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Indigenous peoples and nature must be at center of COP28

December 4, 2023 / COP28, Environment / By Ground Report


As the world’s eyes turn to COP28, a clarion call has been issued by leading conservationists and Indigenous rights advocates for a renewed focus on the essential role of nature and Indigenous Peoples in global climate discussions. This pivotal moment underscores the urgent need to integrate the wisdom of traditional ecological knowledge with modern conservation efforts to address the pressing climate crisis.

Indigenous focus crucial at COP28

In a joint statement released today, experts from the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Pawanka Fund, and the Inclusive Conservation Academy expressed concern over the exclusion of nature and Indigenous Peoples’ rights in recent COP decisions and the COP28 agenda.


Sushil Raj, Dr. Myrna Cunningham Kain, and Roberto Múkaro Agüeibaná Borrero emphasized the intrinsic connection between humanity and nature, which is deeply reflected in the lifestyles, knowledge, and belief systems of many Indigenous Peoples. They highlighted the lack of significant reflection of Indigenous Peoples’ rights, as outlined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), in past COP outcomes.


The statement pointed out that healthy ecosystems are crucial for humanity’s survival, providing essential services and playing a key role in addressing climate change, biodiversity loss, and health crises. The experts noted the reciprocal relationship between Indigenous Peoples and high-integrity ecosystems, underscoring their importance in climate regulation and biodiversity conservation.


The group called for a conservation model that places people, especially those with a strong cultural connection to their environment, at the center. They argued that such models are the most effective in preserving ecosystems.


To achieve the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees, the experts urged for an accelerated phase-out of fossil fuels, a just transition, and the protection of nature through carbon capture in high-integrity ecosystems. They also stressed the need to secure land and cultural rights for Indigenous Peoples, who play a significant role in climate solutions, while acknowledging the threats to their land and way of life.


Indigenous vital for climate goals

To effectively combat climate change, it’s crucial to work in partnership with Indigenous Peoples and local communities (IPs and LCs), who are the guardians of vital ecosystems. Nations should honor their traditions and conservation methods while providing necessary support for joint conservation objectives and livelihood maintenance. IPs and LCs deserve a say in crafting climate solutions, ensuring their participation is meaningful, benefits are fairly distributed, and their rights are respected.


Outside the COP28 discussions, the EDF’s Natural Climate Solutions team and partners will highlight efforts to increase finance and implementation of top-notch natural climate solutions.


EDF and its partners, including NGOs, governments, and IPs and LCs, aim to enhance IPs and LCs’ active involvement in jurisdictional REDD+ and other large-scale natural climate solutions. They also seek to boost funding and support for these initiatives and improve understanding of mesopelagic species’ importance to the planet and conservation management.


As global leaders gather at COP28 to align with the Paris Agreement’s objectives, the conservation, restoration, and sustainable management of natural systems are key in addressing climate change. To translate commitments into tangible results, supportive policies and practices are essential. Stakeholders are encouraged to collaborate and drive progress at COP28 and beyond.


What needs to happen at this COP28?

At COP28, the focus must be on human rights, Indigenous Peoples’ rights, and nature’s rights to drive meaningful change for planetary health, as emphasized by COP28 President Dr. Sultan Al Jaber. This includes:

  • Recognizing and implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other human rights instruments.

  • Ensuring Nationally Determined Contributions processes are inclusive at the national level.

  • Reflecting nature’s diverse values, including non-market approaches, in negotiations for common goals.

Additionally, significant funding must be mobilized to protect high-integrity ecosystems, with Indigenous Peoples involved in climate solution decision-making. Financing for Indigenous Peoples should be increased, as they currently receive less than 1% of biodiversity and climate finance. Direct access to adequate and sustainable funding for adaptation and mitigation is also crucial.

Finally, there must be a commitment to mobilize the promised $100 billion in finance to developing countries, with a specific focus on Indigenous Peoples who are disproportionately affected by the climate crisis yet receive inadequate funding.

A successful Global Stocktake at COP28 must go beyond acknowledging our current shortcomings and embed a human rights-centric approach throughout, including the political phase of reviewing results.

Indigenous Peoples, encompassing youth, women, people with disabilities, and Traditional Knowledge holders, should be actively involved in all aspects of the Global Stocktake. Their participation is crucial in the review of results and preparation of documents.

Furthermore, negotiations under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement need to incorporate strong safeguards based on a human rights approach. It’s essential to eliminate the proposed fee for Indigenous Peoples to submit grievances and ensure that those responsible for harm cover the costs of Grievance Redress Mechanisms. These mechanisms should be independent and effective, providing timely redress for harms caused.



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