2 November 2022
The rights of indigenous peoples and local communities must be put at the center when discussing urgently needed solutions to the ongoing climate crisis.
This was the statement released on Tuesday by lawmakers, civil society members, and experts from across Southeast Asia who met in Bangkok last week.
“Climate change is not something that can be postponed; in fact action needs to be taken yesterday,” said Charles Santiago, chairperson of the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR).
APHR organized the first ever conference on the role of parliamentarians in addressing climate change in Southeast Asia in Thailand on October 29-30.
“Parliamentarians have a big role to play in order to avoid a climate catastrophe, which will disproportionately affect poor and marginalized communities,” said Santiago.
Participants in the meeting shared their experiences and knowledge and discussed possible alternative approaches on what lawmakers can do to push further action on climate change.
“Climate-induced disasters don’t just result in economic damage, communities are displaced from their lands, indigenous communities lose their culture too,” said Patricia Wattimena from the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development.
Wattimena said proposed solutions to climate change, such as large hydroelectric dams, too often ignore indigenous communities’ voices and result in their displacement.
Wanun Permpibul of Climate Watch Thailand stressed the need to go to local communities, “listen to the impact of climate change, and the impact of climate solutions,” and listen to what people need.
Participants in the conference noted that funding for the mitigation and adaptation to climate change, which has been generally lacking in the region, has failed to reach local communities.
The group said in a statement that funding for adaptation efforts have been particularly insufficient, especially as Southeast Asia.
The region is one of the most vulnerable areas to climate change in the world, with 56.3 million people living on the coastlines
“Current climate change finance is not inclusive and less than 10 percent of it reaches the local level,” said Dr. Ornsaran Pomme Manuamorn, advisor to Thailand’s Fiscal Policy Research Institute.
He said scaling up adaptation finance is “especially important because even if we reach zero emissions today, we still need to deal with historical emissions.”
Manuamorn said adaptation finance is needed not just to address climate induced-disasters such as flooding, but also slow-onset events sea level rises, changing rainfall patterns, and biodiversity loss.
Mercy Barends, APHR Board Member and member of the Indonesian House of Representatives, said influential leaders who champion climate change efforts must be protected.
Barends noted that environmental and indigenous activists across the region “have often faced criminalization in the past few years.”
“All levels of society have to work together in order to achieve a just and equitable energy transition that can help us avoid a climate catastrophe,” she said. #