To save the planet, ask the locals

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Indigenous groups are in the front line of the fight against climate change

Gideon Long in Bogotá

Scientists and policymakers can — and have — come up with creative, inspiring and practical ways to tackle the world’s environmental challenges, but attempts to implement them without involving local and indigenous people are likely to fail.

Indigenous people make up 6 per cent of the global population but manage or have tenure rights over more than a quarter of the world’s land surface. “There is simply no way to halt climate breakdown if indigenous peoples aren’t included,” says Conservation International (CI), a US-based non-profit organisation.

A 2020 study by the Ecological Society of America found that 36 per cent of the world’s intact forest landscapes (forests undisturbed by human activity) lie within indigenous lands “making these areas crucial to the mitigation action needed to avoid catastrophic climate change”.