Mary Altaffer/AP
The Paris Agreement on climate change was signed by 175 nations on Friday, April 22, 2016 at U.N. headquarters. It was the largest treaty ever signed, but indigenous environmentalists said it doesn't go far enough to stop a catastrophic temperature rise.

Paris Agreement 1.5 C Climate Limit Denounced by Indigenous as the Red Line to Catastrophe

Terri Hansen

An alliance of indigenous and global and U.S. grassroots leaders commemorated Earth Day by denouncing the historic Paris Agreement for its silence on fossil fuel.

“Frontline communities and Indigenous Peoples have been calling for a clear path to solve our climate crisis,” Cindy Wiesner of the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance said in a statement after world leaders gathered at the United Nations to sign the climate accords reached in Paris in December. Wiesner called the agreement a “dangerous distraction that leaves common sense, science, human rights, and the rights of communities on the frontlines of climate change on the negotiating table.”

"Indigenous peoples know all about treaty agreements rife with empty language, and this Paris agreement is nothing less,” Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) organizer Dallas Goldtooth told Indian Country Today Media Network. “The agreement doesn't mention fossil fuels. It does not commit countries to keep global temperature rise below two degrees Celsius. It doesn't even fully recognize the rights of Indigenous Peoples and how these rights need to be accounted for in mitigating climate change. I cannot clap for an agreement that fails to address climate change with the degree of action required."

An Activist Profile: Dallas Goldtooth of the 1491s

Dallas gets his passion for climate justice from his father, IEN Executive Director Tom Goldtooth, who started attending the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 21st Conference of the Parties in 1999. The elder Goldtooth has witnessed Wall Street and corporate entities, and other financial influences, “gut any real solutions coming out of the negotiations. As a result, the Paris Agreement goal of stopping global temperature rise by 1.5 degrees Celsius [a temperature rise of 34.7 degrees Fahrenheit] is not real, because the pledges each country is making will allow emission levels that will increase global temperature by 3–4 degrees C. An interactive at The New York Times website can help the interested figure it out. 

RELATED: Tom B.K. Goldtooth Awarded Gandhi Peace Award

"This will be catastrophic to the ecosystem of the world, including the ice culture of the Indigenous Peoples of the Arctic,” Goldtooth said. “The Paris agreement will cook the planet. We, Indigenous Peoples, are the red line against climate change. We cannot be idle. We have never been idle. Indigenous voices are rising up globally to demand climate justice for humanity—for human rights and the rights of Mother Earth."

“The Paris Agreement locks in fossil fuels and, to underscore corporate capture of the negotiations, the word ‘fossil’ is not so much as mentioned in the document,” said Nnimmo Bassey, director of HOME (Health of Mother Earth) Foundation in Nigeria, in a statement.

“It is shocking that although … scientists tell us that the burning of fossil fuels would have to end by 2030 for there to be a chance of keeping the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, climate negotiations engage in platitudes rather than going to the core of the problem,” Bassey said. “The signal we get from the silence on the fossils factor is that oil and coal companies can continue to extract profit while burning the planet.”

To learn more, visit the We Are Mother Earth’s Red Line report released by the It Takes Roots Delegation to the UNFCCC 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris.

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