In my maiden speech to Parliament I said that affirming indigenous rights and supporting our traditional wisdoms is ESSENTIAL to combatting climate change. With the signing of the Paris climate agreement I am surer of that than ever.
Around the world indigenous people are at the forefront of the fight to shut down dangerous fossil fuel extraction. Despite the shortfalls of the Paris climate agreement, indigenous communities will continue to lead the global effort to stop dangerous climate change. It is really disturbing that the Government has come back from Paris and told us to ‘keep calm and carry on polluting’.
In Canada, First Nation peoples have led the campaign against the Keystone Pipeline. In the Brazilian Amazon the indigenous peoples are leading resistance to mega hydropower schemes on the Tapajós River.
Here in Aotearoa, we as tangata whenua are upholding our kaitiaki/custodian responsibilities by opposing deep sea oil exploration and seabed and onshore mining.
I am inspired by indigenous led action on climate change and agree with Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who said in Paris, “Indigenous peoples have known for thousands of years how to care for our planet. The rest of us have a lot to learn and no time to waste.”
At Paris an explicit acknowledgement of indigenous rights was removed from the final climate agreement. The agreement particularly fails to recognise the role indigenous communities have in sustainable resource management, forestry in particular.
Despite being overlooked in Paris, indigenous leadership on climate change is on display in New Zealand. Just the other day the Rarakau project was announced [a partnership of tangata whenua in Southland and Ekos]. The Rarakau project will protect our native forests allowing them to absorb climate damaging pollution from the atmosphere.
The Paris agreement set a temperature rise goal of below 2 degrees. It acknowledged that a temperature rise of less than 1.5 degrees is needed for many people to stay alive. This is a start, but a 1.5 degrees limit must be a commitment rather than an aspiration.
Prime Minister John Key left Paris saying the deal is great but New Zealand doesn’t need to do anything about it while he’s in government. If everyone left Paris saying that, then our Pacific neighbours will be under water in the foreseeable future.
National said they won’t stop granting permits for risky deep sea oil exploration. In fact, just yesterday they awarded nine new oil and gas exploration permits!
Some of the outcomes from Paris we can find hope in. Pacific leaders such as Tony de Brum from the Marshall Islands told the Paris conference they can go back to their people and say they’ve got a deal that has laid down a framework to save them.
But Paris was just an agreement. The action will have to come from us – the people.
We have to be strong and steadfast in our demands for 100 per cent clean energy; for a transformation of public transport; and for an end to oil drilling.
The National Government will resist, but I remain hopeful that the power imbalance which disregards indigenous wisdom and enables the fossil fuel economy, is on its way out.