Compared to “protected areas” run by the government and other private interests, our care for tropical forests is the most effective way to keep them alive.
Lands and rivers are best safeguarded in areas where indigenous tenure is secure.
“However, a 2021 study found that less than 1% of the climate cash intended to stop deforestation is given to Indigenous people and groups.
Only 7% of the $1.7 billion distributed, or 0.13% of all climate development money, has gone to groups run by Indigenous peoples, despite the $1.7 billion guaranteed at COP 26 to promote their tenure rights and forest guardianship.
Making sure to respect land rights is a way to reduce the risk for everyone, not just those looking to invest in areas with the best land managers.
The Maasai land has wilted after four unsuccessful rainy seasons. In the Greater Horn of Africa, the worst drought in 40 years has wreaked havoc on the livestock, towns, and Maasai way of life. Most of their money and food have come from their cattle, but with grazing places drying up from the dry heat and their herd starving, the entire area is in danger.
In contrast, the storms that hit the Philippines brought heavy rains and violent winds. Igorot villages on the island of Luzon are directly affected by intense storms, and it is hard for them to keep their way of life.
Supertyphoon Haiyan, which hit south of Luzon during UN climate change talks in 2013, may have made the biggest impression, but Supertyphoon Mangkhut hit Luzon directly in 2018. The same region was devastated by Super-Typhoon Noru three months prior.
We Indigenous Peoples, whether Maasai from Kenya or Igorot from the Philippines, wake up every day to very different lives. But our people have strong ties to the places where our ancestors lived and to the plants and animals that help us meet our spiritual, cultural, and physical needs.
The Maasai and the Igorot both have a history of being colonized, which has caused unimaginable damage to our societies and hurt ecosystems that are important for fighting biodiversity loss and climate change.
The deeds of the past have cost us and hurt us. At the UN’s climate change and biodiversity conferences this year, countries failed to protect our people and ecosystems from losses and harm that are happening now or will happen in the future.
Most people agreed there should be a fund to help pay for losses and damages caused by climate change, but no details or actual funding were given. Our lives, our lands, traditions, and our old ways of knowing are in danger.
Indigenous peoples participate in the UN negotiations as more than mere stakeholders. Instead, we are owners of rights. Tropical forests and peatlands have been widely discussed as potential climate and biodiversity solutions. These are our lands, which are rich in life and serve as carbon sinks.
Customary tenure systems allow indigenous people and local communities to take care of half of the world’s land and keep 80% of its species alive.
Compared to “protected areas” run by the government and other private interests, our care for tropical forests is the most effective way to keep them alive. Lands and rivers are best safeguarded in areas where indigenous tenure is secure.
In its most recent report on climate change, which came out this year, the UN’s scientific panel said, “Promoting Indigenous self-determination, respecting Indigenous Peoples’ rights, and supporting Indigenous knowledge-based adaptation are crucial to minimizing climate change risks and making adaptation work.”
However, a 2021 study found that less than 1% of the climate cash intended to stop deforestation is given to Indigenous people and groups. Only 7% of the $1.7 billion distributed, or 0.13% of all climate development money, has gone to groups run by Indigenous peoples, despite the $1.7 billion guaranteed at COP 26 to promote their tenure rights and forest guardianship.
There isn’t much money available to compensate for the loss and destruction caused by the catastrophic weather brought on by climate change. “Climate change is affecting Indigenous Peoples’ ways of life, cultural and linguistic diversity, food security, health, and well-being,” says the UN science panel’s report.
Only we can lead the transition experts’ call to address the problems of climate and biodiversity. At the same time, we require support to handle this terrible weather.
These crises have eliminated the middle ground, which was that pointless search for an agreement that always slowed down the action. We face a problem because of the limited resources we have. The income from previous exploitation may be used to lessen the harm that climate change has already done, or more of it could be put into adaptation and mitigation efforts to reduce the worst effects that climate change will have on us both now and in the future.
While the carbon in our soils is still seen as a speculative commodity to be bought and sold in markets hundreds of kilometers away, the urgency of funding both demands has yet to take root. While very little of the profits—like the help for climate development—goes our way, profits are produced by individuals and organizations that have no bearing on how we manage and safeguard our lands.
Making sure to respect land rights is a way to reduce the risk for everyone, not just those looking to invest in areas with the best land managers. There has never been a time when it was more important to include us in coming up with solutions for conservation and development, both locally and worldwide, and putting them into action.
As we work to keep our community and lands healthy, we warmly welcome anyone who wants to work with us and give us help and resources. The time for seizing land, money, and power—and clinging to material wealth—must be consigned to the past if we are to avoid the worst of what climate change has in store for us.
Instead, everyone must learn to work together and contribute equally, in line with shared but separate responsibilities. We are all in danger from the environmental issues facing our world.
Analysis: Advocacy United Network