Indigenous and traditional peoples and climate change

Indigenous and traditional peoples and climate change

How will climate change impact indigenous and traditional peoples?

Indigenous and traditional peoples are among those most at risk from climate change. This document looks  in detail at the potential impacts of climate change on vulnerable communities and cultures and their associated ecosystems, and seeks to develop effective and culturally appropriate adaptation and mitigation measures.

The authors note that many indigenous and traditional people have been pushed to the least fertile and most fragile lands as a consequence, social, political and economic exclusion. Although these people have long had to cope with environmental changes and therefore have valuable knowledge about adapting to climate change, they warn that the future climate change impacts may exceed their adaptive capacity.

The report provides the following:

  • a critical analysis of the treatment of traditional and indigenous people in key climate change policy documents, such as UNFCCC the Kyoto Protocol and the Clean Development Mechanism
  • a discussion of determining factors of social and biophysical vulnerability of indigenous and traditional peoples
  • maps of the location of indigenous and traditional peoples (ethno-linguistic groups) superimposed over the latest IPCC climate change projections on temperature, precipitation and sea level change
  • an analysis of the projected impacts of climate change on coastal areas; islands; tropical forests; and drylands
  • case studies showing the current implications of climate change traditional and indigenous peoples’ livelihoods, and revealing a range of adaptive strategies.

The authors conclude that climate change is already having serious implications on the livelihoods and cultures of traditional and indigenous peoples. Even though these peoples have developed important strategies to adapt to these changes, it is highlighted that the magnitude of future hazards may limit their capacity to adapt.

A number of recommendations are provided for culturally appropriate ways to enhance the resilience of traditional and indigenous peoples and to reduce factors which are hindering adaptation. These include:

  • formulating policies which actively involve indigenous and traditional communities in the international, regional and local climate change discourse
  • recognizing and actively promoting indigenous adaptation strategies
  • promoting technology transfer which is culturally appropriate
  • supporting or enhancing livelihood diversification
  • ensuring the conservation of natural resources and biological diversity
  • collecting and analyzing information on past and current practical adaptation actions and measures