Photo: Kamikia Kisedje

The indigenous delegation in Dubai made history as the largest ever at a Climate Conference, called for the recognition of indigenous territory demarcation as a climate policy and denounced Brazil’s inclusion in Opec+ group, highlighting the grave risks posed by oil exploration projects

 COP28 took place in Dubai with the participation of nearly 200 countries and concluded on December 13, a day behind schedule due to negotiations surrounding commitments to reduce fossil fuels in a Climate Conference held, ironically, in one of the world’s major oil-producing regions.

One of Apib’s most urgent demands during COP28 was for the Brazilian government to integrate the existing policy of demarcating indigenous territories into its Nationally Determined Contributions. These contributions are set to be reviewed during COP30 in 2025, which will take place in the city of Belém.

“We leave [Dubai] with the commitment to increasingly press the Brazilian government to implement mechanisms and measures for the protection and demarcation of indigenous territories,” stated Dinamam Tuxá, Executive Coordinator of Apib, in his assessment of COP28. “There is no solution to the climate crisis without Indigenous Peoples and their territories. We need to have our territories demarcated, and we believe our message has reached those it needed to reach,” added Tuxá, referring to the letter that Apib delivered on December 5 to President Lula during a civil society meeting at COP28. The letter underscores the critical importance of ensuring respect for indigenous rights and preventing the advancement of anti-indigenous policies, such as the Marco Temporal Bill, approved on December 14 by the National Congress under Law 14.701/2023.

In addition to the meeting with President Lula, Apib also engaged with Brazil’s negotiators to present its transversal and specific demandsregarding climate negotiations. Key among these demands were the effective participation of Indigenous Peoples in the negotiation process and decision-making and the integration of the policy for demarcation and protection of indigenous territories into Brazil’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). With a sense of relative satisfaction in mobilizing the largest delegation of indigenous representatives from Brazil at a COP, consisting of approximately 60 indigenous civil society representatives, the indigenous movement centered the debate on the crucial role of Indigenous Lands in national and international climate mitigation policies.

Indigenous peoples are central players in the fight against climate change. Through their deep connection to ancestral territories, they safeguard 80% of the planet’s biodiversity, as demonstrated by United Nations studies. Over the past 30 years, Brazil has lost 69 million hectares of native vegetation, according to MapBiomas. However, only 1.6% of this deforestation occurred in indigenous lands. Preserving all biomes and implementing effective policies against climate change is impossible without ensuring the full usufruct of indigenous peoples in their territories.

One of the main outcomes of COP28 was the Global Stocktake, an evaluation mechanism regarding the implementation status of the commitments of the Parties under the Paris Agreement. The final text of the Global Stocktake makes seven references to Indigenous Peoples, addressing the Parties’ responsibility to respect their obligations to the rights of Indigenous Peoples; the participation of Indigenous Peoples in sustainable and just solutions for the climate crisis and in the negotiation process; the implementation of integrated and multisectoral solutions based on the knowledge of Indigenous Peoples; the respect for Indigenous knowledge as a means of protecting cultural heritage in relation to the impacts of climate change; and the strengthening of capacity-building mechanisms to promote the engagement of Indigenous Peoples in both negotiations and the development of climate policies and actions

For all of this to be truly fulfilled, Brazil must begin by ensuring access to territories as the foremost non-negotiable right for its indigenous populations, as well as respect the ILO Convention 169, which mandates free, prior, and informed consultation regarding projects that impact indigenous territories. Likewise, agreements related to Article 6 of the Paris Agreement must establish complaint mechanisms that are genuinely accessible to Indigenous Peoples. “The text [of the Global Stocktake Report] reflects a political commitment that now needs to be demonstrated in practice. We are not satisfied with having Indigenous Peoples merely mentioned. This [effective participation] requires the inclusion of indigenous peoples in decision-making spaces, benefiting from direct funding, and influencing government policies,” emphasizes Kleber Karipuna, Executive Coordinator of Apib.

 New Oil Projects in Indigenous Lands: A Contradiction in the Fight Against Climate Change 

 Following difficulties in reaching consensus in the negotiations, the final text of COP28 proposed a reduction in global fossil fuel consumption. However, a significant portion of negotiators and civil society feels a certain degree of failure due to the absence of a more assertive and specific mention of the gradual elimination of the use of oil, gas, and coal, rather than just reduction. COP28 set a record for the accreditation of representatives from the oil sector, with 2,456 registered participants.

One of the major contradictions regarding Brazil’s climate stance was the country’s inclusion in the Opec+ group (an extension of the central Opec group, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries). This move raises concerns among Indigenous Peoples regarding the fossil fuel exploration in their territories, in addition to the climate impacts of such activities. “We leave [COP28 in Dubai] a bit dismayed, understanding that in this COP, even though Brazil played a leading role in climate negotiations, the country joined the Opec+ group. This goes against what is even being discussed: a just energy transition,” explained Tuxá.

The proposal to eliminate the use of fossil fuels was initially included in the draft text of the COP28 agreement but was removed after pressure from Opec and Opec+ associated countries, who voted to eliminate that commitment. The proposal in the final text contradicts the goal of keeping global warming at 1.5º because, as scientists warn, the only path to achieving this is carbon neutrality by 2050, which involves phasing out the use of fossil fuels entirely.

Brazil contributed to the scenario of contradictions that characterized this edition of the Climate Conference, as in addition to the country’s accession to OPEC+, on the same day as the closure of COP28 (December 13), a fossil fuel project auction took place in Rio de Janeiro. The 4th cycle of the Permanent Offer by the National Agency of Petroleum, Natural Gas, and Biofuels (ANP) offered a total of 602 oil blocks and an area with marginal accumulation, totaling an area of 183,569 km². According to data from the Arayara Institute, 15 of these exploratory blocks impact 156 million hectares (47,000 km²) of indigenous lands.

In the Direct Influence Area (AID) of these projects, a total of 23 Indigenous Lands from 9 ethnic groups are affected: Sateré Mawé, Mundukuru, Mura, isolated communities of Pitinga/Nhamunda-Mapuera, isolated communities of Rio Kaxpakuru/Igarapé Água Fria, Kahyana, Katxuyana, Tunayana, and Xokleng, with an estimated affected population of 21,910 indigenous individuals. These indigenous lands are predominantly located in the Legal Amazon region (63.64% of the blocks) in the Amazon Basin (states of AM and PA), as well as in the State of Santa Catarina.

Of these 23 blocks impacting Indigenous Lands, two belong to isolated indigenous communities. Imagine the structures that will be set up next to indigenous territories, in Protected Areas, in quilombola territories, and in the territories of all traditional communities in Brazil. It’s important for us to come together and make a commitment: on the 13th, I won’t participate in the ‘L’ for auction, oil, and gas in my territory,” declared Kretã Kaingang, Executive Coordinator of Apib, who attended the ANP auction in Rio de Janeiro, making a reference to the “Faz o L” manifestation by supporters of President Lula during his election campaign.

The exploration, drilling, extraction, transportation, and even refining and consumption of fossil fuels cause environmental devastation, violence, and local impoverishment. In all phases, there is deforestation and degradation of ecosystems, contamination of water bodies, acid rain resulting from the burning of associated petroleum gas, unbearable noise, and pollution. These facts extend to the natural networks of water and air circulation, as explained by the Arayara Institute.

“In the first term of Lula’s government in 2000, he ratified ILO Convention 169, which grants us the right to free, prior, and informed consultation. For today’s auction, we were not consulted; no affected traditional population was consulted. During COP28, Lula delivered an emotional speech, shedding tears, and talked about reducing deforestation. However, with all the impacts of these oil projects being discussed with the world’s largest oil companies to establish themselves in indigenous territories, why weren’t we, the indigenous peoples standing at the hotel door where the meeting is taking place, allowed to enter?” questions Kaingang at the door of the Windsor Barra Hotel in the capital of Rio de Janeiro.

Brazil, under Lula, which was once a global reference in climate policies, will need to work hard to clarify its contradictions, question whether it continues to tarnish its international image with its membership in the so-called oil cartel Opec+, and fulfill its commitments and goals, including respecting Indigenous Lands, which are guardians of biomes and a significant portion of biodiversity. The country has two years to define a leadership position before COP30 in 2025, organized by Brazil in the city of Belém, where countries will have the significant responsibility of reviewing their climate targets, the NDCs. However, Apib questions the effectiveness of Brazil’s climate commitments as long as policies for the demarcation and protection of territories are not at the center of this debate.

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