“Empowering women and indigenous peoples” will help us more effectively combat climate change says UN report

Recognition and use of indigenous and local knowledge are "important for long-term sustainability."


Recognizing indigenous lands rights and empowering women and indigenous communities is crucial if we are to fight climate change, says a new UN report released last week.

In the special report released by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), scientists call for policy changes in land use, farming, and eating habits in order to help cut emissions that are heavily contributing to the warming of the Earth.

The report calls for:

“Policies that enable and incentivise sustainable land management for climate change adaptation and mitigation include improved access to markets for inputs, outputs and financial services, empowering women and indigenous peoples, enhancing local and community collective action, reforming subsidies and promoting an enabling trade system. Land restoration and rehabilitation efforts can be more effective when policies support local management of natural resources, while strengthening cooperation between actors and institutions, including at the international level.”

“The effectiveness of decision-making and governance is enhanced by the
involvement of local stakeholders (particularly those most vulnerable to climate change including indigenous peoples and local communities, women, and the poor and marginalised),” the report stated.

“Finally, the world’s top scientists recognizes what we have always known,” said indigenous leaders from 42 countries in a statement. “Failure to legally recognizes our rights leaves our forests vulnerable to environmentally destructive projects that devastate forests and release massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.”

The report called for wiser land use, such as minimizing the cutting down of forests for crops and grazing and implementing more eco-friendly farming.

“Agricultural practices that include indigenous and local knowledge can contribute to overcoming the combined challenges of climate change, food security, biodiversity conservation, and combating desertification and land degradation,” stated the report.

The report also reveals that our destructive patterns of land use contribute 23 percent of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.

“It really calls on us to think across the entire food production chain,” said Debra Roberts, co-chair of the IPCC’s Working Group II. “There’s no single silver bullet. It means we’re going to have to tackle complex issues and complex needs.”

In the past minority groups, especially indigenous peoples and women, have been left out of the decision-making process. In many countries, although women remain highly knowledgeable about agriculture they are unable to own land and cultivate it in more efficient ways.

“Indigenous and local knowledge (ILK) can play a key role in understanding climate processes and impacts, adaptation to climate change, sustainable land management across different ecosystems, and enhancement of food security (high confidence).”

In order to utilize indigenous knowledge, said the report, governments must incorporate indigenous people in the decision-making process as well as “provide a platform to secure indigenous and community land rights.”

Overall, recognition and use of indigenous and local knowledge are “important for long-term sustainability,” concludes the report.

Just last week a study published in the journal of Environmental Science & Policy revealed that biodiversity is highest on indigenous-managed lands. “This suggests that it’s the land-management practices of many Indigenous communities that are keeping species numbers high,” said lead author Richard Schuster. The new UN report echoes this sentiment in many ways.


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Alexandra Jacobo is a dedicated progressive writer, activist, and mother with a deep-rooted passion for social justice and political engagement. Her journey into political activism began in 2011 at Zuccotti Park, where she supported the Occupy movement by distributing blankets to occupiers, marking the start of her earnest commitment to progressive causes. Driven by a desire to educate and inspire, Alexandra focuses her writing on a range of progressive issues, aiming to foster positive change both domestically and internationally. Her work is characterized by a strong commitment to community empowerment and a belief in the power of informed public action. As a mother, Alexandra brings a unique and personal perspective to her activism, understanding the importance of shaping a better world for future generations. Her writing not only highlights the challenges we face but also champions the potential for collective action to create a more equitable and sustainable world.