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Indigenous Communities Gain Environmental Victory at COP23

Climate

Indigenous communities claimed a victory at COP23 in Bonn Wednesday, as governments acknowledged their leadership role in protecting forests and containing climate change.

Despite comprising 370 million of the world's population and having communal ownership of more than 20 percent of the world's tropical forest carbon, indigenous groups were sidelined at past international climate talks. Often forced to defend their land against the encroachment of agribusiness, loggers and oil corporations, indigenous peoples have long sought international recognition of their rights, autonomy and participation in negotiations.


Emphasizing their new, internationally enshrined role, Emmanuel Macron, the French president, met with indigenous representatives. The new international procedures working in their support oblige governments abiding by the framework to talk to indigenous communities when they go to the drawing board over carbon emissions. Experts are cautious, however, about the effectiveness that the new procedures bring in terms of including indigenous voices in mainstream debates.

"This is an important step forward but only if it really does mean that indigenous and local communities are listened to and their knowledge recognized," Clare Shakya of the International Institute for Environment and Development told the Guardian.

The 2015 Paris accord established a "platform for the exchange of experience and sharing of best practices on mitigation and adaptation in a holistic and integrated manner." The document approved in Bonn, however, goes beyond that, saying that countries "should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities."

Since 2015, 132 environmentalists have been killed in Brazil alone, most of whom were working against illegal logging in the Amazon. Many of the victims belonged to indigenous communities. An average of four environmental defenders are killed each week around the globe.

In 2016, a study by the Rights and Resources Initiative found that expanding tribal land rights is the most cost-effective measure to protect forests and sequester carbon. The paper also encouraged governments to recognize tribal land rights and bring tribal input into the fold of national action plans.

A meteorologist monitors weather in NOAA's Center for Weather and Climate Prediction on July 2, 2013 in Riverdale, Maryland. Mark Wilson / Getty Images

The Trump White House is now set to appoint two climate deniers to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in one month.

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A plastic bag caught in a tree in New Jersey's Palisades Park. James Leynse / Stone / Getty Images

New Jersey is one step closer to passing what environmental advocates say is the strongest anti-plastic legislation in the nation.

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The House of Representatives passed a sweeping bill to boost clean energy while phasing out the use of coolants in air conditioners and refrigerators that are known pollutants and contribute to the climate crisis, as the AP reported.

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Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington comforts Marsha Maus, 75, whose home was destroyed during California's deadly 2018 wildfires, on March 11, 2019 in Agoura Hills, California. Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times / Getty Images

By Governor Jay Inslee

Climate Week this year coincides with clear skies in Washington state for the first time in almost two weeks.

In just a few days in early September, Washington state saw enough acres burned – more than 600,000 – to reach our second-worst fire season on record. Our worst fire season came only five years ago. Wildfires aren't new to the west, but their scope and danger today is unlike anything firefighters have seen. People up and down the West Coast – young and old, in rural areas and in cities – were choking on smoke for days on end, trapped in their homes.

Fires like these are becoming the norm, not the exception.

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