Workshop: indigenous knowledge for climate change mitigation


  • 2012•04•02     Cairns

    On 26–28 March, indigenous experts, climate scientists and representatives of United Nations bodies met in Cairns, Australia, for a three-day workshop on “Climate Change Mitigation with Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples: Practices, Lessons Learned and Prospects”.

    Case studies presented at the workshop identified current and emerging opportunities for indigenous peoples and local communities to contribute to climate change mitigation through carbon abatement and sequestration activities, including opportunities based on the provision of ecological services through application of traditional knowledge and practices.

    “This meeting examined the current and potential contribution of indigenous peoples and local communities to climate change mitigation, as well as the impact on indigenous peoples and local communities of mitigation efforts,” said Govindan Parayil, Vice-Rector of the United Nations University (UNU), a co-convener of the workshop.

    “What is unique about this workshop was the open dialogue between Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) authors, indigenous experts and community representatives,” said Parayil. “We do hope it will enrich the IPCC assessment process.”

    Several lead authors of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report participated in the workshop to discuss issues of relevance to the IPCC Working Group III (WGIII) contribution to the assessment. The Fifth Assessment Report is the next major assessment of the IPCC, due for completion in 2014. It will provide an update of knowledge on the scientific, technical and socio-economic aspects of climate change.

    “For the Fifth Assessment Report, we are trying to consider all available human options for mitigating climate change”, said Youba Sokona, Co-Chair of the IPCC WGIII, who chaired the Cairns workshop. “The dialogue with experts and scientists on indigenous and local communities is inspiring, and we are grateful to the United Nations University to have set the stage for this dialogue.”

    Responding to the need for information on issues relevant to indigenous peoples and local communities, which will be considered in the Fifth Assessment Report, IPCC and UNU, supported by other co-convenors from within the United Nations system, have co-organized two workshops. The first, held in Mexico City in July 2011, focused on adaptation and vulnerabilities.

    This second workshop addressed issues relevant to the mitigation of climate change. Participants examined how mitigation efforts can impact indigenous peoples and local communities, and what barriers exist to their involvement and their capacity to benefit. Indigenous peoples and local communities are actively involved in innovative solutions based on their traditional knowledge, such as reducing emissions through fire management techniques, adopting renewable energies in their territories, and engaging in resource management projects that reduce pressure on natural resources and enhance local adaptive capacity.

    There is a high level of interest in climate change mitigation within these communities, not least because climate change impacts on their territories and communities are likely to be both early and severe, posing a direct threat to many indigenous and marginalized societies given continuing reliance upon resource-based livelihoods.

    The workshop was convened by UNU and IPCC, in cooperation with the Australian Government Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance, the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the UN Development Programme and the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

    The workshop was made possible through the contributions by several donors, including the Australian Government Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency,  The Christensen Fund, the MacArthur Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Northern Territory Government, the Oak Foundation and UNU.

    For more information about the workshop, see the website of the UNU Institute of Advanced Studies Traditional Knowledge Initiative.