Defending the Sacred: Indigenous Peoples Against False Solutions and Article 6​

Transcript – Day 1 at COP28 in Dubai

IEN press conference, edited for clarity

November 30, 2023


Tom BK Goldtooth (IEN),

Brenna TwoBears (IEN),

Julia Bernal (PAA),

Eriel Deranger (ICA)




Tom Goldtooth

Good morning. I’m very honored to be able to be the moderator of this press conference. Our Indigenous Peoples Organization, the Indigenous Environmental Network, an international IPO, our people’s Organization have been participating in these spaces of the UNFCCC conference of the Party since 1998. We’re very concerned for this conference. There needs to be action. Yes. Climate change is a matter of life and death for us as Indigenous Peoples in all regions. We are facing insufficient governmental. Our Party’s actions and the contradictions of the expansion of fossil fuel development from North America and throughout Mother Earth. Greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. Indigenous Peoples here are demanding the parties to this conference recommit to the 1.5 degree target the phase out of fossil fuels. We also participate in the international Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change, [and] the Indigenous Caucus.

We’ve been hard at work collectively with Indigenous Peoples throughout the world the past couple of days, and we have a statement that backs that up [“IEN Introduces Ethical Protocol at the UN LCIPP FWG10”].

We all stand united in collective decision, demanding a phase out of fossil fuels. Our Indigenous Peoples organization has very serious concerns about Article Six of the Paris agreement. The carbon markets that are currently being negotiated have far reaching negative effects. Article 6.2, for an example, would be the largest global carbon trading platform with plans to launch in 2025. Negotiations on access, tracking, pollution, double counting, persists continually. Parties do not question the functionality of carbon trading. After over 25 years of evidence of failures, Article 6.4 could become the largest carbon offsets trading platform. ·

Indigenous Peoples within our international network continued to resist the inclusion of carbon dioxide removals, which would include biological removals, including forests, soils, agriculture and water offsets, our nature-based solutions and engineered removals, including carbon capture and storage, CCS. Many of you are familiar with direct air capture DAC, which are all technologies that are used by the fossil fuel industry to justify more extraction. The private sector that we’re very concerned about participating in, these spaces have a terrible history of violating the rights of indigenous people. So the rights and inherent rights of Indigenous Peoples is very critical to us in our organization as well as with Indigenous Peoples from the north to the south, especially the Pacific Islands.

So the website [information] on [Article] 6.8 is very concerning on non-market based approaches, which will be launched from this conference of the Party and could allow the private sector to finance environmental services, debt swaps for nature, technology transfers, or what’s called energy transfer, using net zero as a term.

These are all terminologies and issues that we’ve been very concerned about that are part of climate fault solutions. So our first speaker, I’m going to introduce each speaker as we go down the line, and she is Brenda Two Bears, and she’s our coordinator of our Keep It in the Ground campaign, networking with indigenous communities on the front lines of fossil fuel impacts. She’ll talk about how Indigenous Peoples are joining a global just transition pillar of the Global Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative also that is opposed to greenwashing activities that are going on. ·

Brenna Two Bears

Thank you, Tom, For over 400 years, my people and the land have suffered under the empire of greed and capitalism. This continues today with fossil fuels continuing to make indigenous people sacrifice zones, in land grabbing, in water contamination, air hazards and false solutions. That’s why it’s so important to know that our indigenous people and indeed some of the Pacific Island nations are the ones that are leading this call for a <a href=””>Fossil Fuel Non Proliferation Treaty</a> on an international scale. And it’s really important because where I’m from in the Southwest region of North America, water is something that is very scarce. It’s very much an integral part of not only our survival, but also our cultural ways. And yet it is one of the most capitalized on natural resources.

It’s the one that has been used in the past to slurry coal despite the fact that a lot of indigenous communities in the Southwest don’t have access to running water in the first place. It’s the one that is currently under potential threats from the building of a pipeline. North Dakota, which is in the Midwest of North America, even as we’re speaking right now, the major water source for the Standing Rock Nation is being put under threat from the Dakota Access Pipeline. And I can’t believe that I’m saying this still all these years later, that’s a fight that we’re still having to fight.

And that is why a treaty is so important because it puts the pressure on our nation states to come forward and actually try to protect our Indigenous Peoples, try to protect our lands, and make sure that not only our grandchildren [but] the next seven generations have something to live on, but that their grandchildren also have something. The Treaty supports a commitment to an equitable phase out of fossil fuels without qualifiers or loopholes. And that’s really important because we have words such as unabated or others in order to justify false solutions and delay. And that is very much these techno-fixes that are allowing the fossil fuel regime to continue and to grow. And it is not something that can be relied on in order to make sure that we’re able to address the climate crisis. Really briefly. The pillars of the treaty are non-proliferation.

So that means to stop building out our problem, ending the current expansion of coal, oil, and gas. And the second pillar is a fair phase out, which means an equitable plan to wind down existing fossil fuels with the historical responsibility of the global north countries to transition and to support the global south in their transition as well.

And the third one is a <a href=””>Just Transition</a> to fast track the adoption of clean energy and economic diversification away from fossil fuels so that no worker community or country is left behind. And that last part, that just transition is really important because something that we at Ian talk about is an indigenous just transition. And that is something that is so important in making sure that we have our lands and waters, and our plants and animals are still able to be here for our future generations.

And it’s really important, this idea of the next seven generations, because if you look at seven generations before, you can see that there are broken treaties, that there’s stolen land and stolen culture. But this current Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty is a way that we can protect Mother Earth for the next seven generations. They already have endorsements from a growing block of eight nation states, which include Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Tonga, Fiji, and the Solomon Islands. And that is something that’s so important to keep in mind.

And I just want to say one last thing that is we, as Indigenous Environmental Network, support and call for a fossil fuel nonproliferation treaty because of the protections it has in place for Indigenous Peoples and because of the focus it has on making sure we cut to the real bottom of this climate crisis, which is fossil fuels and not false solutions.

Tom Goldtooth

Thank you, Brenna. Our next speaker is Julia Bernard, director of the Pueblo Action Alliance. It’s a grassroots alliance of indigenous Pueblo peoples in the Southwest region of North America, and they have a long history of taking on the politics of dirty fossil fuel energy and climate fault solutions. Julia?

Julia Bernal

Thank you, Tom. Good morning, everyone. As mentioned, my name is Julia Bernal. I’m the executive director of Pueblo Action Alliance, tribal member of San Diego Pueblo, which is in the Southwest region of the United States. As my sister was speaking to the issues in the Southwest region of the United States, this region in particular has felt exacerbated impacts from climate change. And this falls under a historic legacy of energy sacrifice zones, of fossil fuels, of coal, of uranium and other hard rock mineral mining, which is typically in or near our ancestral lands. So, we are here at COP with other Indigenous delegations like ours. 

And we have traveled across the world yet again to urge leaders to phase out fossil fuels and to not fund energy technologies like all the colors of hydrogen – like liquid natural gas pipelines -like carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS), which are all technologies that are being funded and touted in the southwest region. And they will continue the fossil fuel extraction, they will continue business as usual, and it will continue impacts to Indigenous Peoples rights and our sacred ways and traditional ways of life as well. These are all false solutions. They will continue the upward trend of greenhouse gas emissions. So, business as usual and the continuation of fossil fuels is now presenting itself in new forms. As I mentioned, technologies like hydrogen. 

Hydrogen is a highly combustible molecule and has dangerous characteristics that would continue destruction to existing infrastructure and other types of material damages that essentially would add to the flux of wildland fires in the Southwest, a disproportionate impact on water resources and just the unclear sense of security that Indigenous and other frontline communities would feel with this type of energy production being next to where they live. 

Currently, 90% of hydrogen production uses fossil fuels and is being touted as an energy resource for the [just] transition and has a lot of funding to build out regional hydrogen hubs at a large scale. Large scale hydrogen hubs is not a well-researched energy production and the development of that could be detrimental. We’re also concerned about the development of liquid natural gas pipelines that will continue this disruption of continued development to ancestral lands and CCS. And CCUS is also an energy technology that would re-equip existing oil and gas infrastructure, aging infrastructure, and will essentially put liquid carbon into the ground where there is already a historic legacy of horizontal fracking wells which has contributed to geologic fissures and earthquakes in some regions. And so, we are here to demand that Indigenous Peoples and their rights include a livable future. Rights to clean water, clean air, clean soil, rights to our spirituality, rights to non-human relatives. And all of this is tied to our existence as indigenous people. The international platform is leaning on Indigenous Peoples for their knowledge and yet our leadership and our positions on false solutions continues to be ignored. So again, the balance of the natural world has been disrupted by oil and gas, by over extraction. And we are here to ensure that our people work towards reestablishing the balance of Mother Earth as a real solution towards climate adaptation and mitigation. Thank you.

Tom Goldtooth

Thank you, Julia. Our next speaker comes from northern Alberta, Canada. You would say in the heart of one of the dirtiest industrial complexes that I have seen. And I’ve been lucky to travel throughout the world in my work visiting mineral extraction of Indigenous Peoples in the south, dirty oil, coal. But the tar sands, the oil sands is very devastating. And this is Ariel Derange’. She is from the tar sands area. She is the executive director of the Indigenous Climate Action. We call each other sister organizations and we’ve been divided by a political border of Canada and US in which was once our inherent collective territories, our rights. That’s why rights and inherent rights is very important to us in these international arenas. ·

So, she just told me a couple weeks ago that they’re being attacked as First Nation Indigenous Peoples by all the promoters of climate false solutions that are encapsulated within these negotiations of Article Six.

Eriel Derange

Masicho. Thank you, Tom. [I am Eriel] Derange and my [Indigenous] name means Thunder Woman in my language. And as Tom stated, I come from the Treaty Eight territories of northern Alberta in so called Canada. And over the years, the last 65 years, we have witnessed the ravaging and the destruction, the contamination and deterioration of our landscapes, our cultural sites, our sacred sites, our sacred waterways, our food sources, and our entire way of being for dirty fossil fuel companies and multinational corporations. All of this has led and contributed to out-of-control climate chaos. Not only are we experiencing the firsthand impacts of industrialization of our ecosystems, [but] we are also feeling firsthand the impacts of the climate crisis. My community is an Arctic community where we no longer see our winter road coming in on time, where we are seeing species that can no longer thrive because of the challenges to the temperatures that continue to fluctuate and change, and species can no longer thrive. And we are part of those species. As Dene people, we are one with the land. Our lands, [then and today] are the places where we come from. And we can no longer tolerate not only the destruction from the extractive fossil fuel industry, but from the weak policies that are being put forward that allow these industries to continue, that are exacerbating the crisis to our communities and exacerbating the crisis to the entire globe. It is not possible to build just strategies for climate action without centering human and Indigenous Rights. The IPCC report released this March shows that those that have done the least to cause the climate crisis are among the most vulnerable and adversely affected. I know this firsthand in my own community. And despite the fact that the recent 50th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples just passed this year, countries continue to neglect Indigenous Peoples rights holders all across the world through colonization. We continue to see environmental racism allow sacrifice zones like those that my sisters and Tom spoke about. The health and safety of our community is being willfully traded for economic gains and industrial wealth. We have to understand that systems like carbon trading mechanisms and fossil fuel systems depend on continued growing emissions. You need to understand this they depend on growing emissions.
Without emissions, there would be no trading mechanism to consider [in] ten years’ time. And yet we are trying to drive forward a mechanism that requires us to have emissions to trade. One of the biggest challenges of Article Six is the proposed voluntary and cooperative mechanism to count and reduce global emissions because of potential false carbon offset programs like net zero emissions and carbon trading. The concern is that the internationally mitigated outcomes create an international carbon mechanism scheme that can allow states to not actually have to reduce emissions at source. For communities like mine, this is literally life and death of our communities. What we need right now is a real action to phase out of fossil fuels. We need to see systems like carbon trading mechanisms pushed out of the way and being classified as false solutions. We need a moratorium on false solutions and unproven technologies, and we need to demand transformative justice for a real just transition. Climate solutions are found in our own communities, with our own indigenous knowledge systems [Indigenous Traditional Knowledge] which we are developing by looking at our ancestral knowledge and wisdom to draw on and develop solutions that are in line with our cultural values, in line with the species and our kin to put forward and drive solutions that the globe can benefit from. [Eighty percent] of the biodiversity of the world exists within our hands [lands]. We should be the ones leading forward and putting solutions that don’t depend on our communities continuing to be sacrifice zones, that don’t depend on rising emissions and actually look at reducing emissions at the source. We need to demand mechanisms for Indigenous Peoples to call for action, to raise alarm bells and to hold states accountable. And thank you so much for being here, and I hope you join the Indigenous Peoples movements as we continue to advocate for both human and indigenous rights to be driving climate solutions and policies across the world. Thank you.



Thank you, Eriel.

Well, it appears that we have a couple remaining minutes for our press corps. Who is here? I don’t know who you are but identify yourself. If you’re pressed to ask a question of one of us that you may have  – [is the] the coordinator here of the conference center. How many minutes do we have? Just to give me some direction [on time remaining]?

Eriel Deranger


Tom Goldtooth

Okay, thank you very much. So at this time, I don’t know if there’s a microphone for you. We need to have you speak very clearly, be very brief in your question. I would appreciate no statements. Okay, so thank you.

Question from audience member #1

So thank you for your fight. I’m Willie Del, [a valley?] doctoral student in political science. I would like to know in which extent imperialism is the concept to fight. And secondly, in the literature, it is very much criticized that indigenous voices that are represented in the international scene are still very dominant from the Americas, and in this table, they are notably from the United States and Canada. Do you find it a problem? Would it mean that we should diversify the presence also of indigenous voices? Thank you.

Eriel Deranger

Well, first off, there is a global Indigenous Peoples movement that we spoke to, so there’s a growing global caucus. So, we represent right now, obviously, folks from North America, but we work in partnership with Indigenous Peoples from all seven socio cultural regions of the world. And the statements that many of us have made echo those that are agreed upon by the entire global indigenous movement and caucus. We are calling for a moratorium on false solutions and unproven technologies. We are calling for mechanisms that uphold our rights, including free prior and informed consent. We are globally calling for this. So, this is something that is not just the voice of Indigenous Peoples from North America. And I know Ien has a long history of working with many communities from the global south and South America. And as far as should imperialism be the target?

Indigenous Climate Action and the caucus at large Indigenous Peoples Caucus has a sort of slogan colonialism causes climate change. Indigenous Peoples are the solution. And we absolutely see the fact that we have to reconcile that colonialism, including systems of patriarchy, capitalism, white supremacy, and extractivism, are the causes of the climate crisis. And until we begin to collectively remove these harmful structures, we risk replicating and maintaining these systems of harm across all of the solutions and policies that are being put forward. So this calls for a movement of decolonization that is the work of everyone.

Tom Goldtooth

Yeah. Thank you, Ariel. Like I said, we are international. We’re a global Indigenous Peoples organization. On our panel here, yes, you will see Northern Indigenous Peoples, one of the members of our Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative represents queka, the coordinating body of the indigenous organizations of the Amazon Basin, Cueka. We weren’t able to tie down a speaker of them since they’re a member of this treaty initiative, but they’re confronting a lot of the similar issues that we are. Again. We working with the Indigenous Peoples of the Pacific. We honor them and respect them. We have some representatives in our delegation from South America, from Brazil, Akri, Brazil. They’re sitting right in front of you. If you raise your hand at the Hunakwai delegation. There’s two of them there, so they are here as well.

Tom Goldtooth

And we have other initiatives that we’re speaking at the Indigenous Pavilion. We have a broad representation of voices representing the four directions, as we call it, of Mother Earth. I think we have one more question.

Question from audience member#2

Thank you. My name is I’m a human gen. Right now I am doing my research in so I do my research, but when I actually focus on my research on climate change, adaptation, what I see is that the conception of adaptation is kind of like extracting our life and living from the nature we live in. When I ask the Indigenous people, the Lenape people in Delaware, what do you see adaptation is? They see that I don’t see it as environmental change, but adapting to colonial. We think. Do you think we need to change our definition of IPCC definition of adaptation as not just adapting to environment, but also about colonial extractive systems?

Tom Goldtooth

Yeah, thank you. It’s a good question, good point. And I’ll talk to you afterwards. But when we talked about Indigenous, what just transitioned, we have already articulated and critical analysis. What does just transition to mean to us as Indigenous people? It means decolonization, confronting colonialism, and that we have our own science-based knowledge, and we have solutions around adaptation of how we survive. But we have to assert that which we have been doing in this cop sitting. But it’s a good question around that. Thank you very much, everyone.


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