Guide on climate change and indigenous peoples

Guide on climate change and indigenous peoples

The effects of climate change on indigenous peoples, and their methods of adaptation and mitigation

This report discusses the basics of climate change, mitigation and adaptation measures, and the impact of climate change on indigenous peoples. It gives examples of adaptation and mitigation processes practised by indigenous people. It further discusses the risks and opportunities that Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) presents to indigenous people.

It notes that indigenous peoples are the least contributors to climate change, yet they are the first to suffer from its impacts. Severe drought, hurricanes and typhoons, melting ice, floods, sea level rise, increased prevalence of infectious diseases have gravely affected their way of life, health, livelihoods, lands, resources and territories. They have been forced to adapt, using their traditional knowledge, innovations and practices in adjusting to these rapidly changing conditions. It further argues that indigenous peoples have contributed significantly to mitigation of GHG emissions. This is through their low-carbon to carbon-neutral ways of life characterised by their continuing practice of sustainable traditional livelihoods and low levels of consumption.

The paper notes that though REDD may have some opportunities for indigenous peoples who live and depend on forests, the concept and manner in which it is being shaped and implemented pose many problems which have to be addressed seriously. If their forests are designated as carbon forests and are used for emissions trading, there is a great possibility that they will be prevented from practising their own traditional forest management practices and to use their forests for ceremonial purposes, shifting cultivation, as sources of forest products and other agro-forestry activities.

The report gives the following recommendations for indigenous peoples and communities:

  • strengthen the traditional forest management and conservation practices, sustainable traditional agricultural practices and traditional livelihoods
  • create better documentation of good practices in mitigation and adaptation, and share these with other indigenous communities and organisations
  • gather political, technical and financial support of the international community, and national support for the operationalisation of indigenous peoples' self-determined development.
It also provides the following recommendations for the UN and its agencies, governments and multilateral and bilateral bodies:
  • the social dimension of climate change needs to be considered, so that the social and cultural impacts on indigenous peoples, including indigenous women, are more visible
  • mitigation measures of indigenous peoples should be included in the monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) processes in undertaking Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs).
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