Indigenous peoples from the Amazon to Asia said on Wednesday that U.N.-backed clean energy projects meant to combat global warming were aggravating threats to their livelihoods.
They said hydropower projects or plantations of fast-growing trees, prompted by a billion-dollar scheme under the U.N.’s Kyoto Protocol for limiting the planet’s dependence on fossil fuels, were damaging nature.
“We are not only victims of climate change, we are now victims of the carbon market,” Jocelyn Therese, a spokesman for indigenous peoples of the Amazon basin, told a news conference on the fringes of U.N. talks on global warming.
“Efforts that are supposed to…retard climate change are having an equally disastrous effect,” said Ana Pinto, representing indigenous peoples in India.
She said that 162 small hydro dams were planned in northern India alone, flooding lands, under a Kyoto project allowing rich countries to invest in Third World clean energy schemes and claim credits back home for shifting from coal, oil and gas.
“All development projects in indigenous territories must respect our fundamental rights to our lands, territories, waters and self-determination,” the International Indigenous Forum said in a statement.
Some experts say the Kyoto scheme, known as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), could transfer $100 billion of investment to poor nations in projects ranging from wind farms to power generation from rotting vegetation in trash dumps.
“The negative effects are not intended by the CDM,” Artur Runge-Metzger, the European Commission’s chief climate official, said of the indigenous people’s objections. He said the Commission wanted to hear all views to improve the CDM.
Kyoto obliges 35 industrial states to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, mainly from burning fossil fuels, by 2012 in a first step to slow a warming that most scientists say could trigger more floods, erosion, disease and rising seas.
The indigenous peoples said that they needed a voice in the U.N. climate talks, grouping 189 governments, saying that people from Inuit hunters in the Arctic to Pacific islanders lived on the front lines of climate change.
Climate change “is here now, people are being left without fresh water, without homes, and sometimes they will be left without countries,” said Sandy Gauntlett, a Maori representing Pacific nations.
“Your children will grow up with friends who come from countries that no longer exist,” he said. The highest point on the Pacific island state of Tuvalu, for instance, is 4 metres (13 ft) above sea level and could be swamped by rising seas.
Hussein Abilan, of northeastern Kenya, said climate change had disrupted traditional signs of rains. The natural warnings allowed people, for instance, to move livestock to higher ground to avoid floods.
“I never required meteorology to tell when rains would come – the frogs would tell me something, there were signs in the stars and the sky…We had the birds who told us of rains,” he said.
“All those are now gone,” he said.
By Alister Doyle and Gerard Wynn
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