Give indigenous people their rights to tackle climate change: Archana Soreng

By Snigdha DasonMay. 01, 2021inEnvironment and Ecology

The youth advisor to the UN Secretary-General speaks on nature-based solutions at Joe Biden’s virtual climate summit, but says this won’t be enough

Archana Soreng talking to US lawmaker Deb Haaland during the US Climate Summit
Archana Soreng talking to US lawmaker Deb Haaland during the US Climate Summit

“Do not take the support of the youth and the marginalised and indigenous communities for granted.” That was the message from Archana Soreng, youth advisor to the UN Secretary-General. 

The climate activist was invited by US President Joe Biden to speak at his two-day virtual climate summit, Leaders’ Summit on Climate April 22-23, 2021.

Soreng, who is from the indigenous Kharia tribe from Odisha’s Sundargarh district, spoke about nature-based solutions to climate change on the first day of the summit. Her grandfather was a pioneer of community-led forest protection, while her father was an indigenous health practitioner. 

She said indigenous and marginalised people had the knowledge to protect forests and restore the world’s relationship with nature. But such solutions could be effective only when the rights of indigenous and marginalised communities over their land, forests and territories were recognised and enforced, Soreng added.

Indigenous people should be given the right to refuse the so-called development projects that adversely affect people as well as the environment, she said.

Informed consent of “indigenous, traditional and local communities” should thus be at the core of nature-based solutions and climate policies through a participatory and binding way.

Soreng warned against green-washing and monoculture schemes. She said nature-based solutions should be implemented in a way that recognises and supports the traditional knowledge and practices of indigenous youth and promote their forest-based livelihood.

However, nature-based solutions cannot be used as the substitute for emissions reductions. Soreng thus urged countries to ramp up climate action and work towards net-zero emission by 2030 and not 2050 and ensure just transition in this process.

Rich nations must urgently deliver on their climate finance promise to help poorer countries adapt to climate change. The only way to move forward is to prioritise justice and the well-being of both nature and people, she said.

Soreng, who works to document, preserve and promote traditional knowledge and cultural practices of indigenous communities, was chosen in 2020 to be part of the UN’s seven-member global Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change.

First published by Down to Earth on 26 Apr. 2021

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