Climate and the Amazon
A healthy Amazon rainforest is one of the Earth's best defenses against climate change. The world's tropical forests, of which the Amazon is the largest, currently absorb some 20 percent of the carbon dioxide produced from burning fossil fuels. Protecting the Amazon rainforest – which when cut or burned actually contributes to climate change – must be a centerpiece of the global efforts to stop climate change, along with transitioning to clean energy.
For climate and forest protection strategies to work, they must be based on the rights of the region's indigenous peoples who continue to be the Amazon forest's most effective stewards. Unfortunately, these same groups are some of the first people to be impacted by climate change as weather patterns shift. In addition, their rights face potential threats from some of the climate solutions being proposed internationally.
Since 2009, Amazon Watch has partnered with Amazonian indigenous federations to ensure they have the tools to effectively advocate for their right within climate negotiations and climate protection projects. Through Amazon Watch's other priority areas, such as Stop Dirty Energy Projects, we also work to stop the drivers of deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels.
Global climate change is happening now. The Amazon plays a crucial role in regulating the Earth's climate, but destructive forces could push it over a tipping point, causing an inexorable collapse of the whole ecosystem.
While climate change will ultimately impact all humans, indigenous peoples are already feeling the impacts. From low fish stocks reducing children's protein intake to the increased threat of tropical diseases, many indigenous communities are facing climate change consequences right now.
The world's indigenous peoples are not standing by while climate change destabilizes the environment on which we all depend. For years, indigenous organizations have been working to influence international climate negotiations to protect their rights and their lands. Statements by groups like the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change offer a roadmap to effective climate protection.
Covering nearly 2.5 million acres of primary tropical rainforest at the intersection of the Andes and the Amazon, Yasuní is the ancestral territory of the Huaorani people, as well as two other indigenous tribes living in voluntary isolation, the Tagaeri and the Taromenane. However, underneath the park lies some 900 million barrels of heavy crude – Ecuador's largest reserve.
One prominent proposed solution to climate change is the UN-backed project Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD). Given that indigenous peoples inhabit the majority of remaining tropical forests, any REDD strategy or project must respect indigenous rights, including the right to free, prior, and informed consent.