The Arctic, where 2°C means 8°C. Listening to the stories of indigenous peoples

The Arctic, where 2°C means 8°C. Listening to the stories of indigenous peoples

By Justine Moonens

In yesterday’s blog Jesse talked about the disconnect he felt when attending events in Paris. I totally share his opinion. Most side events here are just promotion for the solutions, or non-solutions, that countries and businesses are promoting. But, sometimes you can find a rare gem and actually learn something meaningful. Yesterday, I attended a session about indigenous peoples in the artic and the role of youth organised by the Nordic youth council. I left the event with the feeling that these peoples message should be spread. Instead of being held in a small backroom somewhere, this session should have been one of the main side events.

For the WP_20151208indigenous peoples in Canada, Greenland, Scandinavia and Russia a 2°C global increase in means an 8°C increase and the eradication of their way of life. We are only starting to notice the effects of climate change, but they are already living with the consequences since the 1980’s.In Alaska several communities had to be relocated over the last years due to coastal erosion.The Sami people in Lapland are loosing hundreds of reindeers each years to ice breaks in places that 10 years ago used to be totally safe. Since the 1990’s climate change is a political priority for them and they are very active in advocating their position. Despite all these efforts, their governments are still not hearing them.Many projects are taking place in their territories without their consent or any prior discussion.

The climate solutions promoted at the COP often mean the end of their way of life. A Sami woman told us that in Sweden mountaintops are  blown up to install windmill parks. These mountains are crucial for the reindeer herds on which many Sami depend. Many communities have become unable to continue their way of life. Climate change mitigation at this price is  unacceptable. These sort of practices take place everywhere in the world. This morning on the shuttle to le Bourget I heard the stories from two indigenous women about what REDD+ really means for them. Since the start of REDD+ projects several communities in her region have been displaced. Even if this should not be happening according to the safeguards! Another women told that carbon credits are allowing oil refineries to increase their greenhouse gas emissions. This causes serious respiratory disorders and other health problems in her community. For them REDD+ is just a way to sell the air.

It is more than worrying that civil society is being excluded from the negotiations. To ever have an equitable agreement these voices of indigenous people, youth and the whole of civil society should be heard. Not only heard but taken into account. At the national and regional level, indigenous people need to have decision-making power in the projects that affect them.

I want to end this article by reflecting on the words with which the Sami woman ended her talk,

we are the land, we are the water, we are the wind

While I think we are to disconnected from our living environment to be applicable to us. We should reconsider our relationship with the earth.We, as society, cannot go on living like we are completely detached from our ecosystems and act like there are no planetary boundaries. Which is what many here at COP still believe.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the International Forestry Students’ Association.


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