The Historical Journey of Indigenous Peoples in Climate Change Negotiation

CEESP News: by Pasang Dolma Sherpa, PhD, Co-Chair of FWG, LCIPP of the UNFCCC. Pasang is also Co-Chair of the CEESP Indigenous Peoples, Customary & Environmental Laws & Human Rights Specialist Group (SPICEH)

It has taken almost 20 years for the roles and contributions of indigenous peoples and local communites in climate change resilience to be recognized. However, at the UNFCCC COP25 in December, 2019, the two-year workplan of the Facilitative Working Group (FWG) of Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples' Platform (LCIPP) had been adopted to formally recognize the values and roles of indigenous traditional knowledge and cultural pratices. 

Pasang Sherpa

A historical achievement was made during the 25th Conference of Parties (COP25) of the United Nation Framework Convention of Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Madrid, Spain, in December 2019: the adoption of the two-year workplan of the Facilitative Working Group (FWG) of Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples’ Platform (LCIPP) by the closing plenary of Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) 51.

The adoption of the workplan recognizes the values and roles of indigenous traditional knowledge and cultural practices while implementing three functions of the LCIPP: knowledge, capacity for engagement and climate change policies and action starting from January 2020.

It took almost 20 years for the roles and contributions of indigenous peoples and local communities in climate change resilience to be recognized. The struggle of indigenous peoples began when the first world climate change conference was held in 1979. Indigenous elders who began their early journey into climate change history said, “We were handful of people there to scream for the rights of indigenous peoples to participate in the negotiation but we were hardly visible.”

However, along with the history of the UFNCCC that was effective in 1994 and held the first session of the COP 1 in 1995, indigenous elders have been continuously following the negotiations despite low numbers of participation. Ultimately, they led the establishment of the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change (IIPFCC) in 2008, the formal space as constituents for the negotiating body of indigenous peoples in the UNFCCC.

Indigenous peoples’ roles and contributions were hardly heard by state parties and decisionmakers until the adoption of the LCIPP by COP21 in 2015, despite indigenous peoples’ generational contributions to climate change adaptation and mitigation through traditional knowledge and cultural practices. This has become the hope for indigenous peoples and local communities, to exchange their knowledge and experiences on how they have been protecting the remaining biodiversity, ecosystem and natural resources that ultimately contribute to climate change resilience. 

COP 22 in 2016 welcomed the multi-stakeholders’ dialogue among the indigenous peoples and state parties that helped share the soothing ground for the decision of 3 functions of the platform by COP 23 in 2017. Finally, COP 24 in 2018 welcomed the establishment of the FWG and operationalization of the functions of the LCIPP.

The LCIPP comprises of 14 members; one representative of a party from each of the five United Nations regional groups; one representative of a Party from a small island developing state; one representative of a least developed country Party and seven representatives from indigenous peoples organizations, one from each of the seven United Nations Indigenous Sociocultural regions: Asia, Africa, Central and South America and the Caribbean, Eastern Europe-Russian Federation-Central Asia & Trans Caucasia, North America, The Arctic and the Pacific.

I have been representing as the FWG member from Asia. The first meeting of the FWG was held from 14 to 16th June 2019. It began with the nomination of the co-chairs, me as representing indigenous peoples and Mr. Majid Shafiepour from the state parties. This was the first formal meeting in the history of climate change negotiation where indigenous peoples’ representation was given the same space as state parties for negotiation recognition of indigenous knowledge and cultural values that contribute to climate change resilience.  

The FWG-1 meeting came up with a 2-year workplan with 12 activities to begin the implementation of the LCIPP functions. FWG-2 meeting that were held from the 28th to the 30th of November 2019, just prior to the COP 25, prioritized 5 activities to be started for implementation from January 2020, led by FWG members and contributions.

In the beginning of the negotiation of COP 25, despite a hope of the adoption of the workplan by the LCIPP, we were still not sure what our strategy would be if it were not adopted by SBSTA. However, we members of IIPFCC and the FWG worked very hard to convince the parties to give their full support in adopting the LCIPP workplan.

In doing so, we could already begin the journey of hope of empowering both indigenous peoples and state parties on the role and contributions of indigenous peoples and local communities for both climate change adaptation and mitigation by respecting, recognizing and promoting the indigenous knowledge and cultural practices and pass to the future generations for sustainable environment and development.

Although the outcome of COP 25 did not meet the expectations of many delegates regarding respect to the Paris Agreement, silently I had to compromise with the adoption of the workplan of the LCIP that opened the door of our work into reality. This ultimate adoption would help for respecting, recognizing and promoting indigenous knowledge, skills and cultural practices for climate change resilience that is not only limited to a global dialogue but is also pervasive at the national and local levels, too.


About the Author: 

Pasang Photo: Pasang Dolma Sherpa Pasang Dolma Sherpa serves the Center for Indigenous Peoples' Research and Development (CIPRED) as Executive Director and has been working with indigenous peoples of Nepal in relation to climate change education, particularly in the area of indigenous peoples' customary practices and traditional knowledge in conservation and sustainable management of natural resources and biodiversity since 2009. Ms. Sherpa has been working in the field of livelihood programs, social entrepreneurs, community radios, environmental education and sustainable development after the completion of her Masters in Arts and Philosophy in Development Studies from Kathmandu University in Nepal in different national and international organizations since 2004. She has already served as the representative of indigenous peoples' of Asia and Pacific to the Policy Board of UN-REDD for 3 years and to the Participant Committee of Forest Carbon Partnership Facilities (FCPF) World Bank for 4 years, member of the REDD Working Group (WG) of Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation (MoFSC) of Nepal for 8 years, co-chair of International Indigenous Peoples' Forum on Climate Change (IIPFCC) for one year and national coordinator of climate change global partnership program of Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN) for 8 years in Nepal. Ms. Sherpa has been closely following the negotiations of UNFCCC since 2009 as a member of IIPFCC.

Go to top