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In Bonn, ‘superheroes of the environment’ take center stage

© Nigel Pavitt/JWL/Aurora Photos

The only solution to protecting nature is “radical collaboration” that elevates the rights and roles of the world’s indigenous communities, said a leading conservationist at a global gathering on Saturday.

Indigenous and local activists around the world are the “superheroes of the environmental movement,” Conservation International president Jennifer Morris told attendees at the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF), a side event of the UN climate conference in Bonn, Germany.

The GLF convened more than 600 experts, activists and representatives from a cross-section of science, indigenous groups and civil society.

At the center of their discussions: championing indigenous rights.

Indigenous peoples manage or own a quarter of Earth’s land surface and 80 percent of its biodiversity, land that is constantly threatened by development, mining, agriculture — even government-incentivized invasions.

Recognizing the outsize role that indigenous peoples play in protecting Earth’s forests and halting climate change, participants at the summit worked on a “gold standard” for rights to launch later this year, led by the Indigenous Peoples Major Group for Sustainable Development and the Rights and Resources Initiative.

Hosted by the Center for International Forestry Research, the Global Landscapes Forum brought together indigenous leaders, government, industry and the non-profit sector on sustainable land use issues, with an eye to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement.

“The clock is ticking,” said Morris, citing the latest — and gravest — UN report on the climate breakdown, which stated that the world has little more than a decade to avert catastrophe. Despite the rising global awareness of climate change, one of the main culprits — deforestation driven by unsustainable land use — is still largely underrecognized.

Read more about the event and watch Morris’s full speech here.


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