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COP25 Dispatch: Stumbling Across a Historic Moment at COP? More Likely Than You Would Think

“Indigenous people must be part of the solution to climate change. This is because you have the traditional knowledge of your ancestors. The important value of that knowledge simply cannot—and must not—be understated. You are also essential in finding solutions today and in the future. The Paris Climate Change Agreement recognizes this. It recognizes your role in building a world that is resilient in the face of climate impacts.”

Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC

Today I was fortunate enough to observe the first Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform Facilitative Working Group meeting at a COP. The gravity and the history of this moment didn’t quite dawn on me until I heard an indigenous woman next to me whisper to the gentleman seated next to her, “Are you ready? This has been four years in the making.” In reality, I’m sure that it has been a much longer wait for indigenous populations to formalize their contributions and role in international negotiations and United Nations bodies.

The Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform (LCIPP) originated out of the Paris Climate Agreement in COP21 (Decision 1/CP.21 Para 135). Its structure and mandate were established over COP23 and COP24, and the Facilitative Working Group (FWP) was born out of the end of COP24 negotiations in Katowice, Poland. The FWP, totaling 14 members, is made up of half party members and half indigenous peoples representatives from UN indigenous sociocultural regions. The 7 party representatives include a member from each of the 5 UN Regional Groups (Western Europe and others, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia-Pacific, Africa, and Eastern Europe), a member from a Least Developed Country (LDC), and a member from a Small Island Developing State. The 7 UN indigenous sociocultural regions include: North America, the Arctic, Central and South America and the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, the Pacific, and Eastern Europe, Russian Federation, Central Asia and Transcaucasia. This combination of negotiators is particularly historic for the UN as it is formally allowing non-party members to negotiate equally with parties.

The three focus areas for the FWP are knowledge, capacity for engagement, and climate change policies and actions. In this way, the UNFCCC provides an formal way for parties and indigenous populations to exchange information and to value traditional knowledge on an equal playing field as modern knowledge, creates a method for indigenous communities to have influence in international climate negotiations, and allows for climate policies being enacted by these communities to be contributed to a party’s NDC.

Although the negotiating today was generally administrative, the implications were enormous for indigenous people around the globe and represented a turning point in climate change policy thus far. I look forward to seeing these negotiations proceed over the course of COP25 as the LCIPP FWG establishes a working plan for 2020-21.

About the Author
Ava Gallo is a fourth-year Environmental Studies and International Affairs major with a minor in Law and Public Policy. She is about to complete her second co-op at Conservation Law Foundation, is the Vice President of Partnerships of EcoScholars, and has studied abroad in Italy and South Africa.

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