The past few days have been exhilarating as hundreds of thousands of people around the globe display their insistence and commitments to tackling the imminent threats of climate change.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is to be commended for initiating this effort. However, we are past the point where non-binding declarations from governments and corporations will have the forceful and immediate impact necessary to avert the imminent crisis we face.
It is time for action. It is time for global officials to learn from Indigenous and local communities who have been creating effective solutions for maintaining forests for years. It is time for globally binding commitments, the recognition of the traditional and customary rights of forest-dependent communities, and the actionable enforcement of these policies. Real and coordinated global commitments are needed to address the underlying drivers of climate change: blind market demand for deforestation commodities; poor forest governance and corruption; distorted fiscal priorities; and destructive and unaccountable corporate activities.
We need more commitments like those from Norway, Germany and Peru – who have committed hundreds of millions of dollars to prevent deforestation in a number of countries including the Peruvian Amazon. Perhaps most importantly their funding will include support for local communities in these programs. The Peruvian agreement will explicitly respect the rights and proposals of indigenous communities in this process, as well as increasing indigenous land rights by at least 5 million hectares.
Time and time again, the best solutions to salvage our planet’s bio-diversity and stabilize our climate (i.e., stopping the imminent extinction of many endangered species and protecting crucial forests that protect the planet from further global warming) have come from local communities. It is imperative that those on the front lines of climate change be represented at the decision-making table in these types of negotiations. Many of these voices were sorely missed at the Climate talks in New York – such as the dozens of community groups who are part of the Climate Justice Alliance and who were excluded entry to the UN Summit.
On the other end of the spectrum, it is encouraging that big corporate players have taken the opportunity of the Climate Summit to publicly acknowledge their responsibility in forging a new path toward climate stability, even if many of these are re-statements of existing commitments. And in this respect, the support for The New York Declaration on Forests has been encouraging – including the support for this declaration from some of RAN’s most prominent targets over the past decade.
However these are still only voluntary commitments in a public forum. These corporations still must turn these statements into actionable policies and demonstrable shifts in practice throughout their global supply chains.
But the opportunity for change is here. At this point RAN is confident in one thing: the only way to ensure we will have a healthy planet for future generations is if we take it upon ourselves to make it happen.
Governments have had the opportunity to lead for decades. Now it is time for them to listen.
Executive Director RAN