Eye on the Amazon

The New Hope: Indigenous and Youth Voices Rise for Climate Justice Despite Failure of COP25

  • Photo Credit: Amazon Watch
  • Photo Credit: Diana Troya
  • Photo Credit: Diana Troya
  • Photo Credit: Diana Troya
  • Photo Credit: Diana Troya
  • Photo Credit: Amazon Watch
  • Photo Credit: Diana Troya
  • Photo Credit: Diana Troya
  • Photo Credit: Amazon Watch
  • Photo Credit: Diana Troya
  • Photo Credit: Diana Troya
  • Photo Credit: Diana Troya
  • Photo Credit: Amazon Watch

"It is absurd that all these countries come to talk about stopping climate change while at the same time forcing new oil drilling in our territories, in the heart of the Amazon rainforest."

Wrays Perez, President of the Wampis Nation of Peru

Learn more about our participation in COP25 here.

During the first two weeks of December, the 25th annual UN climate negotiations, the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP25), took place in Madrid, Spain, after being moved from Chile due to a national uprising met with intense state violence.

Amazon Watch was at COP25 in Madrid alongside Indigenous youth, women, and elected leaders to amplify Indigenous peoples' voices and protect the Amazon, both are urgent and necessary to address the climate crisis. Together, we participated in public events across Madrid, including the Minga Indígena, the alternative Indigenous peoples summit; the Social Summit for the Climate; and the historic March for the Climate on December 6, where Indigenous peoples led over 500,000 people through the streets of Madrid. Watch and share this beautiful video by Indigenous Climate Action.

While the theme of COP25 was "Time for Action", world leaders failed to live up to this motto to address the climate emergency we are all facing. It is disappointing and enraging that instead of reaching an ambitious agreement to keep warming from reaching 1.5°C, world leaders debated false solutions and delayed action until COP26 in Glascow next November. It is a confirmation that the true leadership is among civil society which is demanding and taking action for climate justice and for all of our collective future!

The world is on fire – from the Arctic to the Amazon, from California to Australia – and while civil society was crying out for emergency action, world leaders turned their heads. This year, over 8 million hectares of forest have burned across the Amazon in Brazil and Bolivia! Combined with increased deforestation and killings of forest guardians, the Amazon is under attack. At COP25, Brazil's Minister of the Environment, Ricardo Salles, downplayed the threats to the Amazon, encouraged corporate investment in industries that are destroying it, and lobbied to remove any mention of "climate urgency" in the text. He and his government are climate deniers and should be removed from any negotiations in the future, as they are threats to the survival of life on Earth.

The climate emergency requires urgent action now! This means stopping deforestation and limiting global emissions dramatically. This means a rapid phase-out of fossil fuel production and a just transition to a renewable energy economy. The reality, however, is that countries are planning extract 120% more fossil fuels by 2030 than can possibly be burned to keep the global temperature increase below 1.5°C, according to a new report from the United Nations Environment Program.

While Indigenous leaders from the Amazon Sacred Headwaters were at COP25 distributing their new report which calls for a moratorium on new oil and mining projects and a Green New Deal for the Amazon that provides a just economic transition to a post-petroleum economy, government representatives were busy greenwashing their climate commitments in side events, minimizing their countries' plans for expanded drilling.

"We are outraged that President Moreno would claim expanding oil drilling in the Amazon Sacred Headwaters is consistent with the Paris Accord and will not impact Indigenous rights. He claimed further drilling will not harm the "weakest"? Further oil drilling is incompatible with fighting climate change," said Sandra Tukup, Director of Territories for the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon, CONFENIAE.

A major problem at the COP is the presence and power of big business and industry. The fossil fuel industry spent millions on sponsorships and sent lobbyists to Madrid to delay progress, protect profit, and push business-friendly false solutions. The logos of big sponsors were emblazoned throughout the conference, including those of banks like Santander, a major financier of deforestation and agribusiness expansion in Brazil. But there is new hope...

The new hope lies with the youth, women, and Indigenous peoples on the front lines of climate change. On several occasions, Indigenous youth in particular called for civil society to take action inside the COP. On December 11th, hundreds of people gathered outside the hall where world leaders were meeting to call on big polluting countries to "Step Up and Pay Up," but we were met with violence by security and were eventually kicked out for the rest of the day. In a statement released by 350.org signed by Amazon Watch and our allies on behalf of civil society:

This has never happened before in 25 years of negotiations. Yet, there could be no better symbol of this crisis we face. People around the world are crying out for justice, and fighting oppression, while those in power attempt to shut us out. They pay us lip service, thanking us for our action, but when the time comes to act, they slam the door in our face while providing a platform to polluters. The UN and countries want to recognize the traditional knowledge of Indigenous Peoples but chose not to recognize the rights of Indigenous Peoples. It is a pattern that takes place around the world, from Chile to the halls of COP25, to every place where local communities and Indigenous Peoples are fighting for their rights and their future.

We will not back down. We demand full access for civil society, the people of the world, to these negotiations and all international processes. We demand that our voices be heard.

The people united will never be defeated!

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