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Cancun Climate: Hopeful Signs

Published: December 6, 2010, Author: Rÿser Rudolph C.

China and India are easing their opposition to US demands for climate compliance monitoring, reporting and verification for developing countries (a long time demand of the US government) and environmental groups like the World Wildlife Fund now say the “draft text [of the treaty] provides a good basis for negotiation.” The European Union is pushing hard for a legally binding deal and indigenous peoples won the insertion of language recognizing their role in the “Nairobi work programme on impacts, vulnerability and adaption to climate change” in a report released over the weekend by the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), language demanded by the Bolivian government.

Paragraph 7 of the SBSTA Report now includes indigenous peoples:

“7. The SBSTA noted that additional effort is needed to assist all Parties, in particular  developing countries, including the LDCs and SIDS, to improve their understanding and assessment of impacts, vulnerability and adaptation and make informed decisions on the implementation of practical adaptation actions and measures, and to assist Parties to enhance the capacity of relevant decision makers and stakeholders, at different levels, including women and indigenous [peoples [communities], to better utilize the information and tools provided by the Nairobi work programme.”

In the face of these hopeful signs indigenous peoples’ delegations still fear the states’ delegates will in the end short change indigenous peoples by once again subordinating their concerns to the economic interests of the states and corporations.  On Friday the 3rd of December 30 members of indigenous peoples’ delegations held a peaceful protest in front of the United Nations Climate Change meeting facility. Jason Pan, an indigenous media reporter quoted Cecilio Solis Librado, Chairman of RITA, an indigenous peoples’ organization in México, and co-president of the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change (IIPFCC): “We are here to demand changes. Indigenous Peoples must have full and effective participation in the negotiations.”

Pan’s report concluded, “Solis said they will not accept the removal of reference to UN
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the text, as some States, such as Saudi Arabia and others, are intending to do.”

Treaty negotiations involving 192 states’ governments, thousands of non-governmental organizations and businesses, international agencies and institutions and thousands of indigenous peoples are enormously complex.  I have been one to urge a much simpler process involving local and sub-regional agreements leading to regional agreements and finally and global agreement based on the individual parts.  In the end, I believe that will be what the process will be, though not actually announced. The problem is that after fifteen years of negotiations and more than 40 years noticing the adverse affects of climate change, will the process be enough to prevent the worst of the climate changes that affect food, housing, land use and human well-being?

There are hopeful signs in Cancun, and in Nagoya, Japan where the protocols for implementing the benefit sharing parts of the Convention on Biodiversity were agreed to by indigenous peoples and states’ parties. Environmental diplomacy is making headway, but it is agonizingly slow.

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