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Indigenous Voices Rise in Cancun Climate Talks

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From solutions to protests, indigenous groups from all over the world made their voices heard at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP) that took place in Cancun through December 10.

The Guardian (UK) reports that thousands of indigenous people are marching outside the conference to urge UN leaders to come to an accord on the issue and demanding to be included as parties in the negotiations. Although Native American and Inuit communities in the U.S. and Canada are among those most affected by climate change to date, they are not official conference participants, the Guardian said.

Robert Gruenig, a senior policy analyst for the National Tribal Environmental Council, and Kim Gottschalk, an attorney with the Native American Rights Fund, are representing tribal interests in Cancun.

Indigenous groups are at the forefront of the issue and actually have solutions to offer, said Carlos Mumani, who leads the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. He said the goal of protests throughout the week was to get negotiators to consider indigenous proposals and conduct a constructive dialogue.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki-Moon told COP attendees from 194 countries that “business as usual cannot be tolerated” and that the world is in danger of losing its last chance to prevent irreversible climate change.

“Cancun must represent a breakthrough,” he said in his conference address. “The status quo will not do. Determination must be our watchword. A new future must begin to take shape here. There is no real option.”