If You’re Not at the Table, You’re On the Menu – Faithkeeper Oren Lyons
Current Status and Next Steps
It’s been the two hottest years in history, due to global warming that especially affects vulnerable populations. And yet just weeks before this decade’s biggest climate change conference, known as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), indigenous populations are still struggling to gain a place at the meeting table.
Much is at stake this year in Paris in November and December: Countries are aiming “to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to limit the global temperature increase to two degrees above pre-industrial levels.” However, recent studies show that climate change is moving much faster than anticipated, requring a more ambitious reduction to 1.5 level rather than two; in fact, the two degree level will not protect indigenous people(s) from losing their livelihoods, land, and heritage, according to the Structured Expert Dialogue report.
Here’s where grass-roots voices step in to refocus world decision makers. Recognizing that people (not politicians) lead movements, the “1.5 to Stay Alive” campaign highlights native examples about devastation in the Caribbean rather than scripted pleadings by celebrity activists.
Here’s a brief timeline of UN meetings about climate change policies and practice:
- 1992 – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: was adopted and recognized the “urgent need for global action to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions.” The ‘Rio Convention’ is regarded as the first organized international political response to climate change.
- 1997 – COP 3, Kyoto, Japan: Most developing countries committed to reducing emissions, agreeing that man-made carbon dioxide causes global warming. However, the United States was not part of the Kyoto Protocol, resulting in Long-term Cooperative Action mechanisms (LCA) to bring everybody to the table.
- 2005 – COP 11, Montreal, Canada: The Montreal Action Plan served to push the Kyoto Protocol beyond its 2012 expiration date, make deeper cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions, and also to re-engage the United States.
- 2009 – COP 15, Copenhagen, Denmark: For the first time, the ‘developed world’ (including the U.S.) agreed (in principle) to fund $100 billion annually starting in 2020 for ‘developing countries’ to adapt and mitigate. United Nations representatives assert that climate change is the single most important threat to future food security.
- 2010 -COP 16, Cancun, Mexico: The first time human rights were mentioned in connection with climate change, with mention of safeguards for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, Indigenous Peoples, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; however, there was still no binding agreement under the LCA.
- 2011 – COP 17, Durban, South Africa: A new effort, the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP), replaced the LCA as the means to reach a legal protocol by COP 21 in Paris, 2015. The group questions whether a maximum, two-degree rise in global temperature rising is enough or whether the lower 1.5 number is needed to help mitigate impacts on developing countries, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.
- 2014 – COP 20, Lima, Peru: Adoption of the Lima Action Plan that establishes Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) as commitments of countries to emissions reductions and other elements. Over 190 countries also agreed to a work program to understand how climate change affected indigenous or minority status vulnerable populations.
This year, 2015, everything moved fast to prepare for COP 21
- Feb. 2015 -ADP Geneva, Switzerland: An extensive (86 single-spaced pages) Geneva Negotiating Text is a kitchen sink of desires; for the Indigenous Caucus, this was a chance to lobby that climate change related actions would “…respect, protect, and fulfill human rights for all, including the rights of indigenous peoples…”
- Aug./Sept. 2015 – ADP Bonne, Germany: A negotiating session to trim down the Geneva text promises line-by-line negotiation. This is the last time for lobbying before the COP 21 in Paris and the public is still clamoring for legally binding agreements that recognize the severity of climate change.
- Oct. 2015 – Bonne, Germany: Green and development groups are shut out of the process, including Indigenous representatives, and it is announced that Green Climate Fund resources will not be awarded to indigenous peoples in ‘developed countries’. In response, Norway and others proposed an international fund for indigenous peoples and the International Indian Treaty Organization is among those lobbying to reverse this ruling since it would exclude many vulnerable populations.
- Oct. 2015 – Everywhere: The International Indigenous People Forum on Climate Change organize a global effort to get input, including best practices and native reactions to COP 21 for the strongest possible voice.
- Nov. – Dec. 2015 – COP 21, Paris, France: The first time in over 20 years of United Nations negotiations that binding, universal agreements could produce international mandates to keep global warming below two degrees.
COP 21 and beyond
“It is vital that our voices are heard and our rights and ways of lives are protected as we confront the causes and impacts of climate change in our homelands and globally, at COP 21 and beyond.” — Roberto Borrero, North America GSC Focal Point, United Confederation of Taino People, IITC Board Member