(YouTube video of Chief Raoni Metuktire, of the Kayapo people from the Xingu region in Brazil, issuing statement through translator during press conference Sunday in Paris outside COP21 talks.)
Brandi Morin and Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
A reference to the “rights of Indigenous peoples” has been cut from the main text of a draft UN agreement on combating climate change following the conclusion of a round of talks headed by negotiators for the countries around the table, according to one of the First Nation delegates at the Paris UN talks.
First Nation Summit Grand Chief Ed John said in a widely distributed email report Sunday that the draft agreement will now be in the hands of politicians for the next week to finalize a deal on curbing the climate’s human-caused warming. The First Nations Summit is a British Columbia-based organization representing most First Nations and tribal councils in the province.
The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) concludes on Dec. 11. The deal also needs be ratified by the legislative bodies of the signatories.
There are about 150 countries involved in the Paris negotiations. The negotiations aim to craft an agreement that will curb the planet’s warming enough so it doesn’t surpass 2C above pre-Industrial levels this century.
Canada is warming at twice the global rate.
Indigenous delegates, activists and leaders attending the conference have denounced the decision to cut the reference to the rights of Indigenous peoples from the text.
“Now is the time we take action and demand from our leaders, our state governments that this is not the kind of climate agreement we want. Without the rights of Indigenous peoples and basic human rights, this agreement is complete garbage, said Eriel Deranger, with the Indigenous Environmental Network, in a video update from Paris.
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde, who attended the climate talks earlier this week, said the final text must include the reference to Indigenous peoples.
“The rights of Indigenous peoples must be recognized in the final text of the treaty being negotiated,” said Bellegarde, in a statement. “Our rights must be respected and protected. States must understand that giving life to Indigenous rights is the most effective way to combat climate change.”
Indigenous delegates and groups have also staged actions in Paris, which is still under heavy security, calling for a climate change agreement that meets the crisis they say is facing the earth and incorporates Indigenous knowledge, culture and spirituality.
An all-Indigenous flotilla took to kayaks Sunday on the Bassin de la Villette, which is Paris’ largest artificial lake and connects to the city’s canal system.
Indigenous leaders from across the Western Hemisphere also held a press conference Sunday outside COP21 demanding the rights of Indigenous peoples and of the planet be respected in the final agreement.
Chief Raoni Metuktire, of the Kayapo people from the Xingu region in Brazil, stated Indigenous peoples were united in “our struggle to defend land, to defend nature and to defend life itself.”
The Kayapo face the destruction of their homeland as a result of the construction of the Belo Monte dam, the third largest in the world, along the Xingu River, which is a tributary to the Amazon.
“What are we doing as Indigenous peoples? We are protecting the very balance of Mother Earth,” said Chief Raoni, through a translator, according to a video of the press conference posted on YouTube. “We hope that you can understand that. We hope that you understand that when we protect the rivers and we protect the waters we are protecting what cools and what soothes Mother Earth.”
The draft text of the climate change agreement will now be sent to politicians.
Currently, the preamble of the draft text includes a reference to the rights of Indigenous peoples and the reference is also included in one of the annexes accompanying the document.
“(Indigenous Peoples) have been fighting to ensure it is in the main text. It is not there yet, but it is in Annex 2 and may end up in the text yet as ministers consider the items in Annex 2,” said John, in his email sent Sunday afternoon.
The Annex 2 list of inserts in the article of the draft agreement that would also hold the reference to Indigenous peoples, includes recognition human rights and gender equality, along with the right of “peoples under occupation.”
The Liberal government of Justin Trudeau pushed for inclusion of human rights and Indigenous rights into the main text of the agreement.
Ottawa’s negotiators have been a “strong advocate of including the language of respecting human rights, including the rights of Indigenous peoples in Article 2.2 of the agreement,” according to a statement from the office of Environment Minister Catherine McKenna.
Trudeau was only one of two world leaders who mentioned Indigenous peoples in speeches at the talks. Trudeau said the world could learn how to care for the planet from Indigenous peoples.
McKenna is part of a small team of 14 ministers asked by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who is also COP21 president, to play the role of facilitator as the negotiations head into the final stretch.
This is the first time in a decade Canada has been asked to facilitate climate talks.
Draft text of Paris climate change agreement