As leaders from all over the world gathered in Egypt in November for the 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27), Indigenous voices gained a seat at the table. Simultaneously, nature-based solutions (Nbs) saw increased popularity as more leaders recognized the power of simpler pathways.
More than 300 people were present in the Indigenous Peoples Caucus at the conference, and their participation may have been a key driver in the increased attention to nature when it came to thinking about anthropogenic climate change. Nature-based solutions weave natural features into fixes for socio-economic and sustainability issues. Estimates suggest that nature-based solutions can provide 37% of the mitigation needed until 2030 to achieve the targets of the Paris Agreement. Indigenous communities bring to the table immense knowledge of the nature-based solutions needed to combat many of COP27’s prioritized problems.
Nature-based solutions dominated the conference in a variety of ways. The U.S. Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act provided more than $42 billion in funding to support nature-based solutions. The vision will reduce risk of heat waves, fires, floods, and storms, and strengthen farming and forest systems. The U.S government also created a nature-based solutions roadmap to ensure funding and policy avenues in the U.S. for these types of actions.
On a more global scale, the International Union for Conservation of Nature — alongside the Egyptian COP27 Presidency and Germany — announced the ENACT initiative, aiming for global coordination when utilizing nature-based solutions. The Climate Investment Funds pledged $350 million towards nature-based solutions to address climate crises in Egypt, the Dominican Republic, Fiji, Kenya and Africa’s Zambezi River Basin region.
With the higher attendance of Indigenous groups and representatives at COP27, there’s incentive to combine interests of those pushing for nature-based solutions and Indigenous people who have practiced sustainable land management for generations. Indigenous people steward about one fifth of the world’s tropical and subtropical forests, which sequester large amounts of carbon and help mitigate the impacts of temperature rise globally. Indigenous territories also already span 40% of the world’s conservation land. As such, nature-based solutions on a global scale would likely interact with these areas.
Indigenous communities are also often more vulnerable to the effects of climate change, such as drought, flooding, food insecurity, and more. Because of this reality, world leaders would need to consider whether or not the nature-based solutions they’re considering are actually benefiting Indigenous peoples. Disadvantages already faced by these communities, including poverty, human rights violations, and discrimination are at risk of being exacerbated if nature-based solutions are not implemented with their voice at the table being heard.
The ENACT Initiative’s goals are to protect and enhance the resilience to climate impacts for 1 billion vulnerable people. If countries in the initiative want to reach this goal, it’s beneficial that the attendance of Indigenous groups at this year’s COP was high. Their sustainable land management practices may just hold the answers proponents of nature-based solutions have been searching for all along.