Nearly 300 representatives of the Amazon rainforest’s indigenous people were in Lima last week with a clear message: their land rights must be recognised if the country is to make good its commitments on reducing deforestation and lowering carbon emissions.
For them, conserving the forest and protecting their way of life go hand in hand. They need to make the government see that looking indigenous rights is in their interests as well.
“We are the ones who are protecting the forest from being destroyed, so if the government doesn’t respect our rights we’re going to see huge levels of deforestation,” Maximiliano Correa, Coordination of the Indigenous Organisations of the Brazilian Amazon
The indigenous leaders were from Ecuador, Brazil and Venezuela. They claim that their governments are ignoring their voices, and ratifying the Paris agreement despite opposing land rights.
Investing in land rights for indigenous rainforest people is one of the most effective was of tackling climate change.1
“Securing land rights for indigenous communities in the Amazon truly would have a global impact. In terms of global carbon mitigation, there are billions of dollars to be gained from slowing deforestation and sequestering carbon in indigenous forests.” Helen Ding, World Resources Institute
During the drafting of the Paris agreement, which will be discussed this week at COP22 in Morocco, indigenous rights were left out of the main text. This was an opportunity to make land recognition legally binding and enforceable.
Despite this lost opportunity, there is progress. The Paris agreement, along with work by organisations like Cool Earth, has made sure that indigenous people are increasingly recognised as the best custodians of the forest and therefore of our climate.
“Until a few years ago, nobody wanted to know about land titling for indigenous peoples in Peru. Now they do. That’s because the indigenous struggle has been linked to the climate issue,” Roberto Espinoza, Aidesep