‘Join us for the Amazon,’ indigenous leaders tell IUCN to demand protection


  • At the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Marseille, France, indigenous leaders and conservationists called for support in their efforts to protect 80% of the Amazon Basin by 2025.
  • Scientists say the Amazon region has already lost 17% of its forest cover and an additional 17% has been degraded by forest loss, fragmentation, wildfires and drought, and that these pressures are pushing the rainforest towards a critical tipping point.
  • While recognition of indigenous land rights would be a crucial first step, experts say indigenous communities need support to enforce their land rights and their efforts to defend the Amazon.
  • A motion that would support area-based conservation goals to protect at least 80% of the Amazon by 2025 has been approved for a vote at the IUCN congress, although the date of the actual vote has not still been fixed.

MARSEILLE, France – Indigenous leaders and conservationists are calling for support in a critical effort to protect 80% of the Amazon basin by 2025. Scientists say the region is fast approaching, or has already reached, a tipping point. tipping that would push the tropical rainforest into a savanna state that probably cannot be reversed.

Members of the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA by its Spanish acronym) and many other bodies and organizations are asking for the support of the leaders and members of IUCN, the world conservation authority, to vote in favor of a movement which would support area-based conservation goals to protect at least 80% of the Amazon by 2025, and stop deforestation and land use change and restore damaged forest areas. They also call on IUCN to ensure that indigenous leaders are allowed to govern and manage new protected areas, as outlined in the Durban Accord which was adopted by IUCN in 2003.

During a press conference held on September 5 at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Marseille, France, José Gregorio Díaz Mirabal, General Coordinator of COICA and member of the Wakuenai Kurripaco people of Venezuela, pronounced a moving speech, asking the world to stand alongside the indigenous peoples who are already defending the Amazon “with our lives” and “with our blood”.

“We want to tell the world that we have to wake up and save the planet,” Mirabal shouted in the conference room in Spanish. “We are also here to demand that this World Congress on Protected Areas show whether it truly stands alongside indigenous peoples. Prove by your vote.

Brazilian climatologist Carlos Nobre, a leading expert on the Amazon, said the region has already lost 17% of its forest cover and an additional 17% has been degraded due to logging, forest fires and drought induced by climate change. All of these factors are pushing the Amazon closer to a tipping point, Nobre said, adding that large parts of the Amazon, mainly the southern and eastern sections of the rainforest, will likely cross the tipping point if these pressures continue.

Heat points in areas with Prodes warnings (2017-2019). Area adjacent to the borders of the Kaxarari indigenous territory, in Labrea, in the State of Amazonas. Image by Christian Braga / Greenpeace.

“Some scientists believe parts of the southern Amazon rainforest may have reached the tipping point because they are seeing a higher mortality rate of humid climate tree species,” Nobre said. to Mongabay in an email. “However, in any case, we need to stop deforestation, forest degradation and forest fires now and restore large portions of deforested and degraded forest at least to contain the tipping point that can affect over 50%. of forest area. “

Nobre said it would be very difficult to reverse a tipping point once it has been crossed, as such a reversal would largely depend on halting deforestation, forest degradation and fires immediately. forest, and reduce atmospheric CO2 concentrations to less than 350 parts per million, “something that seems almost impossible to happen over the course of this century.”

A recent study published by the Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP) shows that over the past two decades, the Brazilian Amazon has transformed from a carbon dioxide sink into a net source of emissions, releasing 3.6 billion tonnes of CO2 more than it. absorbed over the past 20 years.

Alain Frechette, of the Washington, DC-based NGO, said parts of the Amazon in which indigenous peoples have secure land rights are the areas that are best preserved.

“These areas are islands of greenery,” he told Mongabay in an interview with the IUCN Congress. “But we need to extend them, enlarge them and recognize their rights to all their customary and traditional lands is… the best way to achieve these results. “

Frechette said that protecting 80% of the Amazon cannot be achieved with the sole legal recognition of indigenous land rights, and that indigenous peoples will need support to enforce these rights.

“If you have a house or a home, we rely on the police to enforce our land rights,” he said. “In most cases, in the Amazon, they cannot [rely] authorities to enforce their rights. The authorities will not do it, and so they are left to their own devices to defend it. So without additional support to enable enforcement… and even support for their livelihood needs and payments for their ecosystem services… these communities are at risk.

Clearing the rainforest for coca in the Colombian Amazon. Image by Rhett A. Butler.

Frechette added that the goal of 80% protection of the Amazon sends an “important political declaration” and a “common challenge that [the] the world must work towards.

On September 7, the motion to protect 80% of the Amazon was approved for a vote by IUCN congressmen, although a date for the vote has not yet been set.

“For us, it is a concrete proposal to protect, defend, conserve and fight [for the Amazon] because our territories cannot continue to be destroyed, ”Mirabal told Mongabay in Spanish on September 7.

“We invite governments, environmental non-governmental organizations and everyone to join us for the Amazon. We hope this will be a mandate that Congress approves and demonstrates that conservation does not conflict with rights. “

Banner image caption: José Gregorio Díaz Mirabal, general coordinator of COICA and member of the Wakuenai Kurripaco people of Venezuela, speaking at a press conference in Marseille, France.

Elizabeth claire alberts is a writer for Mongabay. Follow her on Twitter @ECalberts.

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Amazon Biodiversity, Amazon Conservation, Amazon Destruction, Amazon Drought, Amazon Logging, Amazon Mining, Amazon Rainforest, Conservation, Deforestation, Environment, Environmental Activism, Environmental Justice, Indigenous Cultures, Indigenous Groups, Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous Reserves, Indigenous Rights, Protected areas, Saving the Amazon, Threats to the Amazon, Tipping points

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