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UN, Indigenous Leaders Meet to Share Knowledge, Join in Climate Change Initiatives

Representatives from UN bodies have been meeting with indigenous community leaders, experts and climate scientists in a series of meeting during the last few years, the overarching aim of which is to ensure that indigenous peoples have a say in international climate negotiations and treaties, and that traditional knowledge is incorporated in a globally shared knowledge base of climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies, methods and tools.

The latest such meeting took place last month in Cairns, Australia, where attendees gathered for a three-day workshop entitled, “Climate Change Mitigation with Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples: Practices, Lessons Learned and Prospects.”

Case studies presented “identified current and emerging opportunities for indigenous peoples and local communities to contribute to climate change mitigation through carbon abatement and sequestration activities, including opportunities based on the provision of ecological services through application of traditional knowledge and practices,” according to a UNU-IAS news release.

Climate Change, Indigenous Peoples & Traditional Knowledge

“This meeting examined the current and potential contribution of indigenous peoples and local communities to climate change mitigation, as well as the impact on indigenous peoples and local communities of mitigation efforts,” said Govindan Parayil, Vice-Rector of the United Nations University (UNU), a co-convener of the workshop.

“What is unique about this workshop was the open dialogue between Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) authors, indigenous experts and community representatives,” continued Parayil. “We do hope it will enrich the IPCC assessment process.”

Lead authors responsible for preparing the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report participated in the workshop, discussing issues related to updating the UN IPCC’s definitive assessment of global climate change, which is due to be published in 2014. The Fifth Assessment Report is to provide the latest knowledge on the scientific, technical and socioeconomic aspects of climate change, UNU’s news release explains.

“For the Fifth Assessment Report, we are trying to consider all available human options for mitigating climate change”, said Youba Sokona, Co-Chair of the IPCC WGIII, who chaired the Cairns workshop. “The dialogue with experts and scientists on indigenous and local communities is inspiring, and we are grateful to the United Nations University to have set the stage for this dialogue.”

UNU and the IPCC organized two workshops to reach out to indigenous leaders and experts to ensure that they are included in UN processes related to climate change treaties, knowledge gathering, sharing and action program efforts. The first, which focused on adaptation and vulnerabilities, was held in Mexico City last July. The second focused on climate change mitigation, more specifically assessing the impacts such efforts have on indigenous peoples and communities, as well as identifying barriers preventing them from being directly involved and garnering benefits, according to UNU.

Indigenous people’s traditional knowledge base can be and is of great value in efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change, the UN representatives noted. Reducing emissions through fire management techniques, adopting renewable energies and engaging in resource management projects that conserve natural resources and enhance local communities’ ability to adapt to a changing climate were among the examples of traditional knowledge mentioned.

Living in comparatively marginalized, less developed areas still rich in natural resources, traditional indigenous communities are on the front lines in terms of having to mitigate and adapt to climate change. “There is a high level of interest in climate change mitigation within these communities, not least because climate change impacts on their territories and communities are likely to be both early and severe, posing a direct threat to many indigenous and marginalized societies given continuing reliance upon resource-based livelihoods,” UNU-IAS stated in its news release

*Video courtesy: UNU, IPCC

Featured image credit: United Nations Photo, courtesy flickr

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