by Metiria Turei
Jeanette has blogged today on the Emissions Trading Scheme submissions from iwi and hapu. She talked about how it is necessary to treat Treaty settlement land and resources differently under the scheme, particularly forestry. This is a crucial point, especially in light of the issues discussed at the Indigenous Peoples’ Global Summit on Climate Change in Alaska last week.
400 indigenous representatives gathered in Alaska for the Summit, hosted by the Innuit Circumpolar Council. The ICC are an international non-governmental organization (NGO) that represents the interests of approximately 150,000 Inuit of the United States, Canada, Greenland and Chukotka. The purpose of the conference was to enable indigenous representatives to discuss the issues and share solutions, and to develop a common position for Copenhagen at the end of the year. And of course the issues were complex and difficult to negotiate.
There was real objection by some to the use of market mechanisms to manage emissions because of the commodification of essential natural resources. There was from the younger representatives a committment to taking the strongest possible action to reduce emissions. And there was considerable concern from those whose only economic resource is oil and who still want the option of developing it. The duress of poverty suffered by many indigenous communities must not be dismissed. As we know from the submissions on the ETS, the Treaty settlement forestry concerns held by Maori are serious for similar reasons.
Global warming has very different impacts on indigenous communitites and the solutions needed will be very different.
Here in Aotearoa we are very aware of sea level rise on the Pacific Islands. The Maldives have a fund for the purpose of purchasing land in order to relocate the entire island. Kiribati are following suit.
In the Arctic, indigenous Yup’ik are looking to relocate an entire village because of rising water levels caused by climate change.
The community of the tiny coastal village of Newtok voted to relocate its 340 residents to new homes 9 miles away, up the Ninglick River. The village, home to indigenous Yup’ik Eskimos, is the first of possibly scores of threatened Alaskan communities that could be abandoned.
Warming temperatures are melting coastal ice shelves and frozen sub-soils, which act as natural barriers to protect the village against summer deluges from ocean storm surges.
We are seeing the erosion, flooding and sinking of our village right now,” said Stanley Tom, a Yup’ik Eskimo and tribal administrator for the Newtok Traditional Council.
Meanwhile in other parts of the world water scarcity is the issue
In the African nation of Kenya, the Samburu tribe is on the verge of a food and economic crisis, the U.N. said, as lengthy droughts kill livestock that provides income and sustenance for the community. In Mexico, highland Mayan farmers are fighting to survive amid decreasing rainfall, unseasonal frost and unprecedented changes in daytime temperatures, the U.N. reported. These conditions are forcing the farmers to plant alternative crops and to search for other sources of irrigation.
The Indigenous Peoples’ Global Summit on Climate Change was an excellent start to developing an international indigenous position for Copenhagen. Solutions to climate change issues cannot avoid dealing with the self determination of indigenous people, that is the right to have control over thier own resources, economic development and cultural practice. Neither can the solutions take a one size fits all approach nor rely solely on market mechanisms to provide a just outcome. The long term economic inequities imposed on many indigenous communities must also be addressed
If indigenous people are not at the table from the beginning of the discussions the solutions will be neither effective nor fair. We have long experience of failure in this in Aotearoa. Lets hope that the rest of the world learns from our mistakes.