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BONN, Germany (PAMACC News) - An array of experts, political leaders, NGOs and indigenous peoples and communities have agreed to a rights approach as a crucial step in confronting the global climate crisis.

Dubbed the ‘gold standard’, the methodology emphasizes rights for Indigenous peoples and local communities.

It aims to strengthen respect, recognition and protection of the rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities as stewards and bearers of solutions to landscape restoration, conservation, and sustainable use; end persecution of land and environment defenders; build partnerships to enhance engagement and support for rights-based approaches to sustainable landscapes across scales and sectors; and, scale up efforts to legally recognize and secure collective land and resource rights across landscapes.

At the Global Landscapes Forum, held alongside the UNFCCC’s Bonn Climate Change Conference (SB50), the ‘gold standard’ approach was formally presented to kick-start consultations with Indigenous peoples’ organizations and NGOs from 83 countries around the globe who gathered at the summit.

The Forum, which every year carries a different theme through its series of events, news, workshops, community outreach and online courses, is focusing 2019 on rights—giving land rights the visibility they need to leapfrog to the top of global discussions, and frame rights as a solution to the climate change crisis.

The new standard, developed by the Indigenous People’s Major Group for Sustainable Development (IPMG), working with the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), will support the vital work Indigenous peoples and communities are already doing to adapt to global warming, threats to the world’s biodiversity and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Presentations and expert analysis during the two day summit showcased evidence from around the globe that when the authority of local communities over their forests and lands, as well as their rights, are legally recognized, deforestation rates are often reduced.

“By implementing a gold standard, we can both uphold and protect human rights and develop conservation, restoration and sustainable development initiatives that embrace the key role Indigenous peoples and local communities are already playing to protect our planet,” said Joan Carling, co-convener of IPMG.

IPMG recognizes that Indigenous and local communities are bearers of rights and solutions to common challenges.

“This will enable the partnership that we need to pave the way for a more sustainable, equitable and just future,” added Carling.
It is expected the consultations on this ‘gold standard’ will continue until year-end.
 
“It’s clear that when rights of local communities and indigenous peoples are recognized, there are significant benefits for the fight against climate change and environmental degradation,” said Robert Nasi, Director General of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), which jointly coordinates GLF with UN Environment and the World Bank.

“Whoever controls the rights over these landscapes has a very important part to play in fighting climate change,” he said.

According to the United Nations, Indigenous peoples make up less than six percent of the world’s population but account for 15 percent of the poorest people. They live in some 90 countries, representing 5,000 different cultures and speak an overwhelming majority of the world’s estimated 6,700 languages.

Alain Frechette, of Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), saidthe rights approach has been proven to be an essential condition for sustainable development projects to succeed.
“Rights – the ability of people to make basic decisions about their needs, the use of their lands, their ambitions and their hopes or aspirations – invariably determined social-ecological outcomes, including economic security, wellbeing and livelihoods.”

The basic principles of a gold standard already exist, such as free, prior and informed consent, according to Frechette. What has been lacking is the application of principles which would be boosted by high-level statements that could “spur a race to the top”.

The Forum heard that the lands of the world’s 350 million Indigenous peoples and local communities already act as powerful shields against climate change, holding 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity and sequestering nearly 300 billion metric tons of carbon. Over 80 percent of biological diversity is found on local peoples’ lands.

“Our identity is being threatened, and we need to avoid it being completely eradicated,” said Diel Mochire Mwenge of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

According to his testimony during the summit, Mwenge, who leads the Initiative Programme for the Development of the Pygme, witnessed more than a million people evicted from their traditional land to make way for a national park and given no benefits from the ecotourism industries brought in to replace them.

In the climate and development arenas, the most current alarm being sounded is for rights –securing the land rights and freedoms of Indigenous peoples, local communities and the marginalized members therein. How can these custodians ofa quarter of the world’s terrestrial surface be expected to care for their traditional lands if the lands don’t, in fact, belong to them? Or, worse, if they’re criminalized and endangered for doing so?

This year’s Global Landscapes Forum, which attracted over 600 delegates from across the globe was therefore convened to define a new ‘gold standard’ for rights, with the hope of securing the rights of these important but marginalised groups in the management of forests.

PROFILE

NAIROBI, Kenya (PAMACC News) - Joseph Mithika Mwenda never expected to be named among the world's 100 most influential people in climate change policy this year.

Despite being the executive director of Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), a civil society organization that champions for a healthy earth, Mwenda never thought that he was on the same level with some of the prominent people in the world.

So when the announcement by Apolitical, a global network for governments came, last month, Mwenda’s name was among the 100nominated by hundreds of public servants from around the world, including experts at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Harvard University, Oxford University, Bloomberg Philanthropies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

The list has people currently making the biggest impact on climate change policy including government ministers, academics, environmental activists and the church where Catholic’s Pope Francis is from.

The list recognizes include high-profile advocates whose work is indispensable to raising awareness and demanding change. Others are young rising stars who are making their mark in local communities and are a driving force behind governmental progress.

“I was in Ghana attending a climate change conference and when this announcement was done I didn’t have an iota of imagination that I could be in such a distinguished roll. I learnt of it in a peculiar way people were greeting me…congratulating me on the accomplishment. That’s when I learnt that I was in the same league with top celebrities, religious leaders and politicians in the world. It is still a humbling recognition,” Mwenda said.

Mwenda, who comes from Meru County said he has dedicated the last decade in building PACJA since a small group of people met at Johannesburg’s suburb of Sandton, South Africa in 2008 and expressed desire to have a unified platform on climate change and environment in Africa.

“It has been a fulfilling journey, a journey of ups and downs but we eventually arrived where we wanted. Am happy I have contributed, together with my colleagues and partners across the continent, the most formidable environmental movement in Africa. We most of more than 1000 organisations in 48 countries,” Mwenda said.

He said Kenya can be considered a first mover in matters climate change and a pacesetter in policies to address the scourge.

“It became the first country in Africa to enact the most comprehensive law on climate change, the Climate Change Act, 2016 which was signed by President Kenyatta in May 2016,” he said.  

Mwenda said the law puts in place a framework which defines actions to be undertaken by stakeholders to mainstream climate change in the entire political economy of the country.

“In addition, several Policies to mainstream the problem have been put in place, including the National Climate Change Action Plan 2018 – 2022. There is also the National Adaptation Plan, the National Green Economy Implementation Strategy, among others,” Mwenda said.

He revealed that he and PACJA have played a key role in helping the Kenya government draft climate change legislation.

“Together with some colleagues, we reached out to former Bureti MP Franklin Bett, in the 9th Parliament to come up with a Private member’s Bill on climate change, which evolved into the Climate Change Act, 2016. I can confidently say that this Law was mainly driven by civil society and MPs,” he said.

He observed that the Ministry of Environment which coordinates issues related to climate change was initially hesitant to participate in the discussions around the law, but could not resist the momentum built through the mobilization which followed.

“Though the ministry eventually took charge of the process, am happy that we catalyzed a process which gave Kenya accolades in international arena. I also acknowledge the effort by other former MPs such as Rachel Shebesh, Uasin Gishu Senator Prof Margret Kamar, former Emuhaya MP and Vihiga Governor Dr Wilbur Otichillo and North Horr Chachu Ganya for working with us to ensure the law received overwhelming support inParliament. It was not an easy journey, though. I remember many interests stood on the path against us, and that is why it took almost 10 years to achieve,” Mwenda said.  

But he acknowledged that it is one thing in signing and adopting international agreements like the historic 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, and another thing altogether in implementing such Agreements.

“I want to be brutally honest: Kenya is very good in policies, including international ones, but very poor in implementation,” Mwenda said.

He observed that all countries have submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the UN body mandated to coordinate climate action, their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

“These are sets of actions all countries were required to undertake as their commitment to the implementation of the Paris Agreement. The guidelines for the NDCs implementation were finally agreed during the annual conference of countries in Poland last year,” he said.

But the biggest challenge, he noted, for this ambitious effort is money required to undertake such actions.

“Kenya, for instance, has estimated that it will require around Sh40 trillion till 2030 to meet its obligations. Definitely it will require massive donor support, which may not be forthcoming. The World Leaders will be meeting on 23rd September this year in New York to discuss how to raise resources to support climate action in the world. The issue remains emotive, and it has divided the world on who should carry this burden,” Mwenda said.

He added that asany other African country, Kenya’s carbon footprint is very negligible compared to that of industrialized countries. As per the Paris Agreement, however, Kenya has committed to pursue a low-carbon, climate-resilient green economic development pathway. Through this, the government of Kenya will reduce its emissions by 30 per cent by 2030.

“The challenge here is that massive resources which exceeds the ability of Kenya are required. I doubt whether the Donors will be able to provide all the trillions of money required to meet this ambition. That’s why creativity is required, including roping in the private sector as they are both culprits in pollution while at the same time they can provide solutions,” he said.

He called on African countries to strengthen their voice in international negotiations to ensure they get the best bargain for their people in decisions made at various levels, adding that they should resist fragmentation by interested parties who do not what to meet their obligations.

He also observed that during the “One Planet Summit” hosted by Presidents Uhuru Kenyattaand France’s Emmanuel Macron on the sidelines of the fourth Session of UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi last month, Uhuru committed himself to increase the forest cover to 10 per cent by 2022.

“A marshall plan is required to achieve this ambition, otherwise it will be another proclamation without action. Uhuru should go beyond the government to achieve his dream. The civil society, communities and private sector should be incentivized to become partners of this effort,” Mwenda said.

Acknowledging that communities are custodians of forests and their resources, any effort to preserve or protect forests which doesn’t involve communities will be a cropper.

“But this is the current scenario. In paper we have very interesting policies to manage our forests, but the reality on the ground paints a picture of periodic conflicts with communities as the Kenya Forest Service, which bothers more about trees than the people who live with these trees. We need people to have ownership and pride in their ecosystem,” he said.

He said the unpredictable weather patterns-long dry spells will remain with Kenyans for the foreseeable future, based on authoritative scientific evidence, particularly the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (UPCC).

“Kenya should integrate climate change into all its development strategies, notably the Vision 2030, Uhuru’s Big Four Agenda, National Climate Change Action Plan 2018 – 2022. Counties are currently aligning their CIDPs with the National Policies. So much is going on, but much more need to be done,” Mwenda said.

Last year, Mwenda said, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) through the African Environmental Partnership Platform (AEPP) named PACJA as the top environmental policy organization in Africa.

“This was a personal achievement. In addition, I was elected to Chair the Institutional Collaboration Platform (ICP) of the Climate Research for Development in Africa (CR4D), spearheaded by African Union, World Meteorological Organisation, UN Economic Commission for Africa, among other Institutions. Such humbling call for duty is quite an achievement for me,” Mwenda said.

Mwenda is also the Southern Civil Society Observer to the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility of the World Bank, and recently, joined a global committee for the “United for Climate Justice”, a mobilization initiative driven by both governments and CSOs to advance the narrative of climate justice during the UN Secretary General’s Summit in New York later in the year.

He was actively involved in pro-democracy and governance movement that was agitating for expanded democracy in his country, which engineered the promulgation of one of the most celebrated people-driven Constitutions in the world in 2010.

He studied in Moi University where he was a student leader, before joining Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology for post-graduate studies in Public Policy Analysis. He is now pursuing his PhD with the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa.

In 2016, the influential Pan African Magazine, Le Afrique, named him among the top 50 African Intellectuals due to his contribution to climate policy discourses in the continent.
__________________________

Some of the powerful names on the list:
1.    Alexandria Ocasio - Cortez- Congresswoman, US Congress
2.    Pope Francis- Head, The Roman Catholic Church
3.    Saleemul Huq- Director, International Centre for Climate Change and Development
4.    Xie Zhenhua- Special Representative for Climate Change Affairs, National Development and Reform Commission, China
5.    Autumn Peltier- Clean Water Activist
6.    Jamie Margolin- Founder, Zero Hour
7.    Neeshad Shafi- Co- Founder, Arab Youth Climate Movement Qatar
8.    Al Gore-Former Vice President, United States
9.    Bernie Sanders-Senator, US Congress
10.    Elizabeth May-Leader, Green Party of Canada
11.    Katharina Schulze- Politician, Alliance 90/The Greens party, Germany
12.    Mohammed Adjei Sowah- Mayor, City of Accra
13.    Sergio Bergman-Environment Minister, Argentina
14.    Gavin Schmidt-Director, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies
15.    Gina McCarthy-Professor of the Practice of Public Health, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
16.    James Hansen-Professor, Columbia University
17.    Johan Rockstrom- Professor, Stockholm University
18.    Naomi Oreskes- Professor of the History of Science and Affiliated Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University
19.    Michael Bloomberg-CEO, Bloomberg LP
20.    Patricia Espinosa- Executive Secretary, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

CATOWICE, Poland (PAMACC News) - The UN Climate Change Conference has entered into the final day of the first week termed as the technical segment. Few agenda items have been concluded and many, especially the essential ones, are not even near to be concluded in time to be taken forward to our Ministers who will be joining the conference next week for the second part of the high-level segment.

We have seen progress on Agriculture, Gender and NAPs but there are serious concerns on the climate finance, adaptation and the finalization of the robust Paris Agreement Work Programme. We have taken stock of these alarming proceedings and share the following on the elements below:

Climate Finance

At the start of the COP24, African Civil Society demanded for fulfilment on pre-2020 climate finance commitments, putting in place robust system for reporting on the support and ensuring new, additional and predictable climate finance beyond 2025. African civil society are gravely concerned about very slow progress on the climate finance agenda items with developed countries not committing to fulfil their pre-2020 commitment and not agreeing on even initiating the process for the new quantified climate finance goal. Conclusions on how the Adaptation Fund shall serve the Paris Agreement, including ensuring adequate resource mobilization for the Fund, have not yet been agreed.

African civil society see a clear intent for the developed country Parties to shift their Convention obligation on provision of climate finance to private institutions and worse enough to developing countries. This is and will not be acceptable.

Adaptation

African civil society takes note of the progress on the NAPs whereby a conclusion has been reached and taken forward to SBI; but we are concerned with the overall dealings of the adaptation with no equal treatment as other elements. Adaptation has been stripped off from the transparency framework discussion and may not be part of the MRV. The elements from the transparency discussion also affect guidance to the modalities for adaptation communication.

African civil society reiterates that adaptation remains to be a priority for African countries.

Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)

The discussion on features and timeframe for the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) started even before COP21 and the Paris Agreement. We are disappointed by continuous dragging of agenda which should have been concluded in this first week. African civil society supports NDCs with all elements and a five-year timeframe to be in line with the Global Stocktake.

Mitigation

Developed country Parties are obliged to reduce emission and support developing countries to contribute to the efforts. African civil society has observed intent to shift the obligations to developing countries avoiding differentiation and flexibility in both reduction and reporting process.

We urge the COP24 Presidency to show great determination and leadership to ensure the best outcomes of the conference. This includes a robust and balanced Paris Agreement Work Program that covers all elements and meets the required ambition; and a comprehensive framework for fulfilment and reporting of the pre-2020 commitments and ambitions. We emphasize that the legacy of the Katowice Conference lies on these issues and will be placed in history books as one of the stepping stones that paved the way for future generation. Whether positive or undesirable outcomes, it will remain in our books.

CATOWICE, Poland (PAMACC News) - The UN Climate Change Conference has entered into the final day of the first week termed as the technical segment. Few agenda items have been concluded and many, especially the essential ones, are not even near to be concluded in time to be taken forward to our Ministers who will be joining the conference next week for the second part of the high-level segment.

We have seen progress on Agriculture, Gender and NAPs but there are serious concerns on the climate finance, adaptation and the finalization of the robust Paris Agreement Work Programme. We have taken stock of these alarming proceedings and share the following on the elements below:

Climate Finance

At the start of the COP24, African Civil Society demanded for fulfilment on pre-2020 climate finance commitments, putting in place robust system for reporting on the support and ensuring new, additional and predictable climate finance beyond 2025. African civil society are gravely concerned about very slow progress on the climate finance agenda items with developed countries not committing to fulfil their pre-2020 commitment and not agreeing on even initiating the process for the new quantified climate finance goal. Conclusions on how the Adaptation Fund shall serve the Paris Agreement, including ensuring adequate resource mobilization for the Fund, have not yet been agreed.

African civil society see a clear intent for the developed country Parties to shift their Convention obligation on provision of climate finance to private institutions and worse enough to developing countries. This is and will not be acceptable.

Adaptation

African civil society takes note of the progress on the NAPs whereby a conclusion has been reached and taken forward to SBI; but we are concerned with the overall dealings of the adaptation with no equal treatment as other elements. Adaptation has been stripped off from the transparency framework discussion and may not be part of the MRV. The elements from the transparency discussion also affect guidance to the modalities for adaptation communication.

African civil society reiterates that adaptation remains to be a priority for African countries.

Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)

The discussion on features and timeframe for the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) started even before COP21 and the Paris Agreement. We are disappointed by continuous dragging of agenda which should have been concluded in this first week. African civil society supports NDCs with all elements and a five-year timeframe to be in line with the Global Stocktake.

Mitigation

Developed country Parties are obliged to reduce emission and support developing countries to contribute to the efforts. African civil society has observed intent to shift the obligations to developing countries avoiding differentiation and flexibility in both reduction and reporting process.

We urge the COP24 Presidency to show great determination and leadership to ensure the best outcomes of the conference. This includes a robust and balanced Paris Agreement Work Program that covers all elements and meets the required ambition; and a comprehensive framework for fulfilment and reporting of the pre-2020 commitments and ambitions. We emphasize that the legacy of the Katowice Conference lies on these issues and will be placed in history books as one of the stepping stones that paved the way for future generation. Whether positive or undesirable outcomes, it will remain in our books.

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