COP 24 in Katowice Concludes with a Historic Victory and some Disappointments for Indigenous Peoples in the International Fight to Halt Climate Change
by Andrea Carmen, Executive Director, International Indian Treaty Council
‘‘I fear for my future. I fear for my community”. These words were spoken by Ryan Schaefer, a 17-year-old from the Dene Nation in Canada during the first meeting of the Indigenous Peoples Caucus at COP 24. He shared the reality of diminishing traditional food and water sources and disturbing weather changes that are affecting his Peoples. Indigenous youth of the world stand before you today to affirm that we share his fears for our future. – International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change Opening Plenary Statement at COP 24, December 1, 2018, presented by Ruth Kaviok, National Inuit Youth Council of Canada
It was close to midnight on Saturday night, December 15th, 2018, when the President’s gavel came down for a final time, concluding two weeks of intense debate at the 24th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP 24) in Katowice Poland.
Indigenous Peoples from around the world, including Tribal Nations and organizations whose traditional lands are within the current political boundaries of United States participated. Except for a few Indigenous representatives that were credentialed by States, most were designated as “observers” in this UN process which is led and controlled by the “State Parties”, the 195 countries that signed on to the Paris Agreement adopted in December 2015 at COP 21. Despite this power imbalance within the UNFCCC (and, by and large, the entire UN system), the over 100 Indigenous delegates representing all regions of the world stood united to insist on formal participation in this process that impacts us so directly and to ensure that our rights and traditional knowledge are respected in national and global efforts to combat climate change.
In Katowice the Indigenous Peoples Caucus at the UNFCCC, known as the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change (IIPFCC), met in a weekend preparatory meeting, and met at least once a day during the COP to discuss strategies and reaffirm our collective positions in the face of new developments and State proposals. Indigenous Peoples began the session by calling on States, to meet their commitments to reduce emissions and reverse their fatal addiction to fossil fuel energy development which is the primary source of the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. The IIFPCC opening statement referenced the recent UN study which reported that emissions increased in the last year with a projected 3 degree rise at the current rate, which will mean 2 to 3 times higher in the Arctic. The statement admonished the States for their lack of real action: “Having committed to the Paris Agreement but ignoring the actions it demands is a failure of all States.”