Nearly every month since September 2008 when states’ governments met in Bali to set the schedule for reaching a Climate Change Treaty agreement by 2009 representatives of states, corporations, non-governmental organizations and indigenous peoples have been meeting for two-week periods to prepare language for the new treaty. Things are not going well.
First, in Bali, the United States government under Bush attempted to block action setting schedule for developing the treaty and then finally agreed to a process after being embarrassed by Papua New Guinea. Then for several months everyone waited for a new US government under Obama to come to the table. In March 2009 the US delegation headed by Ambassador Todd Stern got to the table, but he had very little to say. (Reportedly, Stern had but a very few staff and was getting “geared up.”) Eventually a “negotiating text” was placed on the table in Bonn during the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change June 2009 session of governments. The major complaint of developed countries (US, UK, etc) was that there were “too many suggested changes” in the negotiating text. The US began talking about how slow the process was and suggested that a US-India-China side agreement would probably move things down the road faster. Sensing a renewal of “US exceptionalism” other countries grumbled that they should be a part of the solution.
A second Bonn meeting produced limited results, and then a meeting in Bangkok produced limited results. Now there is a meeting (the last before the final treaty meeting in Copenhagen in December 2009) in Barcelona and the grumbling and frustration from virtually all parties begins to rumble into the atmosphere world-wide. Before the Barcelona meeting the head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change strongly suggests that there will be no treaty-signing in Copenhagen in 2009.
The International Indigenous Peoples’ Forum on Climate Change–adhoc participants in meetings by indigenous peoples from around the world–have met with growing frustrations resulting from states’ government representatives offering to “listen,” but failing to act in connection with inserting language recognizing indigenous peoples’ interests. Calls for states’ governments to implement and employ the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007) in the climate change negotiations have fallen on deaf ears. The United States remains the lone developed country opposing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples even though there is a growing effort in the United States pressing for US acceptance as a part of the Climate Change Treaty process.
Indigenous peoples have patience if nothing else. The problem is that glaciers are melting, rivers are rising, desertification is expanding, forests are declining and indigenous peoples are the first to be affected by these changes. Indigenous peoples must take a stronger initiative at home as well as in the international arena to assert control over their own destinies–even if the states’ governments meeting in Barcelona and Copenhagen can’t seem to get it together.
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