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Press-release: World on path to 3-degree temperature rise – Indigenous Peoples are on the frontline

Press release 

11 December 2020

  • The UNEP Global Emissions Report 2020, published on 9 December, shows that despite the global COVID-19 pandemic, humanity is on pace to suffer a minimum 3-degree temperature rise by the end of the century
  • International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) expresses deep concern. Such a rise will be devastating for all humanity, but standing at the forefront of this coming devastation are Indigenous Peoples
  • Indigenous Peoples are stewards of nature and have been ringing the alarm of climate change for decades. They need to be listened to in global climate action.

“We cannot ignore the fact that year after year, Indigenous Peoples across the world have warned of the impending path we are on. They have been experiencing the effects of climate change first-hand. Despite constituting a mere 6% of the world’s population, they are protectors of vast territories that contain 80% of our remaining biodiversity. We should be listening to them for solutions for how to keep the global temperature rise within limits,” Stefan Thorsell, IWGIA Climate Advisor, said.

Wampi youth from Peru (Alejandro Parellada//IWGIA)Wampi youth from Peru (Alejandro Parellada//IWGIA)

The response on the new Emissions Gap Report from Indigenous representatives, who are active environmental defenders at the international climate negotiations, has been strong:

Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, representative of the Mbororo Indigenous People (Chad), has been watching the world’s inaction in desperation while her people have already been experiencing the devastating impacts of climate change.

“For some people, 3 degrees is just a number. But my pastoral community, the Mbororo in Chad, is already experiencing +1.5 degrees. We live daily in extreme weather conditions and experience hunger, food insecurity and conflicts over resources that lead to death.

Yet the world is not taking the necessary action. The Emissions Gap Report 2020 shows that the world is still heading towards 3 degrees. At this rate, my people and many other Indigenous Peoples will simply disappear.”

Asho Chin planting trees in Myanmar amid the COVID-19 pandemic (POINT)
Asho Chin planting trees in Myanmar amid the COVID-19 pandemic (POINT)

Gideon Sanago, representative of the Maasai Indigenous People (Tanzania), has many of the same fears. He has seen the impact that a changing climate has had not just on the physical landscape, but also on the cultural destruction such change reaps.

“Indigenous Peoples around the world are among the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Indigenous Peoples of Tanzania have lived since time immemorial in harmony with nature and have been depending on natural resources for food and medicinal use. As result of climate change impacts, Indigenous families have separated and most of the youth immigrated to the cities.

We face destruction of our cultural and social setup which leads to loss of identity, culture and extreme poverty. I therefore call upon all the governments to take immediate practical action and give life to the Paris Agreement as a cornerstone to tackle climate change.”
Photo 3Maasai in a dried river bed in Tanzania (Stefan Thorsell)

Rodion Sulyandziga, representative of the Udege Indigenous People (Russia), considers 2020 to be a defining year in the future of humanity and the planet.

“Nature is sending us a clear alert. Temperature rise threatens the achievement of the Paris Agreement and the planet in general. 2020 will be known as a burning point for climate change and biodiversity. The COVID-19 pandemic is nothing in comparison to the crisis caused by the mistreated environment.”

However, while many may have been deaf to nature’s loud alerts, Indigenous Peoples have been listening throughout time. Gideon Sanago highlights the important role Indigenous Peoples play and must play on a larger scale in tackling climate change.

“Indigenous Peoples are the solution to climate change problems through the application of our knowledge as key adaptation and mitigation measures to climate change effects.”

Tunga Rai Bhadra, representative of the Rai Indigenous People (Nepal), agrees.

“One of the reasons for the failing 1.5-degree ambition is the non-recognition of the rights, role and contribution of Indigenous Peoples in climate action.”


For more information, photos and quotes from IWGIA and the Indigenous representatives, please contact Stefan Thorsell, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. / +45 5373 2842.

International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) is a non-governmental human rights organisation promoting, protecting and defending Indigenous Peoples’ collective and individual rights for more than 50 years. We support Indigenous Peoples´ advocacy at the international climate negotiations at the UNFCCC. See our award-winning documentaries here.



IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting and defending Indigenous Peoples’ rights. Read more.

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