On March 4, 2023, the United Nations passed the High Seas Treaty to protect all parts of the world’s oceans defined by international law as “the high seas.” Up until then, only 1% of the high seas, an area where all countries had “a right to fish, ship and do research,” was protected from exploitation. It took over a decade for the UN High Seas Treaty to be developed as a legal instrument of the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The treaty is getting praise from diverse groups for its potential to prevent further loss of species at risk, and biodiversity loss, in general; however, the treaty is not yet at the stage of implementation.

The area covered by the UN High Seas Treaty has significant impact on the climate. The high seas “takes up 90% of the excess heat and around 25% of the CO2  generated by humanity’s burning of fossil fuels.” The treaty intends to protect the high seas from the ongoing effects of climate change such as pollution and ocean acidification, as well as the threats of overfishing and other forms of resource extraction. The treaty also aligns with the UN’s COP 15 Global Biodiversity Framework, established in December 2022; member nations agreed to “30 x 30” – that is, protecting 30% of the ocean, coastal areas, and lands by 2030.

The Carbon Brief offers more details as to the development, content, and next steps for the Treaty.


By Leela Viswanathan


(Image credit: Abigail Lynn, Unsplash)

On December 16, 2022, the President of the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN), Csaba Kőrösi, proclaimed the start of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages, 2022-2032. The aim of the International decade is “to secure the rights of Indigenous peoples to preserve, revitalize and promote their languages.” In his speech, Kőrösi called upon the UN’s Member States to work with Indigenous communities to: “[s]afeguard [I]ndigenous peoples’ rights” to learn and access resources in their native languages; “[e]nsure that Indigenous peoples and their knowledge are not exploited…[and] meaningfully consult Indigenous peoples, engaging with them in every stage of decision-making processes.”

The Language Conservancy estimates that Indigenous languages are lost at the rate of nine languages per year and that “[b]y 2080 the rate will rise by [sixteen] languages per year – one every two weeks.” The Language Conservancy provides a series of maps that depict centuries of language loss from the 1920s to present, drawn from the research by Gary F. Simons. The “growing wave” of Indigenous language loss is caused by the impacts of colonization, the rapid development of human settlements and by choices to leave the countryside for the city. Language loss is further exacerbated by climate change, especially as Indigenous peoples are forced to migrate and resettle due to adverse climate events.

Policies and educational programs to revitalize Indigenous languages are crucial to fight language loss and to prevent more than half of all languages becoming extinct over the next century.


By Leela Viswanathan


(Image credit: Satyam HCR, Unsplash)

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)