Climate action

Indigenous peoples across the world face the consequences of climate change. Indigenous peoples must, therefore, be heard and included in global, national and local climate action.

Indigenous peoples are particularly vulnerable to climate change and yet the least responsible. Indigenous peoples have a lifestyle, hold traditional knowledge and are highly motivated to drive solutions to overcome climate changes.

Many of our world’s ecosystems and biodiversity areas are being protected and nurtured by indigenous peoples. The contributions to climate mitigation and traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples are increasingly being acknowledged and referred to in international agreements and declarations.

Indigenous peoples face climate change

Rising temperatures, rising sea levels and unpredictable weather hit indigenous peoples from the Amazon to the highlands of Myanmar dramatically. Indigenous peoples often live in our world’s most biodiversity-rich areas, rely on existing ecosystems and depend on nature. But widespread changes in our climate disrupt indigenous peoples’ way of living and damage their livelihoods.

Many indigenous people are being forced to relocate as their traditional lands become uninhabitable due to climate change.

Indirect consequences of climate action

Extreme weather and rising sea levels pose a direct threat to indigenous peoples’ lives and societies. Some mitigation measures may also have undesirable direct and indirect consequences for indigenous communities.

Renewable energy projects and climate action plans are sometimes developed without including or consulting indigenous peoples. The lands of indigenous peoples are seen as fertile ground for the establishment of biofuel plantations, wind power projects and hydroelectric dams.

The construction of large-scale energy projects often happens without their ‘Free, Prior and Informed Consent’ – the international principle that states that indigenous communities must be informed and heard on issues that affect their lands and lives.

The consequences for indigenous peoples are further marginalisation, dispossession and displacement.

The Paris Agreement and the Global Goals

In 2015 the Paris Agreement was adopted as a global action plan to avoid climate change. Indigenous peoples are mentioned in the Paris Agreement:

“Parties should respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on (…) the rights of indigenous peoples.”

In COP21 – the UN Climate change conference that took place in France in 2015 – it was decided to establish a knowledge-sharing platform on climate action for indigenous peoples.

In 2016, UN member states agreed on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with the ambition of “leaving no one behind”. IWGIA sees the international commitments as a window of opportunity for truly including the knowledge, experiences and rights of indigenous peoples in climate action.

UNFCCC: Update from Bonn Climate Change Conference

From 4-15 June, the parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) convened in Bonn, Germany. Indigenous representatives from around the world followed the negotiations and lobbied government delegations for greater inclusion, and respect for their rights and needs.

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COP 17: Political will needed now!

Press statement: POLITICAL WILL NEEDED NOW! Indigenous networks call on states-parties to act decisively in Durban 5 DECEMBER (Durban, South Africa) - Governments present in Durban continue to display lack of political will to move the Durban Climate Talks forward.

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Thematic Focus 3/2006: Logging and indigenous peoples

IWGIA has just published a thematic issue of our journal "Indigenous Affairs" focussing on logging. We bring articles documenting the threats of logging to the livelihoods of indigenous peoples as well as examples of innovative approaches that seek to respect the rights of indigenous peoples. The various articles can be downloaded by clicking here.

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COP 17: Preventing Kyoto Protocol Burial

Ben Powless of the Indigenous Environmental network presented the following statement: "Thank you Mr. Chair, I speak to you on behalf of the International Indigenous Peoples’ Forum on Climate Change. We recognize that the Kyoto Protocol is the only legally binding international instrument we have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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Ensure the full recognition of our rights in a Cancun climate decision

The Indigenous Peoples’ Network on Climate Change and Sustainable Development (IPCSSD) welcomes the document (FCCC/AWGLCA/2010/CRP.3) which was released today. We welcome the inclusion of paragraphs 7 and 8 which recognize the need for effective participation of indigenous peoples and fully respect human rights in all climate change related actions. We firmly believe that it is an imperative to adopt the human-rights-based approach and ecosystem-based approach to climate change mitigation and adaptation. We are also encouraged that the texts on REDD (Section C; Paragraphs 65-75 and Annex 11) still retained language on safeguards which: * recognizes indigenous peoples’ rights and knowledge and notes the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP); * affirms the need for full and effective participation of stakeholders, in particular, indigenous peoples and local communities; * stresses that actions are consistent with the conservation of natural forests and biological diversity; * calls for transparent and effective national forest governance structures. The REDD Plus text also recognizes the need to address the drivers of deforestation drivers of deforestation, land tenure issues and forest governance issues.



IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting, protecting and defending indigenous peoples’ rights. Read more.

Indigenous World

IWGIA's global report, the Indigenous World, provides an update of the current situation for indigenous peoples worldwide. Read The Indigenous World.

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