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Indigenous flotilla takes to Paris waterways for COP21

Photo by Joey Montoya for IEN

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On December 7, 2015, admidst high security with the Paris environmental talks (COP21), dozens of kayaks in an all Indigenous flotilla made their way through Paris' winding rivers and waterways to make sure their message was clear: Act now on the climate or not just Indigenous groups and lands will suffer.

After the all Indigenous flotilla set sail, there were numerous speeches by different Indigenous leaders from their respective nations, including as far away as the Teanau of New Zealand. Allies in the flotilla represented nations spanning the globe from the Arctic to the Amazon.

The idea of the flotilla was proposed by the Kichwa community of the Sarayaku, served as a platform to reject false climate solutions, and to deliver three key documents designed as a means to address climate change.

The flotilla action took place late afternoon, admidst the hyper-flexed security measures by the Paris police and other government security agencies after the bombing on November 13, 2015.

An Indigenous-led action of this kind was desperately needed since urgent action on the environment is a must. 

The flotilla action this afternoon was there to make the necessary message that all relations with Indigenous nations and communities must follow the rule of inform and consent.

The importance of this message was clear following the first week of negotiations at COP21, where, according to Indigenous groups, "despite vocal objections and protestations by Indigenous Peoples and their allies -– the operative text of the Paris Accord has had the language concerning the rights of Indigenous Peoples 'annexed' (meaning it’s not totally in the draft agreement, nor is it being fully excluded), rendering it’s future inclusion questionable."

"Considering that Indigenous communities often face the worst consequences of climate change, the decision to reject Indigenous Rights and advocate for false solutions is not only offensive and intolerable, but illogical and destructive to the climate change movement as a whole." said Keep Fossil Fuels in the Ground Campaign organizer Dallas Goldtooth.

"Carbon trading and REDD+ projects are schemes to continue business-as-usual, nothing more. We, as frontline Indigenous communities, are the arbiters and innovators of real solutions towards mitigating climate change."

Indigenous groups demand that their allies push for the inclusion of Indigenous wisdom when it comes to climate change and the health of Mother Earth.

"We’re here to present our proposal of kawsak-sacha: the living rainforest, the living Amazon. This proposal respects all living beings and helps achieve a balance of our planet, our Mother Earth. Indigenous peoples live with this wisdom -- live in harmony with these living beings, and we’re here to protect the lagoons and the water, the trees and the mountains. We ARE the balance, we LIVE the balance and this is our contribution here in Paris," said Felix Santi, Sarayaku

He continued, "only if our proposal is heeded will we be able to ensure the future, ensure the planet for future generations -- so we present this proposal to the governments of the world and we declare indigenous peoples' territories of vital and crucial importance to the future of our planet. There must be no more oil drilling, no more mining, no more logging on our lands and territories, and we must embrace this indigenous proposal of the living forest."

From Canada, the largest delegation is travelling with Indigenous Rising, which is an Indigenous Environmental Network alliance.

Indigenous Environmental Network and other Indigenous delegations participating in  Paris, France at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference on Parties 21 (COP21) have three major demands. 

1: In order to keep the average global temperature from rising further, we must significantly decrease greenhouse gas emissions at their source.

The United Nations must establish a mandatory, legally-binding agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions at the source. This is called a supply-side approach to dealing with climate change. Corporations and nation-states must be held accountable to their contributions to climate change.  

2: Leave Fossil Fuels In The Ground.

We call for a moratorium on any new fossil fuel development.

Give Mother Earth a rest by making binding commitments to leave more than 80% of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground and the ocean floor. Stop the escalation and expansion of fossil-fuel development, i.e. oil, uranium tar sands, fracking, shale oil and shale gas, offshore drilling, coal, power plants, and transportation systems – pipelines, trains, tankers, etc.

3: No False Solutions -- Just Transition.

Calling global attention to the FALSE SOLUTIONS being negotiated within the UN climate negotiations, COP21. These false solutions privatize Father Sky and Mother Earth and continue the colonization of Indigenous peoples, land, water, and resources.

These false solutions are market-based mechanisms, such as: Carbon markets, carbon trading and carbon offsets (such as REDD -- Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation).

These false solutions are: natural gas, fracking, and nuclear.

*Photo by Joey Montoya for IEN

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