• Logging roads and subsequent small towns created by logging concessions are bringing man and infrastructure further into the forest of Cameroon than ever before, severely threatening the great forests of the Congo Basin (Getty Images)
Indigenous people want to be heard at the Paris 2015 climate summit as they say they hold the key to stop the planet’s rivers draining, crops wilting and marine life from being destroyed.
By
Andrea Booth

26 Nov 2015 - 2:10 PM  UPDATED 27 Nov 2015 - 11:14 AM

Dr Samson Viulu, a scientist from the Solomon Islands, says his world has become one where streams are drying up, water is too salty to drink, crop yields are dangerously low, and fish habitats are being sabotaged.

Dr Viulu describes a world where children are receiving less education as they spend more time searching for food, malnutrition is becoming more common and violence is rising.

"A community under stress is a very volatile community," the postdoctoral researcher in microbes and alternative energy at Gifu University, Japan, told NITV ahead of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Paris.

He is part of a delegation of 12 Indigenous people from around the world attending a high level dialogue, hosted by the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change (IIPFCC) and the United Nations Development Program, that runs adjacent to Paris 2015 from 1 to 11 December.

The delegation want decision makers on climate change policy to consider Indigenous peoples' priorities and perspectives during negotiations.

"Without the participation of resource owners, whom are mainly Indigenous people, all efforts under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change are bound to fail."

"Despite the huge financial resources available to mankind, without the participation of resource owners, whom are mainly Indigenous people and local communities, all efforts under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change are bound to fail," said Dr Viulu.

He said Indigenous people are key to the long term sustainability of our environment.

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"Conserving our biodiversity is central to our fight against climate change and this has been an integral part of Indigenous peoples' livelihood.

"Indigenous people have vast knowledge and experience with their environment since time immemorial and
these knowledges have been consistently passed down through each generations."

"Indigenous people have vast knowledge and experience with their environment since time immemorial."

According to new research, Indigenous people own, occupy or manage nearly 65 percent of land around the world, but they are commonly excluded from key decision-making processes.

In the Solomon Islands, the percentage of land owned is even higher. Eighty percent of land in the Solomon Islands is customary owned, "meaning Indigenous people and local communities are the main custodians over their land and resources," said Dr Vieulu.

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A report from the World Resources Institute and Rights and Resources Initiative states that 70 percent of all lands utilised or occupied by Indigenous people do not have legal protection, giving private companies and governments the power to engage in environmentally damaging agriculture practices, logging, mining, and constructing dams and roads. 

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN special rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, stressed the need to protect those rights and knowledge that has keeps ecosytems thriving. "The same development that fuels climate change continues to rob Indigenous Peoples of their human rights," she told media.

Yet Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, a co-chair of the Global Steering Committee of the IIPFCC, and member of the Mbororo people in Chad, says if their land rights could be better ensured, Indigenous people would have the capability to help prevent deforestation.

Cutting down forests emits approximately 11 percent of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere worldwide.

"A persistent blind spot in the climate agenda has been the role of Indigenous Peoples in preventing deforestation and land degradation through their stewardship of vast areas of forest, grasslands and coastlines," Hindou said. 

"In protecting these lands, Indigenous peoples safeguard their own survival and deliver an enormous, unrecognised existing solution to climate change."

A report from the World Resources Institute and Rights and Resources Initiative estimated that forests owned and controlled by Indigenous Peoples and local communities contain approximately 37.7 billion tons of carbon or 29 times more than the annual emissions of the world’s passenger vehicles.

"In protecting these lands, Indigenous peoples safeguard their own survival and deliver an enormous, unrecognized existing solution to climate change," said Ibrahim. 

But the Rights and Resources Initiative found that of 47 UNFCCC intended nationally determined contributions, 26 of them do not mention Indigenous and community land and forest management in their climate mitigation strategies. Only five included it another 16 mention it in passing.

IIPFCC key demands

  • Intended nationally determined contributions and the Paris Agreement ensure the participation of Indigenous Peoples. 
  • UNFCC findings that a global temperature increase of two degrees Celsius would fail to protect the food sources, local economies, resilience and survival of Indigenous Peoples. The IIPFCC therefore advocates to keep the climate from warming above 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The US recently pledged $5 million to the Pacific region to help it mitigate climate change.

Indigenous Peoples live in every world region and constitute a least 370 million individuals representing more than 5,000 distinct peoples.

IP-government dialogues are being held in Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Fiji, Guatemala, Guyana, Indonesia, Liberia, Mexico, Niger, Panama, the Philippines, Peru, Russia, Tanzania, Thailand and Vietnam – the United Nations Development Program.