Speaking Fijian in Peru | WWF
Speaking Fijian in Peru

Posted on 12 November 2018

A critical voice in this conversation is that of Indigenous Peoples.
By Karen Petersen, WWF Forest and Climate

The urgency of acting on climate change is clear. We know what must be done to slow global temperature rise. Yet endless questions remain with regard to how we can turn this knowledge into action and lasting emissions reductions. 

This is one of the primary goals of the Talanoa Dialogue, a global conversation designed to spur discussion around how to increase ambition to act on climate change. The Talanoa Dialogue is a year-long process that is formally part of the Paris Agreement. Launched by the Fijian Presidency at COP23, it aims to take stock of efforts to meet global climate goals and is the first step toward increasing global climate ambition. The process is based on the Fijian custom of Talanoa, which seeks to facilitate inclusive and participatory dialogue through sharing stories and experiences. 

The Talanoa Dialogue seeks to answer three main questions related to climate change: where are we; where do we want to go; and how do we get there?  Anyone from countries to non-state actors like subnational governments, the private sector, and civil society can participate in these regional and local dialogues and can also contribute written responses to these questions.  

A critical voice in this conversation is that of Indigenous Peoples. Not only are Indigenous Peoples important stewards of tropical forests, but they are also likely to be among the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. For three days at the beginning of October, Indigenous Peoples organizations of the Amazon Basin participated in a Talanoa Dialogue in Lima, Peru. To date, it is the only registered Talanoa Dialogue to focus exclusively on Indigenous Peoples and the actions they are taking against climate change. 

Participants were present from OPIAC and AIDESEP, representing Indigenous groups from Colombia and Peru respectively, as well as a representative of COICA, the regional coordinator of Indigenous organizations. With WWF facilitating, participants discussed and shared responses to the Talanoa Dialogue’s guiding questions.

There were many poignant responses as participants described their new realities in a changing climate, with no shortage of lived experiences to draw from. Their communities are attuned to the changes in natural cycles that are already negatively impacting things like crop production and food security. These negative impacts are creeping into other parts of their lives as well, including an increase in exposure to diseases like malaria and damaged infrastructure from more frequent natural disasters. 

Amazonian Indigenous Peoples are already taking action to confront – and change – this new reality. 

The Indigenous communities represented by OPIAC and AIDESEP are actively participating in regional and national processes to stop the drivers of deforestation that threaten their territories and that threaten to destroy critical carbon sinks. For example, both groups are working to ensure the success of REDD+ and other conservation programs, such as payments for ecosystem services, by advocating for the robust consideration of Indigenous Peoples in the design and implementation of these programs. They are also taking steps to improve the ability of Indigenous communities to monitor and report on deforestation threats within their territories. 

First and foremost, OPIAC and AIDESEP are striving to gain recognition for territorial sovereignty and land-tenure rights. This is critical for keeping remaining forests standing, as legally-recognized Indigenous Territories have been shown to have lower rates of deforestation on average. As one participant noted, “where there are no assigned rights, deforestation advances.” 

Indigenous territorial rights could produce significant climate benefits - according to OPIAC and AIDESEP, enforcement of Indigenous tenure rights has the potential to help protect around half of the Colombian Amazon and about a quarter of the Peruvian Amazon. 

Moving forward, both groups pledged to continue to play an important role in mitigating climate change. OPIAC, for example, is committed to maintaining forest cover on nearly 25 million hectares, containing around 11,900 MtCO2. Similarly, in addition to forest protection, AIDESEP is striving to transition Indigenous territories in the Peruvian Amazon to renewable energy. These actions will not only have positive impacts for the climate but will also have enormous benefits for biodiversity and human livelihoods. 

Actions like these by Indigenous Peoples in the Amazon are central to achieving the NDCs of Amazonian countries and the global temperature goals. Measures to protect and restore forests between now and 2030 have huge potential to contribute to limiting global temperature rise to 2°C. However, both groups acknowledged that achieving their long-term visions of sustainability will depend on adequate climate finance and political support to develop alternative, Indigenous economies. 

One more thing was very clear from the Talanoa Dialogue between OPIAC and AIDESEP: this is only the beginning of the conversation. Even after the Talanoa Dialogue officially concludes at COP24 in December of this year, more effort must be put into developing answers to how we will roll back emissions and limit the worst impacts of climate change. And a concerted effort must be made to make sure the voices of Indigenous Peoples and other marginalized groups are heard and that their role as allies in the effort to slow global temperature rise is fully recognized and supported.   
Painted walls in the city, about nature preservation-Puerto Maldonado city, Peru
© Nicolas Villaume / WWF-US