Earth’s tribes unite on climate goals

Hundreds of indigenous peoples from 80 countries are meeting at a summit in Anchorage, Alaska, this week to forge a common position on climate change, New Scientist reported. The participants seek an official voice alongside national governments in upcoming negotiations in Copenhagen to agree a post-2012 agreement on greenhouse-gas emissions.


Beneath the meeting’s emphasis on indigenous people’s historical adaptation to change, the groups fear being trampled by rich countries seeking to reduce their greenhouse emissions by managing indigenous lands, the magazine said.


“Indigenous peoples have contributed least to the global problems of climate change, but will almost certainly bear the greatest brunt of its impact,” noted Patricia Cochran, chair of the summit and head of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference.


In the Arctic, people are adversely affected by events such as storm surges as sea ice disappears and permafrost melts. A 2008 report by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature found that indigenous peoples are concentrated in the marginal areas likely to suffer most from the effects of climate change, such as drought and rising sea levels.


But indigenous peoples also feel that they have little political power or entitlement to their lands, and that their national governments are not serving their interests. Forest dwellers in Borneo and pygmies in Cameroon fear they will be dispossessed by forest developers rushing to grab carbon credits by cutting and replanting trees. Other indigenous peoples already are being displaced as foreign companies grab “unoccupied” lands to plant biofuel crops or trees to “offset” fossil-fuel use elsewhere.

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