts at embedding Indigenous rights into UN policies on climate change, more attention should be placed on Indigenous-led climate solutions in the fight to protect biodiversity. For example, Canada’s Indigenous-led Natural Climate Solutions initiative shifts the focus from policy to practical on-the-ground efforts in biodiversity protection.
While some nations continue their efforts to pressure governments to embed the laws of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, at the bare minimum, in climate policy and climate action, local and national programs may provide more tangible support for Indigenous governance authority and nationhood and prevent further biodiversity loss into the next decade.
By Leela Viswanathan
(Image credit: Benjamin Voros, Unsplash)