Protecting indigenous people ‘helps climate battle’
Global leaders must do more to protect indigenous people fighting to protect their land and way of life if the world is to limit climate change, according to UN special rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpuz.
Speaking ahead of climate talks in Bonn next month, she urged politicians to recognise that indigenous communities were the most effective custodians of millions of hectares of forest that are “the world’s lungs”.
She said: “Indigenous people’s rights need to be protected in the best way possible, not just for them but because they are also able to provide solutions to many of the world’s problems from climate change to biological diversity. It is in the self-interest of states and even corporations, in the medium and long term, to protect and listen to these people – the question is, will they realise this in time?”
A recent study found that a quarter of the carbon stored above ground in tropical forests is found in the collectively managed territories of indigenous peoples and local communities.
In Brazil, deforestation in indigenous community forests from 2000 to 2012 was less than 1%, compared with 7% outside those areas.
Indigenous people are locked in fierce conflicts with mining, logging and agricultural companies and their security firms from Indonesia to Brazil. Last year was the deadliest on record for land rights defenders, with about 200 people killed in conflicts in Latin America, Africa and Asia.
Tauli-Corpuz spoke in Stockholm at the launch of the International Land and Forest Tenure Facility, which aims to help communities protect their land resources as well as fight climate change. It is funded by Sweden, Norway and the Ford Foundation, a US charity. The project aims to boost forest land titled to indigenous peoples by 40m hectares within a decade. Organisers say this would prevent deforestation of 1m hectares and release 500m tonnes of CO2.