Oct 29, 2021

COP26 : UNPO Supports Stronger Action On Climate But Calls for More Inclusive Policy

On October 31, world leaders, climate specialists, policy makers and other assorted actors will gather in Glasgow for the COP26. As a strong supporter of multilateral cooperation, UNPO is pleased to see international responses to international problems. We also believe, in light of the plight of many of our members due to massive environmentally degrading projects or merely the effects of global warming, that they deserve to be heard too.

In our last General Assembly, UNPO members passed resolutions adopting the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goal 16, but with also a broader commitment to the SDGs as a whole. Equally UNPO has always throughout its history stood up for indigenous peoples and their livelihood.

How climate change impacts unrepresented peoples

Climate change will affect most of the human population, which is why it is so vital to take action on it. Nevertheless some will be more affected than others. Unrepresented peoples find it difficult to access courts or policy fora so that they may take on big geopolitical players to court over their environmental externalities. They are also often imposed environmentally degrading projects.

It is no coincidence too that the land of unrepresented peoples are the number 1 target for resource extraction. In Ogoniland, in the Niger Delta, the Ogoni are still reeling from the effects of oil drilling destroying their environment. In West Papua the Grasberg mine’s tailings are around 700,000 tonnes a day and harm the local wildlife. In Guam environmentally unfriendly military projects are being built without the local communities as stakeholders. The governments of these respective peoples look to outsource any perverse effects of these projects to constituencies they do not have any concern for.

Many experts agree too that climate change will be a core driver of ethnic conflict. We already see in the Sahel countries that the receding fertile ground is pushing some ethnic groups to compete with each other for land. Often if a dominant ethnic group is threatened by climate change drying its lands it will seize another people’s land or redirect water supplies from them. At UNPO we believe self-determination can be a solution to public goods competition provided there is equity between different peoples.

Our recommendations for COP26

COP26 should have an impact, but our first recommendation is that in order for it to have a real impact on a multi-layered level, key stakeholders can no longer just be recognised states but also subnational actors. Involving regional representatives, community actors and decentralizing the decision making while maintaining core multilateral guidelines is essential.

Linked to this, reducing emissions can no longer be a pretext to build projects that are really intended for resource nationalism. In light of water scarcity being announced in places like South East Asia or the Middle East due to rising temperatures, China and Iran have built damns that in the end degrade the ecosystem of the downstream peoples such as the Khmer Krom, Baluch or the Ahwaz (for which UNPO will be actively campaign against with the release of our upcoming Two Deltas report). This dam building is justified by saying that it is about procuring enough hydro-power. Instead, COP26 should look to have an overarching independent regulator that assess whether projects built to solve the carbon emission crisis are actually for that purpose, rather than worsening the impacts.

Lastly, climate justice courts should be extended to subnational actors and more accessible and enforceable in general. International justice for this issue is primordial and the impacts of climate change externalities caused by high emission countries on unrepresented nations and peoples needs to be discussed.

In order for COP26 and the campaign for solving climate change to be a success then, UNPO encourages a less state-driven model and instead wants local actors involved in building their own sustainable societies. If it is to be a truly global effort to tackle climate change, subsidiarity must be a core foundation of the commitments and guidelines that come out of the conference. Self-determination, rather than separate communities, can actually involve more communities into a greater goal.

To read more about how climate change and environmental degradation impacts our members, click here