Are the natural solutions promoted at the UN climate summit a new form of colonialism?

Conserving nature to offset carbon emissions is potentially a new form of colonialism, say indigenous coalitions fighting for their rights and real environmental solutions at the UN climate conference in Glasgow this week.

There is strong momentum at COP26 for countries to adopt nature-based solutions, a variety of land and ocean conservation strategies aimed at protecting biodiversity and mitigating emissions.

Canada, a member of the “high ambition” coalition, has committed to and championed the Engagement 30×30 which aims to conserve 30 percent of the country’s lands and oceans by 2030.

Protecting Canada’s extensive boreal forests, grasslands, and peatlands would capture and store carbon, but the natural solutions promoted at the summit, which are linked to carbon offsetting or other carbon markets, trade the environment and bleach a neoliberal agenda, said Eriel Tchekwie Deranger. executive of Indigenous Climate Action (ICA), a group that works to ensure that indigenous peoples take a leadership role in the climate change discourse.

Nature-based solutions to address the climate crisis must be linked to the land return movement, said Deranger, a member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. That means the return of territories to indigenous peoples and the full recognition of their sovereignty and rights to make all the decisions that concern them.

“We desperately need to save the last remaining biodiversity on the planet, but it cannot be turned into a commodity and used as a credit in carbon accounting,” he said. “In fact, we need to reduce our emissions, not find ways to offset them,” he said.

Carbon offsetting, in its simplest form, allows individuals or businesses to pay someone to neutralize their emissions by preserving forests, planting trees, or some other climate-positive enterprise.

However, offsets do not reduce emissions. And critics argue that they are a “false” solution that allows polluters to continue polluting.

Ideally, offsets provide significant economic incentives for countries, particularly least developed nations (LDCs), to protect nature by selling carbon credits to those who want to offset their emissions.

But the push for natural solutions linked to carbon markets at COP26 without explicitly guaranteeing indigenous and human rights leaves communities and nations vulnerable to new land grabs by those who hope to monetize nature under the guise of conservation, Deranger said.

Indigenous leaders say nature-based solutions to climate change must include them and not turn healthy forests and oceans into another commodity that can be bought and sold. # COP26 # COP26xCNO

Indigenous peoples have advocated living in harmony with nature on climate summits for decades, Deranger said, adding that world leaders have hijacked or accepted the notion of natural solutions.

“Things like carbon trading of nature-based solutions in the zero-zero framework … continue to support a neoliberal agenda that grabs indigenous lands and territories.”

Protecting biodiversity

Canada and the nations have moved forward at climate summits to recognize and acknowledge indigenous climate solutions and policies, Deranger said, adding that 80 percent of the world’s remaining forest biodiversity is found in indigenous peoples’ territories.

“Governments are saying, ‘Oh, we will listen to nature, we have heard your warnings and we will work with nature to develop solutions, without you,'” he said.

“There is not yet a complete mechanization of indigenous peoples as decision makers, capable of influencing (climate) policies, and that leaves the door open to false solutions that further marginalize and oppress indigenous peoples.”

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault, pictured above at COP26 in Glasgow, says that nature-based solutions in Canada will involve the full and meaningful participation of indigenous peoples. Photo by Nora Legrand / National Observer of Canada

Canada has a colonial history of expropriating indigenous lands to exploit resources, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault acknowledged to the National Observer of Canada on Tuesday.

But the federal government is working hard to change that dynamic, he said.

“If you look at the way we are developing new conservation projects in Canada, in many cases they are led by indigenous people,” Guilbeault said.

Guilbeault promises indigenous participation

In August, the federal government announced a historic $ 340 million in funding for five years to support indigenous leadership in nature conservation.

More than $ 173 million is being allocated to develop a federal network of Indigenous Guardians – stewards who act as the “eyes and ears” on the lands and waters within their territories.

Another $ 166 million goes to indigenous protected or conserved areas (IPCA): vital lands, water, or Arctic ecosystems monitored or conserved in a way defined by indigenous leadership and decision-making.

Ottawa recently finalized an Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement to establish the Tallurutiup Imanga National Marine Conservation Area – covering 108,000 square kilometers and nearly two percent of Canada’s oceans.

And in 2020, the First Nation Łutsël K’é Dene won the UN Ecuador Prize, after four decades of advocacy work to protect their lands and waters for future generations that culminated in a 2019 agreement with federal and territorial governments to create Thaidene Nëné, a 26,000-square-kilometer protected area between the boreal forest and the Arctic tundra in Canada. Northwest Territories.

Conservation efforts in Canada will involve the full and meaningful participation of indigenous peoples, Guilbeault said.

“That is what we are seeing in the future,” he said. “So this idea that we would somehow deny this commitment to indigenous peoples is simply out of the question.”

Indigenous peoples from around the world, including a group from South America pictured above, were a large contingent during the COP26 global day of action on November 6 in Glasgow. Photo by Nora Legrand / National Observer of Canada

The Glasgow conference began with a $ 1.7 billion pledge from countries and philanthropists to help indigenous peoples and local communities continue to protect rainforests and lands.

While these financial commitments are a step forward, the fundamental issue that indigenous and human rights must be integrated into the agreements and outcomes negotiated at COP26 has yet to be addressed, Deranger said.

“These are the things that indigenous peoples within the (UN climate) process have been defending and fighting for for decades,” he said.

“We are the ones with thousands and thousands of years of traditional ecological knowledge that can guide the (climate) process in a real way.

“But that would require the colonial state to hand over power to our communities to make those decisions. And that has not happened. “

Rochelle Baker / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada National Observer

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