Climate change is one of the most challenging issues facing the world today. Its effects on indigenous peoples throughout the world are acute and will only get worse. The effects are especially pronounced in Alaska where as many as 184 Alaska Native villages are threatened with removal. (See Alaska Report) NARF, in addition to working with some of its present clients on this issue, is working with the National Tribal Environmental Council (NTEC) on climate change issues and in particular on ensuring that any proposed climate change legislation and action at the national and international levels, incorporate Indigenous Peoples as sovereign partners in addressing this issue and provides them the needed resources for adaptation and mitigation. NTEC, NARF, NCAI and the National Wildlife Federation worked together and created a set of Tribal Principles which should govern treatment of Tribes in any legislation.
NARF and NTEC attended the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Summit-COP 15- in Copenhagen, Denmark in December 2009. The purpose of the UNFCCC process is to come up with an international treaty to replace the Kyoto Agreement which expires in 2012. The results were disappointing overall, especially for Indigenous Peoples. The "Copenhagen Accord" was arrived at in negotiations among five nations - the United States, China, India, Brazil and South Africa. The Accord does have some important provisions concerning transparency in monitoring compliance and commitments to provide substantial sums to developing nations for integration and adaptation. Unfortunately, Indigenous Peoples are nowhere mentioned in the Accord and in two weeks in Copenhagen, the U.S. never met with indigenous representatives despite repeated requests and a public commitment to do so. On a brighter note, in the committee draft language on REDD (Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), progress was made in at least getting nations to "take note" of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
NARF and NTEC attended 2 UNFCCC sessions in Bonn, Germany in June, 2010 and August, 2010. The purpose of the sessions was to refine text to take to COP 16 to be held in Cancun, Mexico November/December of 2010. Indigenous peoples developed language for inclusion in the negotiating text for Long Term Cooperative Action and this language was discussed in Tianjin, China, in October, 2010 which was the final session prior to COP 16.
NARF and NTEC attended COP 16 in Cancun in December 2010. A Cancun Agreement was reached likely saving the UNFCCC process. The agreement contains increased mentions of indigenous peoples and of the UNDRIP. There are safeguards calling for "The full and effective participation" of indigenous peoples in REDD+ activities and there are also a few references to taking into account traditional knowledge and traditional indigenous knowledge. In moving forward to COP 17 in Durban, South Africa, NARF, on behalf of NTEC, attended a negotiation session in June, 2011 in Bonn. The two Subsidiary Bodies which give advice to the Conference of the parties, that is, the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technical Advice (SBSTA) each fought for 3 « days of the first week just to agree on an agenda. Much of the work of interest to indigenous peoples occurs in these bodies, especially in SBSTA relating to modalities to ensure reporting of information to allow an assessment of whether safeguards for indigenous rights are being implemented. SBSTA's work product at the end in Bonn was a bare-bones outline of what needs to considered in future meetings. The next session before Durban was held October 1-7, 2011 in Panama.