By Sergio Duarte, Ambassador, former U.N. High Representative for Disarmament Affairs*

UNITED NATIONS (IDN) - The opening for signature of the Treaty on the Prohibitions of Nuclear Weapons on September 20 at the United Nations in New York marks a milestone in the long history of efforts by the international community to eliminate the most destructive and cruel of all weapons invented by man.

The wide adherence to the negotiating process of the Treaty, carried out with the strong support of civil society organizations, reflected a growing global recognition that a ban on nuclear weapons is an integral part of the normative framework necessary to achieve and maintain a world free of such weapons. It is not a hasty or impromptu movement born out of frustration for the protracted lack of concrete progress on nuclear disarmament or by humanitarian considerations. Rather, it responds to a longstanding aspiration of humanity.

- Photo: 2021

COP26: Indigenous Peoples Join UN Representatives in Calling to End the ‘War on Nature’

By J Nastranis

NEW YORK | GLASGOW (IDN) — Mother Nature, or “Pachamama“, as they say in Latin America, took centre stage as the critical UN climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, reached the halfway point on November 6.

No one knows more about how best to protect nature, than the indigenous peoples of the world, which have been very active inside and outside the COP venue in Glasgow, working to influence negotiations in every way possible, including street protests.

“The indigenous culture teaches us to respect rivers, lakes, plants, animals and the spiritual beings who live in these places. You can’t solve the climate crisis without including indigenous peoples and without protecting their territories”, activist Eloy Terena told UN News.

Former UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Rights, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, said that indigenous communities really are the experts on living in harmony with nature, one fundamental reason why their territories currently contain 80% of the world’s biodiversity.

“We really use nature to solve all of our problems of food security, of water or climate change and other services and we have done it in a way that doesn’t destroy nature, so we have a lot to share with the dominant world and we need support to stop governments from criminalizing us, for protecting our territories”, she highlighted.

The international environmental activist said that while indigenous communities had strict laws and customs, to protect nature, States have conflicting laws.

“For example, in the Philippines, we have an Indigenous Rights Act, but we also have the Mining Act and well as an Investments Agreement who pushes them to extract our resources”, she said.

Ms. Tauli-Corpuz explained that during COP26, indigenous representatives are moving their strategy to influence some of the decisions that are going to be made by the end of the week, including Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, which will establish rules for carbon markets and other forms of international cooperation.

“The push is to really say that we cannot have market-based mechanisms if they violate indigenous people’s rights”.

Although ancestral communities contribute next to zero to climate change, they have become one of its most vulnerable victims.

Daniela Balaguera comes from the Arhuaco indigenous community in the North of Colombia. An ancestral indigenous tribe which lives in the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta, an isolated mountain range separate from the Andes, that runs through the centre of the country and serves as the source for 36 different rivers downstream.

“Our territories are supposed to be sacred, they are for environmental conservation, but they are not really being treated that way and that is where we must delve deeper. If they are protected areas, they should be given the guarantees and rights that have been recognized but that they are not exercising”, she says.

For her, and many other activists that have expressed their voices at COP, climate change is a matter of life and death.

“We are being threatened with the second extinction of our cultural practices, which is extremely worrying because it would be the second massacre, the second annihilation of our people”, she said.

Ms. Balaguera’s concerns were being echoed on the streets of Glasgow on November 6, and in many other parts of the world such as London and Paris, where activists from all ages and backgrounds have called for a Global Day of Action.

Meanwhile, the COP hosts announced that 45 governments are pledging urgent action and investment to protect nature and shift to more sustainable ways of farming.

The new commitment aims to transform agriculture and food systems through policy reforms, research and innovation, in order to reduce emissions and protect nature, whilst securing food and jobs.

This includes leveraging over $4 billion in new public sector investment in agricultural innovation, including the development of climate-resilient crops and regenerative solutions to improve soil health, helping make these techniques and resources affordable and accessible to hundreds of millions of farmers.

Approximately a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture, forestry, and other land use.

COP26 President Alok Sharma, also announced that the Glasgow Forest Declaration presented on November 2, has been now signed by 130 countries, covering 93 per cent of the world’s tree cover.

Representatives of UN organizations also accentuated that nature is critical to the survival of humankind: it provides the oxygen needed to breathe, regulates weather patterns, supplies food and water for al living things, and is home to countless species of wildlife, and the ecosystems they need to survive.

Human activity has disrupted almost 75 per cent of the earth’s surface and put some one million animal and plant species on the endangered list, says the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Humanity has overexploited nature’s resources, deforested lands for agriculture and the cattle industry, while climate change is now exacerbating that process faster than ever, increasing erosion and desertification.

Photo: Amarakaeri Communal Reserve (RCA) is a natural protected area of 402,335.96 hectares managed by 10 harakbuts, yines and machiguengas communities in Madre de Dios, in the Peruvian Amazon. UNDP Peru

In addition, as the UN scientific agency, UNESCO, says, oceans have become polluted, which absorb around one-third of our carbon emissions. As a result, they are losing the ability to be ‘climate change buffers’.

And, as UN Secretary-General António Guterres has said several times in recent months, humanity is “waging a war on nature”. He is urging greater action.

“We can’t continue to push nature into a corner and expect it to deliver. We want it to sequester carbon, to provide the buffers for the high storms and mangroves and to be the lungs of the world.

“But when we mess with nature, nature will send us these invoices in the forms of greater intensity storms, more fires, more heatwaves and more droughts”, UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen, told UN News at COP26 on November 6.

Solving climate change cannot be done without solving the challenge of biodiversity loss and degraded ecosystems, Ms. Andersen told a high-level panel. She called for unity and cooperation to find the solutions needed to restore nature and address climate change.

“The social-economic transformations we need, will only happen when we reset our relationship with nature, understanding that we can no longer invest in that which harms our planet”, she said.

As countries recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a big push for nature-based solutions against climate change, and in terms of aiding economic recovery, she added. These are initiatives that provide benefits for nature and for people, UNEP’s chief explained to UN News.

“How can nature help us, and how we can help nature…There are two billion hectares of degraded land, and we all need to eat. So, the question is if we are going to cut down virgin forests, or restore that land into a working landscape”, she highlighted. [IDN-InDepthNews – 07 November 2021]

Photo: Indigenous activists demonstrate on the streets of the COP26 host city, Glasgow, during the landmark UN climate conference. Credit: UN News/Grace Barret

IDN is the flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.

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