05 June 2022
Category : Interview
Peru listens to its indigenous peoples to tackle climate change
Indigenous peoples occupy 22% of the world's territory and their role is essential for the maintenance of cultural diversity and biodiversity, according to UNESCO.
The nature managed by these communities is declining less rapidly than in other areas, as they work to protect the environment over the long term through sustainable use of biodiversity management and governance. However, they are the most affected by the effects of climate change.
The lands they manage account for 28% of the carbon stored in forests globally. Annually, they sequester an amount of CO2 equivalent, on average, to 30% of Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Peru’s 2030 targets. These countries store 28% of the world’s carbon, but account for only 5.1% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns of the loss of ecosystems and the decrease in food production and access to food, which has led to an increase in malnutrition and has seriously affected the economy of these indigenous communities.
Climate policies have traditionally ignored the ancestral knowledge and wisdom of indigenous peoples, which is why 141 governments committed at COP26 in Glasgow to recognise the rights of these communities and their lands as a fundamental element in ending deforestation by 2030. Now Peru is launching an Indigenous Peoples’ Platform to address climate change.
It thus becomes a pioneer country in the recognition of indigenous knowledge and practices that contribute to the comprehensive management of climate change, as established in the Paris Agreement.
FIIAPP supports this Platform
We spoke with Teresa Aguilar and Álvaro Ovejas, Project Technicians in the European programme Euroclima+, co-led by the FIIAPP, which has supported the formation of this Platform. They tell us about the challenges in the implementation of this proposal and the great benefits it brings. This is the first time that the Peruvian Ministries of Culture and Environment have come together with the country’s indigenous peoples.
How was the Platform of Indigenous Peoples of Peru born to confront climate change?
Teresa: This Platform was born out of the indigenous people’s own demand and brings together the seven registered and legalised indigenous organisations in the country. It is a milestone on the Latin American continent because it brings together indigenous peoples of different casuistry, ethnicities and origins.
Álvaro: The Platform gives indigenous peoples a voice in climate governance bodies, such as the National Commission. In addition, Peru is a ratifier of ILO Convention 169, which establishes the obligation to consult indigenous peoples in all political and legal measures that could directly affect them.
What have been the main challenges in setting up this platform?
Teresa: The first challenge has been linguistic. The different indigenous peoples cannot understand each other, because not everyone speaks Spanish, only the political leaders. They speak five native languages such as Quechua, Aymara, Shipibo and Awajún. We have also faced the territorial challenge. It is not easy to move around in a country like Peru, and these are people who do not have access to digitalisation either.
How does climate change affect indigenous women the most?
Teresa: The indigenous population, because of their origin, is a rural population and their livelihoods depend on natural resources. Therefore, climate change directly affects their economic activity.
The impact of climate change is aggravated and is more disproportionate for women, who are already discriminated against and vulnerable. They are socially responsible for food and household health and, living in rural environments, their livelihoods are based on fishing, livestock, agriculture or agroforestry management. The impact of climate change degrades their economy, and we are already seeing climate migration in the face of environmental disasters caused by climate change.
What has been the role of the European programme Euroclima and the FIIAPP in the construction of the Platform?
Álvaro: Euroclima has been involved from the beginning of this process. It started with the prior consultation with indigenous peoples on the Framework Law on Climate Change, which agreed, among other provisions, on the creation of this Platform. It was during the development of the Framework Law on Climate Change that direct collaboration between Euroclima and the Peruvian Ministry of Environment began.
On the one hand, we have supported the development of dialogues between the Peruvian Ministry of Environment and national organisations. And on the other hand, we have supported the process of creating the entire legal, regulatory and institutional framework that gives the Platform its place.
Why are indigenous peoples known as guardians of diversity?
Álvaro: The way of life of indigenous peoples is not only very rural, but does not require the same infrastructure that is used in cities. Their routine is much more adapted to the environment.
Teresa: I think that the guardians of nature are undoubtedly the people who have originally grown up and lived in it. It is their ecosystem and they know it perfectly, it is what is called ancestral knowledge.
Is this initiative in Peru a reference for other Latin American countries?
Teresa: Peru is now a country that others look up to. There are countries that could replicate it because the Peruvian experience is scalable. All of Latin America has an indigenous population, but political will is needed. It all depends on the nature of the country and how this indigenous figure is received by governments.
There is also talk of indigenous associations at the regional level, such as those in the Amazon. The Amazon Basin has great value in terms of forests and the environment; it is the lungs of the planet and touches several countries. Therefore, we are no longer talking about a national platform, but a transnational one. When you talk to regional indigenous associations, their dream is to have a platform that unites them at the regional level.
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