The knowledge and experience of Indigenous People throughout the world is essential in the fight against climate change. In the following speech, delivered at a COP23 side event in Bonn, Germany on November 7, 2017, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary, Patricia Espinosa, reminds listeners that the contributions of Indigenous People aren't restricted to historical references, but are also essential to future work.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today.
Ladies and gentlemen, yesterday I reminded delegates that it was 25 years ago that nations gathered at the Earth Summit in Rio to try and fix the environment.
The Indigenous Peoples of the world had been talking about humankind’s impact upon nature long before then.
Randomly pick from the long, rich history of almost any Indigenous group and you’ll find a story about humankind’s intimate and intricate relationship with the natural world.
Indigenous People, however, have also seen firsthand how others can not only be careless with respect to nature’s bounty, but intentionally reckless.
They were also among the first to feel the impacts when, due to this interference, the climate began to change.
Elders living in communities throughout the Arctic, whose ancestors have been there for centuries, were among the first to sound the warning.
And what they saw was changes in migration patterns, the breaking up of ice earlier in the Spring, animals that were no longer there, and the constant, frustrating need to adapt.
For the most part, this went largely ignored by the rest of the world.
This is no longer the case. We now know, and experience, the devastating impacts of climate change on people’s lives.
We also know that we are running out of time to turn things around.
To do so, we must significantly increase our efforts to adapt, but mainly reduce our emissions and carbon footprints.
Not tomorrow. Not five years from now—today. The weather won’t wait for us to act.
And Indigenous People must be part of the solution.
Because you have the traditional knowledge of your ancestors.
The important value of that knowledge simply cannot—and must not—be understated.
But you are also essential in finding solutions today and in the future.
The Paris Agreement recognizes this.
It recognizes your role in building a world that is resilient in the face of climate impacts.
And we have been working with you to establish a platform that helps contribute to the overall discussions on climate change.
It’s a platform that facilitates the sharing of best practices on issues such as how to prevent climate change, and how to best adapt to it.
From a personal point of view, I’m happy to be on this journey with you.
Here in Bonn, we continue to move forward. Parties and constituencies will move forward as well to fully operationalize the Indigenous People’s Platform.
We need your voice to understand how this platform best serves the needs of indigenous communities.
Furthermore, we need your knowledge to build bridges between indigenous communities and other groups acting on climate change.
And, of course, we always want to hear and learn from your personal experience and valuable stories.
I look forward to your cooperation and contributions in building a climate-resilient future.
Please note: This is the prepared text of the speech and may differ from the delivered version.