Indigenous Peoples and Climate Change

Saturday 28 February, 2015   |   Environment and Development

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Dev Kumar Sunuwar

Dev Kumar Sunuwar

Kathmandu, Nepal

Indigenous Peoples and Climate Change Indigenous women plucking tea leaves in the Himalayas in Nepal Photo courtesy: huffingtonpost

Climate change has become a buzzword over the last two decades.  It has already started creating sweeping effects across the globe,  altering rain patterns, causing droughts, accelerating glacier melting, leading to sea-level rise and emergence of  vector-borne diseases in low-temperature areas. The US President Barrack Obama has described climate change as a threat to global peace and security. Scientists warn that it could lead to turmoil all over the world by making food and water resources scarce.

Relation

Indigenous Peoples have very close relations with nature and natural resources like land, water and forest. Most of them live in geographically difficult and vulnerable places like steep hills and river banks. So, they are naturally more vulnerable to effects of climate change. In fact, climate change has already started to affect their livelihood activities and options. Rainfalls are getting erratic. As a result, indigenous farmers are unable to plant their crops on time. Frequency of droughts has increased. As a result, indigenous farmers face threats of food insecurity. They are equally vulnerable to floods, landslides and wildfires. Several international researches show indigenous communities are at the receiving end of climate change. 

Indigenous farmers face threats of food insecurity. They are equally vulnerable to floods, landslides and wildfires. Several international researches show indigenous communities are at the receiving end of climate change. 

Concerns

Climate change looks like a simple phenomenon. But, it is not that simple. It is rather a very complex process. It is a global issue and Indigenous Peoples are suffering from it not only in Nepal but across the world. Climate change has also led to displacement of indigenous communities, within or beyond borders.

Climate change is an upshot of unscrupulous activities of developed countries. They emit carbon and other gases that cause climate change. And developing countries like Nepal are forced to pay the price of it. So, it is a global political issue as well. Developing countries like Nepal have endorsed several faulty policies of developed countries, like REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation). These policies fail to acknowledge existence and unique lifestyle of Indigenous Peoples. So, experts of Indigenous Peoples's rights have raised some points at international forums to draw the international community's attention to injustice done to Indigenous Peoples.

Indigenous Peoples are suffering from climate change not only in Nepal but across the world. Climate change has also led to displacement of indigenous communities, within or beyond borders.

Some of these points are:   

a) Rights of Indigenous Peoples over natural resources must be ensured.
b) Participation of Indigenous Peoples in policy formulation must be ensured.
c) The state must guarantee that Indigenous Peoples are equal citizens of the nation.
d) Indigenous Peoples must be endowed with prior rights. They should have rights to say no to policies and programs that are against their interests. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) must take into consideration risks posed to existence and livelihood of indigenous communities.

This is the first part of the article, second part will be published next day


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