Indigenous Peoples And COP26: A Briefing For Journalists
Tribal and Indigenous peoples play a critical role in the fight against climate change. Their lands protect 80% of the world’s biodiversity, and from fighting Amazon fires to marching against coal mines, they’re putting their lives on the line to stop environmental destruction. In the run-up to COP26, here are three key issues that illustrate their central role:
India’s mining boom: Adivasis under attack
The urgent need for all countries to cut their CO2 emissions is high on the agenda at COP26, which makes the little-known story of what’s unfolding in central India all the more astonishing.
As part of Narendra Modi’s drive to make India self-sufficient in energy, state and private mining companies are pursuing an unprecedented expansion of coal mining in the tribal forests of India’s central belt. The scale is staggering:
- 55 new mines are planned
- 193 existing mines will be expanded
- Production is set to increase to 1 billion tonnes a year nationwide
In Chhattisgarh’s priceless Hasdeo Forest, one of the largest intact areas of forest in the country, 10,000 Gond, Oraon and other Adivasis (Indigenous people) are mounting a desperate resistance to save their lands, livelihoods and sacred forest. One vast open-pit mine, PEKB, has already been built on Adivasi land. Construction could start imminently on another, Parsa. Hundreds of Adivasis recently marched 300km to the state capital to protest.
Across India, many Adivasis have been arrested, persecuted, even murdered for standing up against the mining.
The case perfectly encapsulates the
contradictions between governments’ public rhetoric on
climate change, and what is happening on the ground.
Survival’s campaign staff know the issue and the area in
depth, and are available for interview. We also have
contacts on the ground, plus photos, videos, and
Nature-Based Solutions and 30x30
The idea that Nature-Based Solutions might make a big contribution to tackling climate change is being pushed hard by governments, corporations and big conservation NGOs – but there’s a growing clamour of criticism against the whole concept.
Many of the proposed Solutions are simply carbon-offset projects, rebranded. And many Indigenous peoples are adamantly opposed to these schemes, which allow their lands to be bought and sold in order to permit the world’s most polluting companies to carry on polluting.
Probably the best-known NBS is “30x30”, the plan being pushed by governments, NGOs, and the “High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People,” to turn 30% of Earth into Protected Areas by 2030: a doubling of the current level.
But creating Protected Areas on land inhabited by Indigenous peoples and local communities frequently leads to their expulsion and persecution. The vast majority of Protected Areas in Africa and Asia, for example, have resulted in the eviction of Indigenous peoples or other local communities. Pushing for more Protected Areas will mean more land theft, militarization, killings, torture and abuse.
Survival works with Indigenous communities in India who are being evicted to make way for Tiger Reserves; and in the Congo Basin, where Baka, Bayaka and other Indigenous peoples have seen their lands stolen to create an extensive network of Protected Areas.
Destruction of the Amazon = Indigenous genocide
Forests owned and controlled by Indigenous peoples and local communities contain about 37.7 billion tonnes of carbon, 29 times more than the annual emissions of the world’s passenger vehicles.
The rapid destruction of the Amazon in recent years is well known, as President Bolsonaro rips up environmental regulations and pushes ahead with his plan to open up Indigenous territories to mining, logging and ranching. Between March and May 2020 alone, the government passed 195 executive acts, including ordinances, decrees and other measures, aimed at directly or indirectly dismantling and bypassing environmental laws.
Several flashpoints across Brazil illustrate the deadly consequences of these policies:
- The only contacted member of the Piripkura tribe has voiced her fears that loggers operating illegally inside her people’s territory will soon kill her relatives. She described recently how nine of her relatives were massacred in one attack by loggers, and says that her brother and nephew, Baita and Tamandua, are known to still live inside the territory.
- The Piripkura territory is shielded by a Land Protection Order, which has just been renewed for 6 months. These emergency orders are used to protect uncontacted tribes’ territories that have not been through the long process of official demarcation. Seven uncontacted tribes’ territories, and 1 million hectares of rainforest, are being shielded by them, but anti-indigenous politicians and ranchers have hatched a secret plan to scrap them so they can steal these lands for ranching, logging, mining, and more. If they succeed, it could result in the extermination of whole tribes in a massive and illegal land grab.
- The Yanomami people on the Brazil/ Venezuela border manage the largest area of tropical forest under indigenous control in the world. They’re also on the front line of Bolsonaro’s pro-mining rhetoric. 20,000 illegal gold miners are destroying and polluting their rivers and spreading disease. Criminal gangs are increasingly active, controlling the gold trade and terrorizing the Yanomami with impunity.
The fate of the Amazon will be center stage during COP. These and similar cases illustrate how its indigenous peoples, and their struggles to protect their territories, will determine the future of the forest. Survival has contacts with, and extensive background knowledge of, these and many other cases, together with a huge amount of resources.