Indigenous Peoples lobbied State Parties (Countries) at the International Climate Conference in Paris to adopt a strong human rights approach and take into consideration Indigenous Peoples’ special vulnerabilities to climate change impacts as well as their valuable contributions to climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies.
The International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change (IIPFCC) urged the States to adopt into the COP21’s Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP), “Respect for Human Rights, Including the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Climate Change Policies and Actions” in both the preamble of the Paris Agreement, which sets the framework for interpreting and implementing all the operative provisions, as well as in the operative section.
Representatives of the Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus sprang into defensive action December 3 after Norway, with backing from the United States, Australia and some European countries bracketed human rights in the preamble and Article 2.2 of the operative draft Paris Climate Agreement text that included recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ rights.
Bracketing a letter, word or section opens it up for further discussion.
Also bracketed was the “s” in Indigenous People[s]. The following day, inside the conference Indigenous representatives held up individual letters that together spelled out WE ARE PEOPLES. Outside the venue, Indigenous Peoples from diverse countries united in a demonstration to show their opposition to the proposed changes.
“That is unreasonable for us,” Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, a pastoralist from Chad, Africa, and co-chair of the IIPFCC to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) told ICTMN. “We do not understand why a country like Norway, who is supporting Indigenous Peoples’ preparation and participation to the COP21 reacted as that. The US as well.”
Thomson Reuters reported that Norway and the other countries were said to be concerned that including human rights protections in the operational text, or binding part of the agreement could create some form of legal liability if climate change is judged to have violated those rights.
The entire Article 2.2 in the Draft Paris Outcome published by the UNFCCC December 5 is now bracketed, and the text has moved to the ministerial level for final negotiations.
“This language has been bracketed, removed, put back, changed, put back,” Frank Ettawageshik (Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians) said, representing the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and as a representative of the Caucus.
Andrea Carman (Yaqui Nation), executive director of the International Indigenous Treaty Council, a Global Steering Partner to the IIPFCC told ICTMN that matters had changed “several times a day” with regards to Indigenous Peoples’ rights in the Paris Climate Agreement, either in the preamble’s non-binding agreement, and/or in the operative text.
“Canada called for reinserting Indigenous Peoples in the operative 2.2 paragraph,” Carman said. “It had a huge impact. We’ve seen a growing number of States willing to support that.”
Because the Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus has observer status to the UNFCCC their representatives can lobby delegates at the COP and at inter-sessional meetings, which they did throughout the days into late at night.
Carman said tribal leaders and indigenous representatives met with U.S. government representative Andrew Light, a staff climate adviser in the U.S. Department of State, and consultant for the State Department at the COP21. Light assured them from the very top, President Obama, that Indigenous Peoples’ rights will be included in the text.
“They’re vague about placement,” Carman said. “They don’t really want it in the operative; they would rather have it in the preamble. We would like it in both.”
Indigenous Peoples have commitments from a growing number of State Parties to propose inclusion of the rights of Indigenous Peoples in operative paragraph 2 on Human Rights, including Mexico, Peru, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Philippines and Canada, as well as several Pacific Island States, Carman said.
As of December 6 the rights of Indigenous Peoples now appears without brackets in preambular paragraph 10. Carman said the basis of their work in the second week of the COP will be to continue to work for its inclusion in the operative section.
Also under Article 2 of the draft Paris agreement is holding the increase in the global average temperature to [below 1.5 °C] [or] [well below 2 °C] above pre-industrial levels by ensuring deep reductions in global greenhouse gas [net] emissions. Because of the disastrous effects climate disruption has already had on Indigenous Peoples, the IIPFCC proposed warming be kept to no more than a 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels.
The IIPFCC won’t know until next week how the final Paris Climate Agreement will read. The goal of COP21 is to adopt an international legally binding Climate Agreement under the convention in the form of a protocol that is applicable to all parties by December 11.
“Basically we’ve been kicking the can down the road,” said the NCAI’s Ettawageshik. “Had we taken action earlier we wouldn’t have to take as drastic of action now. We’re running out of road to kick the can down.”