The UN Conference on Climate Change in Cancún, Mexico began on November 29th and ended today. Following last year's highly anticipated but extremely disappointing conference in Copenhagen, this time around attendees were not only much fewer in number but also much less optimistic.
The bleak outcomes of last year's conference produced the Copenhagen Accord, a vague document that failed to legally bind any of its signatories to an effective agreement. Contrast that with the Kyoto Protocol, adopted at the climate change conference in 1997, which set binding targets for 37 industrialized countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012, adding urgency to this conference and next year's conference in South Africa.
But as international leaders and officials negotiate climate change within the walls of a luxury resort, members of grassroots organizations continued to protest outside, demanding policies that acknowledge those people most directly affected by climate change, including Indigenous Peoples.
MADRE and our partners have long advocated that Indigenous Peoples possess valuable knowledge about climate change and must be involved in the decision-making concerning climate change. MADRE's projects in Guatemala, Nicaragua and Panama, address this link between Indigenous rights, climate change, and food sovereignty. Friends of MADRE, like Tarcila Rivera of our partner organization CHIRAPAQ and Victoria Tauli-Corpuz of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, were also in Cancún pressuring officials to recognize the central role Indigenous Peoples and women must play in the climate change conferences.
(For more information on the links between women's rights and climate change, see our resources entitled "Climate Change and Women's Human Rights: The MADRE Model" and "A Women's Rights-based Approach to Climate Change".)
Unfortunately, civil society and officials alike remain pessimistic about the outcomes of the Cancún conferences. Even as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon acknowledged that "nature will not wait while we negotiate", most acknowledge that no overarching, binding agreement to reduce greenhouse gases will come out of this year's conference. And as Tom Goldtooth, one of the most prominent North American Indigenous activists was barred from attending the conference on Wednesday, the UN's readiness to engage with Indigenous Peoples in the process has been called into question.
But you can support Indigenous rights and Indigenous participation in combating climate change by supporting MADRE's various projects on climate change and environmental justice by clicking here.