UN Backed Indigenous Peoples’ Global Summit on Climate Change Ends with Declaration Calling for Fossil Fuel Phase-Out

© Indigenous Peoples' Global Summit on Climate Change24 April 2009: The Indigenous People's Global Summit on Climate Change, hosted by the Inuit Circumpolar Council, convened from 20-24 April 2009, in Anchorage, Alaska. The Summit was supported by the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), the UN University (UNU), the Northern Forum and other international organizations, and attracted nearly 500 indigenous representatives, from 5,000 distinct indigenous groups across 80 nations, to discuss how to integrate indigenous views, policies, traditional values and visions into the global response to the challenges of climate change.

Miguel d'Escoto, the President of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), recalled that indigenous issues at the UN can be traced back to the 1950s. He noted that the world's 370 million indigenous people are suffering the most from the impact of climate change, even though they contribute least to greenhouse gas emissions. He urged parties to the UNFCCC to respect and implement the rights of indigenous peoples and to facilitate the participation of indigenous peoples in the design, implementation and monitoring of climate change policies and programmes at all levels.

Topics discussed during the week-long Summit included traditional methods of shoreline reinforcement, watershed protection, land stabilization and reclamation, traditional agricultural and drought management methods. Sam Johnston, UNU, stressed the importance of traditional knowledge to adapt to and mitigate climate change and noted that northern Australian aborigines, through traditional forest management techniques, have sold about $17 million worth of carbon credits.

Patricia Corchran, Chair, Inuit Circumpolar Council, noted that the Summit provided a first opportunity for indigenous peoples' worldwide to develop a global action plan and a unified voice ahead of the 15th session of the Conference of Parties (COP15) to the UNFCCC in Copenhagen in December 2009.

The final Summit recommendations contain two options regarding the use of fossil fuel. One option, which was considered more controversial among indigenous peoples' representatives, calls for a moratorium on new oil and gas drilling. A second option proposes an eventual phase-out in the use of fossil fuels, while at the same time respecting the rights of indigenous people to develop their resources. The recommendations will be presented to COP15. [Indigenous Peoples' Global Summit on Climate Change] [UN press release]