What is it and why does it matter?
Early December saw the 20th Conference of the Parties took place in the Peruvian capital, Lima. Known as COP20, representatives from countries in the UN met for an international conference about climate change.
These meetings have taken place every year since 1992 with the aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to limit the global temperate increase. (See this infographic if you want to know why this is important.)
This time, the discussions in Lima barely made the headlines. People have lost hope in politicians ever making decisions leading to concrete action. This is the twentieth conference and for all the talking, our concerns over climate change have only worsened.
But this year’s COP was important for two reasons. It was the last opportunity for nations around the world to negotiate and shape their contributions to reducing carbon emissions before they have to make a definitive commitment at the final conference in Paris in 2015.
It was also the first conference where the importance of indigenous people took a central role. Around 1,300 indigenous communities live within the Peruvian Amazon – covering nearly 30 million acres of rainforest. If we’re serious about tackling climate change, then rainforest communities must be part of it.
Despite this, many of the indigenous representatives at COP20 felt they are still ignored by the authorities. They feel that the government has been complicit in increasing oil exploration and logging, which not only destroys their home and identity – but also the carbon storing rainforest. The Peruvian Amazon alone stores a staggering 7 billion tonnes of carbon.
But policies that focus on tackling deforestation have a huge impact. Whilst the Montreal Protocol has had the biggest effect on emissions by cutting CFCs, Brazil’s policy to halt deforestation has had the biggest effect of any policy created to reduce emissions. Over eight years, Brazil stopped 3.2 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions just from keeping their trees standing.
This is where COP20 comes in. To see lasting and sustainable change, the nations who gathered in Lima and who meet again in Parid next year need to recognise the importance of indigenous communities for the protection of rainforests.
This is exactly what Cool Earth has been doing for the last seven years. We put indigenous communities back in control of their land, and give them the resources to stand up to the loggers, miners and drillers. It’s a powerful tool in fighting climate change.
COP20 is important because at last indigenous communities have a global voice. Let’s hope our leaders listen to them.