Global Justice Clinic Stands in Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples’ Demands at COP27

The Global Justice Clinic stands in solidarity with our partners, the South Rupununi District Council, and the broader International Indigenous Peoples’ Forum on Climate Change, also known as the Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus (IPC) as they attend COP27 to advocate for the respect of Indigenous rights in the fight against climate change.

In its opening statement at COP27, the IPC drew attention to the dire impact that the climate crisis has on Indigenous Peoples. The statement, delivered by youth representative Nourene Ahmat Yaya, states that “[c]limate change is a matter of life and death . . . [G]lobal temperatures are increasing, threatening genocide for Indigenous Peoples in Africa, the Arctic, Coastal, Small Islands, and all other ecosystems.” The statement asserts the inherent, collective, and internationally recognized rights of Indigenous Peoples to life, self-determination, territories, and free, prior, and informed consent.

The IPC highlights the need for full and direct participation of Indigenous Peoples in UNFCCC processes and in State actions to combat climate change.   The statement calls on States to include clear indicators for drastic reductions of greenhouse gas emissions in their Nationally Determined Contributions to maintain the Paris Agreement’s 1.5-degree global average temperature increase commitment, noting that the Paris Agreement commits states to respect and promote their obligations to Indigenous Peoples when taking steps toward climate action.

The Global Justice Clinic has a long-standing partnership with the South Rupununi District Council (SRDC), the representative body of the indigenous Wapichan people of Guyana. The Wapichan people are the traditional inhabitants of the Rupununi region of southwestern Guyana. They model sustainable relationships with the earth and practice stewardship of their land as a central tenet of their collective identity. The SRDC has repeatedly asserted the importance of land rights and self-determination in furthering the Wapichan people’s ability to continue their traditional way of life, and to ensure the transmission of customary values between generations.

As such, the Global Justice Clinic supports Immaculata Casimero, Alma O’Connell, and Timothy Williams, SRDC representatives attending COP27, in demanding that the Guyanese government fulfill its obligations to grant legal recognition of the Wapichan territory and recognize the Wapichan people’s contribution to combating the global climate crisis. The SRDC’s effective management and continued protection of Wapichan territory is hindered by national policy that does not recognize their rights to their full territory.

The Global Justice Clinic also joins the IPC and Indigenous rights advocates in underscoring the risks that voluntary carbon markets and the sale of  ‘ecosystem services’ pose to Indigenous Peoples’ rights. These market-based climate solutions risk undermining Indigenous Peoples’ land rights and allowing parties in the Global North to continue exploiting the world’s natural resources without meaningfully contributing to real emissions reductions. The Global Justice Clinic echoes the SRDC’s concerns over the lack of meaningful free, prior, and informed consent in engaging villages over Guyana’s Low-Carbon Development Strategy, which aims to use voluntary carbon markets to become a leader in climate change.

We call on governments at COP27 to listen to Indigenous Peoples. We continue to echo the IPC’s demands for swift action to truly reduce emissions and honor the rights and knowledge of the Indigenous caretakers of our planet.

This post was originally published as a press release on November 18, 2022.