Global Spotlight Report #61: The Role of Indigenous Peoples in Climate Change


Post 61 is intended to contribute to the Global Stocktake of efforts to address climate change under the Paris Agreement. It asks our Country Managers to describe the impact of climate change on indigenous communities; specifically to provide information and data that help answer the following questions:

  • What are the demographic characteristics of indigenous peoples in their countries? How many of them are there? Where are they located? What kinds of work/jobs do they do? Do they have a special worldview towards the environment and climate change?
  • In what ways has climate change impacted the quality of life of indigenous communities in their countries?  What has been the result of this impact?
  • How have indigenous communities fought back against the impact of climate change? How effective have their efforts been?
  • What kinds of assistance do their countries provide to indigenous peoples to help them resist the impact of climate change? How effective has this assistance been? Does it cover all indigenous peoples or are some left out? How can such assistance programs be improved?

Table 1 below summarizes how climate change has impacted indigenous peoples in each of the countries that we cover. Full Country Reports follow below.

Table: Headlines: The Impact of Climate Change on Indigenous Peoples

Country Impact Summary
  • Climate change is destroying Aboriginal and Torres Strain Islanders cultural heritage and connection to their environment
  • Illegal Mining and Climate Change Threatens the livelihood of Yanomami Peoples in Amazon
  • Indigenous peoples like First Nations (1,048,405), Métis (624,220) and Inuit (70,545) lead climate justice movements
  • Agricultural practices by China’s ethnic minorities have been hurt by climate change
European Union
  • Climate change is a threat to the Saami People’s culture and traditional knowledge base
  • France’s Vision of the unity of all citizens impedes efforts to address the climate needs of its indigenous peoples, such as those in New Caledonia and French Polynesia
  • The Scheduled Tribes are India’s indigenous people, and are being affected by climate change
  • Indigenous people in Indonesia constitute 18% of the total population. Lack of finance and Increased frequency of environmental events limits the bility of indigenous peoples to combat climate change
  • Current areas where Indigenous people, such as the Ainu, have been resettled have not been greatly affected by climate change
  • 23 million indigenous people in Mexico contribute the least to greenhouse gas emissions but are the most effected by climate change
  • Nigerians consist of over 250 ethnic groups (indigenous people), and many, especially in the Niger Delta region are the most vocal in matters of the environment
Saudi Arabia
  • Bedouins and coastal fishing communities are especially vulnerable to climate change
  • Climate change threatens the continuation of the Yoruk nomadic culture in Turkey
United States
  • Many Native American communities have been forced to live on land that is vulnerable to the effects of climate change

Country Reports

‘Caring for Country’ Describes the Sustainable Practices Used by First Nations People to Manage Land and Seascapes in Australia

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of Australia have the longest continuing culture on Earth. This culture is composed of a multiplicity of sovereign Nations interacting through established laws and customs for 60,000 years. These Nations, laws and customs all continue today. In the 2023 census 812,728 people identified as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres…

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Illegal Mining and Climate Change in Brazil Threatens the Livelihood of Indigenous Peoples

Yanomami women and children: extraction of minerals within the Indigenous Land not only contaminates rivers and people but also destroys forests and affects the indigenous way of life, imposing restrictions on movement within their lands   INDIGENOUS PEOPLES IN BRAZIL, THE YANOMANI TRAGEDY AND THE PEOPLE’S CONTRIBUTION TO FIGHT CLIMATE CHANGE The Indians are a…

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Indigenous Populations Lead Climate Justice Movements in Canada

The Indigenous population in Canada (5%) is one of the largest among countries that share a similar colonial history. Statistics Canada (September 2022) reports 1,807,250 Indigenous peoples involving three very diverse groups/populations – First Nations (1,048,405), Métis (624,220) and Inuit (70,545). The remaining include multiple Indigenous identities reflected in over 70 Indigenous languages. Of the…

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Agriculture Practices of Indigenous People in China Have Been Greatly Affected by Climate Change

The People’s Republic of China does not recognize the term “indigenous people” for its 55 ethnic minorities (incl. groups in Taiwan), even though in 1990 the country declared itself a supporter of indigenous rights elsewhere. Instead, China calls its various ethnic groups “ethnic minorities” (少数民族). The difference in terminology can be explained in historic terms….

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Climate Change is a Threat to the Saami People’s Culture and Traditional Knowledge Base in the EU

The only group of indigenous people that can be found in the EU is the Saami people. The total Saami population is estimated to be around 80,000, and the Saami people are scattered throughout Northern Finland, Sweden, Norway, and part of Russia. There are ten Saami languages, nine of which are still spoken today. Aside…

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France’s Vision of the Unity of all Citizens Impedes Efforts to Address the Climate Needs of its Indigenous Peoples

In 2007, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This act elevated the global profile and scholarly engagement with the subject of ‘indigenous people’ and yet the idea of indigenous cultures and rights is still met with resistance in France, both in French academia and among the public…

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Role of the Indigenous Peoples in Climate Change in India

India’s diversity is reflected through its 705 ethnic groups officially recognized as “Scheduled Tribes.” In central India, the Scheduled Tribes are usually referred to as Adivasis, which means Indigenous Peoples. The country also has several laws and constitutional provisions, such as the Fifth Schedule for Central India and the Sixth List for certain areas of north-eastern…

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Lack of Finance and Increased Frequency of Environmental Events Limits the Ability of Indigenous Peoples to Combat Climate Change in Indonesia

According to the International Work Group of Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), Indonesia has a population of 70 million indigenous people, which accounts for 18% of the total population. Although it has a wide variety of ethnic communities; around half of the population belongs to the Javanese and Sundanese groups from Java Island. Various other ethnic groups…

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Current Areas Where Indigenous People in Japan Have Been Resettled Have Not Been Greatly Affected by Climate Change

The Ainu people are the only officially recognized indigenous people in Japan (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2014). When we say that the Ainu are an indigenous people of Japan, we mean that Japan, as a modern nation, has exerted domination over the Ainu people and that the Japanese government bears responsibility for that domination (Kitahara…

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The Indigenous Population in Mexico Contributes the Least to Greenhouse Gas Emissions but They Are the Most Affected by Climate Change

In Mexico, the census of indigenous people is carried out through surveys in which each person, according to their criteria, identifies themselves or not as indigenous. In 2022, there were 23.2 million indigenous people in Mexico, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI). This population belongs to 68 groups (contrary to what…

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Ethnic People in the Niger Delta are Arguably the Most Vocal Group on Matters Relating to the Environment in Nigeria

There are over 250 ethnic groups in Nigeria with a population of some greater than others. By population size, the top three are Hausa (30%), Yoruba (15.5%) and Igbo (15.2%). The indigenous people in Nigeria are the country’s original inhabitants belonging to these ethnic groups which are present across the entire country. One can typically…

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Climate Change Threatens the Continuation of the Yoruk Nomadic Culture in Turkey

Anatolia had been a crossroads of civilizations since history started, therefore a local indigenous people population does not exist as such. Historically the ethnicities that existed in Anatolia and Asia Minor are shown on the above map. However, because of the immigration and occupations of other ethnic groups, none of the above show indigenous groups…

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Saudi Arabia’s Indigenous Population’s Vulnerability to Climate Change

Unlike most countries, Saudi Arabia has not been colonized and has no ethnic minorities. All of the population of modern-day Saudi Arabia are direct descendants of its original Arab inhabitants. There are however various tribes and sub-divisions of Arabs, some of whom are more vulnerable to climate change than others, such as the Bedouins and coastal fishing communities. Saudi…

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Many Native American Communities Have Been Forced to Live on Land that is Vulnerable to the Effects of Climate Change in the US

In order to understand the role indigenous nations have in addressing climate change in the United States, one must first understand the history of the removal and subjugation that all nations have faced at the hands of the government and the implementation of genocide over the course of the last several hundred years. In the…

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