GJC Strongly Supports Indigenous Peoples’ Demand for Rapid Reduction in Emissions, Call for Just Transition

The International Indigenous Peoples’ Forum on Climate Change, also known as the Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus (IPC), gave an unequivocal opening statement at COP26. The statement, delivered by Taily Terena of the Terena Indigenous People of Brazil, stated that “Colonialism caused climate change. Our Rights and Traditional Knowledge are the solution.” The statement criticized the lack of Indigenous peoples’ input and free, prior, and informed consent to purported solutions that in fact “undermin[e] our self-determination and secure land tenure,” when Indigenous peoples are the ones who “drive critical climate solutions rooted in our relationships with the living world.”

Our long-standing partnership with the South Rupununi District Council (SRDC), the representative body of the Indigenous Wapichan people of Guyana, has shown us the importance of land rights and self-determination for indigenous peoples’ ability to mitigate climate change and model sustainable relationships with the earth.

We join Immaculata Casimero and Tony James, SRDC representatives attending COP26, in demanding that the Guyanese government grant legal recognition of the Wapichan territory. In an interview with Al Jazeera, Tony James, known as Chief Kokoi, expressed concern about extractive activities and others that fuel climate change impacts on Wapichan lands. “I cannot ask or request anymore; I am demanding that [the Guyanese government] legally recognize these lands.” The Guyanese government’s delay is untenable when the climate crisis and extractive industries such as mining are rapidly deteriorating the health of the land and forest, which the Wapichan people describe as “our everything.” Responding to promises by world leaders at COP26 to end and reverse deforestation by 2030, Chief Kokoi affirmed that “the forest is our life,” and called on those funding such efforts to “talk with us” to ensure resources are directed to Indigenous organizations.

As COP26 drew toward its close, the IPC warned that states had “failed to adequately address the need for a just transition away from fossil fuels to reach 1.5°C and protect our communities.” Demanding that the final statement “center a rights-based approach that uplifts the distinct rights of Indigenous Peoples,” the IPC called for specific references to those rights to be included in the closing statement.

GJC joins Indigenous rights advocates in warning that forest carbon finance initiatives could incentivize land grabs by countries seeking to benefit while violating Indigenous land rights. Too often, these mechanisms disregard the rights and demands of Indigenous peoples, who are “affected first and worst by climate change and colonial climate action” yet also hold the most salient solutions.

From our homes in occupied Lenapehoking (New York) on Turtle Island to unrecognized Wapichan territory in Guyana and beyond, we call on governments at COP26 to listen to Indigenous peoples. We echo the IPC’s demands for swift and unhesitating action to truly reduce emissions and honor the rights and knowledge of the Indigenous caretakers of our planet.



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