Wednesday, January 19

‘A death sentence’: indigenous climate activists denounce the Cop26 agreement | Cop26

Indigenous communities facing increased land grabs, water scarcity and human rights violations as a result of the Cop26 agreement have accused world leaders of sacrificing them to postpone meaningful climate action and protect corporate profits.

The Glasgow agreement creates a regulated global carbon trading market, a move widely supported by the world’s biggest polluters, including the United States, that allows countries to partially meet their climate targets by buying credits that represent emissions cuts by others. .

Critics warn that carbon markets incentivize countries and corporations to offset, rather than reduce, the emissions responsible for global warming by investing in so-called green energy projects like biofuel monocultures and hydroelectric dams, which are linked to environmental destruction, forced displacement, arbitrary detentions and even murder.

Furthermore, these carbon credit schemes are often based on the sequestration of lands, forests and rivers that indigenous and local communities depend on for food, water, medicine and spiritual traditions, and there is little evidence to suggest leading to a genuine reduction in emissions.

Indeed, global emissions have continued to skyrocket since carbon credits were first incentivized under the voluntary Kyoto protocol in 1997, as have abuses against indigenous and rural communities defending land and resource rights. natural.

Now, indigenous communities fear what will come next, as the scope and scale of the new global carbon market, introduced in Article 6 of the Paris agreements, is much broader. Many more countries and industries will participate, including the US, Saudi Arabia and civil aviation.

“The leaders of the Cop26 signed an agreement that will guarantee the sacrifice of the indigenous peoples … [but] it did not include real solutions to address the climate chaos faced by many of our frontline indigenous communities, ”said Thomas Joseph of the California-based Hoopa tribe. “Leaders pushing for market-based solutions and the commodification of our Mother Earth are signing a death warrant.”

Andrea Xieu, spokesperson for the Mexican collective Indigenous Futures (Indigenous Futures) He described the deal as an embarrassment illustrating the murky influence of fossil fuel companies in Glasgow.

More than 500 fossil fuel lobbyists, Affiliated with some of the world’s largest oil and gas companies, they were granted access to Cop26, a number greater than any delegation from a single country. Meanwhile, indigenous peoples were mostly excluded and their traditional knowledge about sustainable land and water management was left aside.

“Indigenous nations were not part of the negotiations despite the fact that 80% of the planet’s biodiversity survives in our territories. The problem is not just the blah, blah, blah of politicians, but the bang, bang, bang of greenwashing that will continue to destroy our lives and territories, ”Xieu said.

At least 1,005 environmental and land rights defenders have been killed since the Paris accords were signed six years ago, according to the international nonprofit Global Witness. One in three of the dead were indigenous. Among those killed is Lenca leader Berta Cáceres, winner of the prestigious Goldman Prize for Environmental Defenders, who was shot dead at her home in Honduras in March 2016 for opposing the construction of an internationally funded dam.

Carbon trading is one of the so-called nature-based solutions to the climate crisis promoted largely by the big polluters at Cop26 as the silver bullet to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 with little pain for people in the north. global.

Indigenous people protest in front of the Cop26 headquarters.
Indigenous people protest in front of the Cop26 headquarters. Photography: Dominika Zarzycka / NurPhoto / REX / Shutterstock

But critics say offsetting carbon is a false solution, as it essentially allows polluters to continue polluting, and thus net zero is not really zero.

“Net zero is a scam. It is used as a smokescreen to prevent the actual transition from fossil fuels and continue to function as usual relying on unproven carbon capture and offsets technologies, ”said Sebastien Duyck, senior attorney at the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL). and civil servant. observer.

At the last minute, activists helped secure a handful of new safeguards for Article 6, such as an independent grievance mechanism. But according to Duyck, carbon markets remain counterproductive and fundamentally harmful. Investors may still qualify for incentives without complying with international treaties that require indigenous peoples to be properly consulted.

“Article 6 creates a way for public and private investors to use the Paris agreement for the sake of profits at the expense of local communities and the rights of indigenous peoples,” Duyck added.

Another nature-based solution popular with polluters is the creation of carbon sinks through massive reforestation and afforestation programs.

While not part of the official COP26 agreement, by some estimates, the countries collectively pledged to plant enough trees to cover a landmass the size of Australia. However, this threatens the livelihoods, food security and sacred traditions of indigenous communities and small farmers who use much of the land for tree planting.

“Nature-based solutions sound good, but they won’t solve the climate crisis even if you’re willing to sacrifice indigenous peoples and local communities,” said Sophie Grig of Survival International. “Net zero is false and a deviation from doing what needs to be done now: stop burning fossil fuels and protect indigenous land rights.”

Also gaining ground is the UN’s 30 by 30 initiative, a plan to conserve 30% of the planet’s land and seas by 2030 through conservation measures such as doubling protected nature reserves, which Joe Biden has promised to implement as part of his climate strategy.

Speaking in Glasgow last week, Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, said 30 by 30 would be the largest planet grab in history, causing millions of people to be displaced.

Tom Goldtooth, climate and indigenous rights leader, spoke with the Prince of Wales during the COP26 summit.
Tom Goldtooth, climate and indigenous rights leader, spoke with the Prince of Wales during the COP26 summit. Photograph: Clarence House / PA

Another major concern for indigenous communities is Cop26’s inability to help those on the front lines recover, rebuild and adapt to global warming.

Pollution-rich countries managed to obstruct the creation of a loss and damage fund to compensate communities that had already lost their homes and livelihoods due to floods, droughts, heat waves and rising levels. from sea. After nearly 15 years of discussion and delays in loss and damage, the Glasgow agreement calls for a deeper dialogue.

“The results of this Cop are not a surprise, but they represent the state of the governments and their feelings, which are completely at odds with civil society in general that demands concrete actions and urgent measures,” said Calfin Lafkenche, a Mapuche organizer from the Minga. movement, a network of indigenous solidarity.

In response to the acts and omissions of the Cop26, the women of the Kichwa Indigenous People of Sarayaku, located in Ecuador, declared a state of emergency, citing the failure of the summit to address the existential threats posed to them by fossil fuel companies and the climate crisis. .

In a statement, the women said: “Indigenous peoples resist the extraction of natural resources with our bodies, with our lives. Our contribution to the fight against climate change must be recognized. Our solutions must be listened to ”.

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