Indigenous representatives make an impact at COP27

Article by Emma Ruben for the National Indigenous Times

The United Nations kicked off their 27th climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on 6 November for governments to come together to discuss limiting the rise in global temperatures.

Referred to as a ‘Conference of the Parties’ or COPs, more than 200 governments have been invited, with delegates from many countries also making their way over.

Amongst the Australian delegates attending, many are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people campaigning for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and a better quality of life for First Nations people.

First Nations Australians are calling for better protections for Country, and encouraging Indigenous people from all over the world to stand up for their climate rights. Here are some of the First Nations activists who are taking part in COP27:

National Native Title Council

The National Native Title Council chief executive Jamie Lowe is at COP27 hoping to elevate First Nations voices on a global platform.

Mr Lowe also hopes to ensure NNTC are building networks to ensure member organisations are an active part of the climate change solution.

Mr Lowe said there are short and long term climate issues immediately plaguing First Nations people in Australia.

“We are looking at what the global ambition of meeting net zero looks like for First Nations people, and protecting our rights through the transition to clean energy,” said Mr Lowe.

“In terms of land mass, what foot print is required to do that, we don’t have the full data set but we know it will be significant for our people and our rights need to be protected.

“Free prior and informed consent is crucial. Our rights need to be at the forefront and central to industry and also government as we move to the new clean energy market.”

Uncle Paul Kabai and Uncle Pabai Pabai

The duo from Zenadth Kes (Torres Strait) have filed a case against the Australian government and argued they failed to commit to their ‘duty of care’  to the Torres Strait Treaty and Native Title.

Both Uncle Paul and Uncle Pabai are Traditional Owners whose ancestors have lived on Zenadth Kes for more than 65,000 years.

Because of the rising sea levels, they are in danger of losing their homes, sacred sites and their entire history.

The people from Zenadth Kes have had a history of fighting for their rights through the courts with Eddie Mabo from Mer Island (Murray Island) famously fighting for the law to recognise Indigenous traditional ownership.

Uncle Paul and Uncle Pabai are now going to COP27 to emphasise to world leaders how urgent their case is, as tides in the Torres Straits continue to rise.

“As Indigenous people, as an Indigenous person of Australia representing my Guda Maluyligal nation and Torres Strait Australia,” Uncle Paul said.

“I want the world leaders to listen to our voice. We depend on government otherwise it will be too late.

“We need support from government, show us your support, otherwise we will become climate refugees.”

Yessie Mosby

Also from Zenadth Kes (Torres Strait), Mr Mosby is one of the Torres Strait 8 from Masig Island (Yorke Island).

The Torres Strait 8 have also taken legal action against the Australian government through the UN Human Rights Committee.

In September, the Human Rights Committee found the Federal Government had violated its obligation to the people of Zenadth Kes in their inaction toward tackling the impacts of climate change.

The eight are pushing for the Australian government to commit to 100 per cent renewables by 2030, funding for climate change adaptation programs for the islands, self-owned renewable energy, and restricting global warming to 1.5 degrees alongside a transition away from fossil fuels in the near future.

The Kulkalgal activist is now at COP27 to share with the world their story.

“The world really needs to know that our people have never contributed anything (to climate change), but we’re the first on the hit list,” he said in a social video for Client Earth.

“The world needs to know that there are people like us around the world, who needs help from the world to help us live an ancient culture for another 100 years to come.

“What is going to be impacting my children’s life is also going to impact your children’s life.”

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander International Engagement Organisation

ATSIIEO executive director and Nyoongar man Jack Collard has been in attendance at COP27 sharing his perspectives on climate change as a Nyoongar man.

He opened the first Local Community and Indigenous Peoples Platform round table and addressed the table in the Nyoongar language.

ATSIIEO chairman Jesse Martin said COP27 was a chance for First Nations people to be their own diplomats.

“Where once we pushed for our own standards, responsibilities, and investment in the idea of our own governance, development and principle, today they have traded our legitimacy and power for the opportunity to sit under their table content with what crumbs they drop,” he said.

“The voices which represent us now internationally do not speak for us no matter how much window dressing the government look to put on these positions.

“They have usurped the responsibility of position for the privilege it provides and convey to the world a false image of who we are, what we look to achieve and what we value.”

COP27 ends November 18.

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