Although encouraged by unprecedented visibility of Indigenous peoples at COP26, the United Nations climate conference held this month in Glasgow, Scotland, Jennifer 'Jing' Corpuz, an Igorot attorney from the Philippines and global policy lead for Nia Tero, warns that weak language on rights could put communities' ties to land and sea at risk, specifically as it relates to a new carbon market plan.
"A significant body of evidence now supports the demands of Indigenous peoples to be front and center in this policy making, and although dozens of us spoke at high-level events at COP, we will have to watch closely the implementation of this new carbon scheme, as references to the rights of Indigenous peoples are relatively weak," said Corpuz.
A new report from the World Resources Institute states that Indigenous territories hold more than one-third of the planet's most carbon-dense natural forests and an estimated 40% of the world's intact ecosystems. Indigenous communities play an outsized role in protecting forests and other ecosystems, yet have formal tenure rights to only 10 percent of their territories.
"The evidence suggests the first question investors in the carbon market should ask is whether credits linked to conservation of biodiverse ecosystems have involved consultation and consent of traditional Indigenous communities of the forests," said Peter Seligmann, CEO and founder of Nia Tero, who attended the conference with a team from the non-profit. "I am convinced that the future of humanity is directly connected to the future of Indigenous peoples and their continued role as stewards of the world's most intact ecosystems."
Corpuz adds that there is progress to celebrate with regard to the activities at COP26: "The good news is that we have more protections than we would have had under the rapidly growing voluntary carbon market."
Nia Tero is a US-based non-profit working in solidarity with Indigenous peoples and movements worldwide. The organization's governing bodies, leadership, and staff are of diverse non-Indigenous and Indigenous identities and life experiences, viewing this diversity as a source of strength as a bridging organization committed to Indigenous self-determination and an inclusive culture guided by Indigenous wisdom, practices, and protocols.