A new grouping of indigenous peoples, established to influence the course of climate change talks, has criticised the developed countries for making a 'farce' of the climate change negotiations currently underway in Lyon, France.

by Jaya Ramachandran

Lyon, France, September 2000 (IPS) -- In a bid to influence the course of global climate talks, a newly established grouping of indigenous peoples has criticised the industrialised countries for making “a farce” of the negotiations underway in Lyon, France.

Called the Forum of Indigenous Peoples and other Local Communities on Climate Change, the group is seeking ways to formalise its participation in climate change negotiations so that the interests of indigenous peoples are urgently addressed.

Indigenous peoples, who dwell on the Earth’s last remaining forests, and other critical habitats, fear dispossession.

“Developed-country proposals to buy the right to continue polluting the atmosphere by planting more trees makes a farce of the climate change negotiations,” Hector Huertas, an indigenous leader from Panama, speaking on behalf of the Forum, said on 13 September.

Clark Peteru from Somona warned: “Not only are indigenous peoples on small island states on the brink of losing their lands to sea-level rise, but indigenous peoples throughout the world, particularly forest-dwellers, are in danger of losing their lands and livelihoods to proposals to plant thousands of hectares of trees to act as gigantic carbon sponges.”

Mature forests will be cut down to make way for more rapid growing tree species and agricultural land will be transformed into tree plantations, Peteru told reporters.

“The proposal stinks, it gives the impression of doing something when the net effect is to make the problem worse,” added Raymond de Chavez of the Philippines.

It allows industrial countries to continue polluting the atmosphere, and throws the social cost on marginalised populations, explained Chavez.

It also establishes a market in carbon emissions which will benefit only developed countries. “Profits will be made even as countries disappear under water or entire populations lose their lands. It’s obscene,” Chavez said.

“What is needed is a fundamental change in philosophy regarding our relationship to the Earth. Only then will developed countries get serious and honour their pledges, already quite small, to reduce their carbon emissions rather than fiddle as the Earth burns,” concluded Antonio Jacanamijoy of Colombia.

The warnings came as multilateral negotiations, to agree on steps to prevent and combat the negative effects of climate change, entered a crucial phase at the intergovernmental preparatory meeting underway in Lyon until 15 September.

These preparatory negotiations will set the stage for decisions at the sixth conference of parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) - COP6 - to be held in The Hague, the Netherlands, Nov 13 to 24.

The objective of the current work, according to the Bonn-based UNFCCC, is to reach an agreement that will trigger the ratifications necessary for the Kyoto Protocol to come into force.-SUNS4740