Indigenous People And Climate Action

by | Jul 3, 2023 | Climate Change

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Indigenous peoples, the guardians of the world’s most pristine ecosystems, possess a wealth of traditional knowledge that holds the key to combating climate change. As we face the urgency of the climate crisis, it becomes increasingly crucial to recognize the invaluable role that Indigenous communities play in climate action. Their sustainable practices, deep connection to the environment, and unique perspectives make them essential allies in preserving our planet for future generations.

Indigenous peoples continue to rank among the poorest of the poor, according to global policy discussions and a growing body of evidence, and they are also particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

The Paris Agreement on climate change and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development were both adopted in 2015, marking a significant victory for the international community. These two instruments are anticipated to spur significant efforts on the part of nations around the world to review and strengthen their strategies, plans, and programs in order to achieve inclusive and sustainable development for all. In this article, we will explore the connection between indigenous people and climate action in detail.

Who are indigenous people?

Native Americans and tribal peoples are not subject to a single, universal definition. The Convention provides a realistic and inclusive method for identification that also acknowledges self-identification as a basic criterion, using the words “indigenous” and “tribal” peoples and offering both groups the same set of rights. The term “indigenous peoples” is adopted in the current study for convenience as it is now often used to refer to these communities internationally.

Why are indigenous peoples more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than other sections of society?

Indigenous People and Climate Action

It is crucial to emphasize that indigenous peoples face different dangers from other societal groups, such as the impoverished, when it comes to climate change. This is so because indigenous peoples have six traits in common that, taken together, are unique to that group. As a result, they are particularly susceptible to the direct effects of climate change, the effects of environmental devastation that causes climate change, and the effects of mitigation and adaptation strategies.

  1. Indigenous peoples are among the most susceptible groups to climate change and among the poorest of the poor.
  2. Their economic activities and means of subsistence depend on renewable natural resources that are particularly vulnerable to climatic unpredictability and extremes.
  3. They have a complicated cultural link with these habitats and live in geographical areas and ecosystems that are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
  4. Indigenous peoples are compelled to move due to their high exposure and susceptibility to climate change; however, this is typically not a solution and may instead make their social and economic vulnerabilities worse.
  5. Climate change makes gender inequity, a major contributor to the plight of indigenous women, worse.
  6. Due to institutional support and recognized gaps, many indigenous populations continue to be excluded from decision-making processes.

What qualifies indigenous people as climate warriors?

Indigenous peoples are vital partners and essential change agents for accomplishing effective climate action, sustainable development, and green growth. They are not only “victims” or “subjects of development.”

  • An economy based on principles of sustainability: Ecosystems and natural resources are the main sources of income for indigenous peoples in their economies, which are founded on sustainability principles. Natural capital, which they employ in a sustainable and productive way, is their main productive asset.
  • Unique knowledge and skills: Indigenous peoples’ understanding of ecosystems and traditional methods of dealing with natural resources are distinctive, highly relevant, and valuable for coping with climate change.

How can indigenous peoples be empowered to act as climate change warriors?

The success of climate action certainly depends on the participation of indigenous peoples, but a number of barriers still stand in the way of their reaching their full potential. In order to achieve a just transition, reach the Sustainable Development Goals, and address the dangers of climate change, it is crucial first to overcome these hurdles.

  • In order to combat poverty and environmental deterioration concurrently, social protection, sustainable enterprise formation, and livelihood generating focused on indigenous peoples are necessary.

By engaging indigenous peoples in broad social protection programs as well as by carrying out more specific programs, the susceptibility of indigenous peoples to social, economic, and environmental shocks can be greatly decreased. Payment for programs that specifically target environmental services can help with climate change adaptation and mitigation. Communities with strong social protection may take more risks and invest in their own productive capacity, increasing their ability for innovation and entrepreneurship, two key elements of green growth.

  • Establishing institutions, upholding rights, and advancing gender equality

Strong processes for consultation and participation are necessary to enable meaningful engagement at all levels of decision-making, notably in relation to national development plans and climate action, and to protect indigenous peoples’ rights. Additionally, this calls for the creation of public policies with the input of indigenous peoples, particularly indigenous women, and youth, in order to address their unique social and economic vulnerabilities and provide them with the chance to pursue their own development objectives. It is critical to establish efficient national consultative processes.

  • Across policy domains and intervention levels, coordination and collaboration based on evidence-based research

To combat the serious challenges that climate change poses, policy cooperation is crucial. This calls for more cooperation across national agencies with jurisdiction over these diverse fields, as well as enhanced involvement across policies and regimes with regard to development, labour, and human rights norms. Strong climate action must be designed and implemented through international, national, regional, and local collaboration, with REDD+ playing a significant role that is especially important for indigenous people and climate action.

Also Read: SDGs: Making Sustainability Viable


  • Dr. Tanushree Kain

    Tanushree is a passionate Environmentalist with a Doctorate in Environmental Sciences. She is also a Gold medalist in Master of Science (M.Sc), Environmental Sciences. She has 6 years of experience as a guest faculty in Environmental Sciences. With her combination of technical knowledge and research expertise, she can create clear, accurate, and engaging content that helps users get the maximum information regarding environmental topics.

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