Guardians against climate change
Governments, investors, the development community, climate negotiators, agribusiness and miners, among others, have started to see this connection between strong indigenous and community leadership and sustainable economic development, as well as climate change mitigation.
However, only 21 of the 193 signing countries of the recently-ratified Paris Climate Agreement currently include clear commitments to implement community-based natural resource management strategies as part of their plans to mitigate climate change. These 21 Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) represent just 13 percent of the world’s tropical and subtropical forests.
“A sustainable future for all of us requires a complete re-thinking of what collaboration looks like,” says Madeira. One part of the equation, as Madeira points out, is that indigenous peoples’ visions for their territories lead the creation of sustainable development pathways that align with their cultures and goals for conservation. The other part of the equation is that there must be effective forums for indigenous peoples to work in equal partnership with governments, companies and other organizations to shape future development, climate action and natural resource management.
Facilitating these complex steps is where groups like the Conservancy can play an important role. “We know that when indigenous peoples and local communities are part of decision-making forums characterized by diversity, trust and true co-leadership, more creative and lasting solutions to some of today’s most pressing environmental and development challenges emerge,” says Madeira. “We must trust in nature’s best guardians to help create our collective future.”
Housty echoes that sentiment. “For us as Heiltsuk people, we know that we are the best people to take care of this place. We know because we’ve been doing it for tens of thousands of years,” she explains. “It’s an empowering thing—knowing that in everything you do, the ancestors have their hands on your shoulders. It’s beautiful to know that you’re part of such a long, sacred continuum.”