The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Climate Change and Land, released in Geneva, analyses the role of land management decisions in both reducing and adapting to the worst and highlighted indigenous and community land rights as key to both endeavours.
In response, indigenous and community leaders from 42 countries, spanning 1.6 billion hectares of land customarily used or managed by indigenous peoples and local communities and accounting for over 76 per cent of the world's tropical forests, issued a statement emphasizing the long-awaited recognition of the role of forest peoples in protecting forests.
The statement also noted the report's findings add to a growing body of evidence showing that secure land rights for forest peoples is essential to climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts.
"Finally, the world's top scientists recognize what we have always known. We, indigenous peoples and local communities, play a critical role in stewarding and safeguarding the world's lands and forests," the statement reads.
"For the first time, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report recognizes that strengthening our rights is a critical solution to the climate crisis."
"Our existence has always been threatened when our lands are desired by governments and corporations," Sonia Guajajara, executive coordinator of Articulacao dos Povos Indigenas do Brasil (APIB).
"These interests would kill us or lock us up behind bars so that our lands can be changed to fit whatever scheme has been concocted. Now with this report there is recognition that how we have safeguarded our forests and lands benefit the entire world, but our rights to exist and manage these lands need to be strengthened. Will the world listen?"
While the IPCC report emphasizes the global need to increase food production, forests are often cleared to produce agricultural commodities that do not address food security needs, such as beef, palm oil, and soybeans.
In their response statement, indigenous peoples and local communities worldwide discuss the false choice offered between managing intact landscapes to keep carbon out of the atmosphere and clearing landscapes for economic development projects that include agro-industrial plantations.
The statement added: "Where our rights are respected, by contrast, we provide an alternative to economic models that require tradeoffs between the environment and development. Our traditional knowledge and holistic view of nature enables us to feed the world, protect our forests, and maintain global biodiversity."
( With inputs from IANS )