Indigenous voices reveal horrors impacts of climate change at COP28


On the sidelines of COP28, Indigenous people from some of the countries most impacted by climate change relayed their personal experiences of how global warming is affecting remote regions around the world in a statement to Al Arabiya English on Tuesday.

Indigenous groups and advocates from across the world have convened at COP28, urging leaders to uphold their promises to safeguard ancestral territories.

They are also advocating for increased funding for loss and damage, as they assert that their heritage and distinct customs are at risk due to climate change.

John Ruben, a 30-year-old native of Vanuatu in the South Pacific, has personally witnessed the impacts of climate change as his one-year-old daughter has already endured four tropical cyclones in her first year of life as the small island nation was hit by severe weather events in 2023.

Ruben shared with Al Arabiya English that his daughter is terrified during these cyclones. He also revealed that their home was ravaged by the recent cyclones, stating, “everything has been destroyed.”

Ruben, a professional researcher in science, has noted an alarming increase in climate change-related events over the past decade.

He hopes that COP28 will not only provide financial assistance but also support the establishment of a dedicated research centre in Vanuatu to study the specific impacts of climate change on the island nation.

Currently, Ruben’s primary concern is ensuring a safe world for his infant daughter. Earlier this year, during a cyclone, he was separated from her and lost contact for eight hours, leading him to fear for her life, as he stated, “I didn’t know if she was even alive.”

Johnny K. Silk, Jr., a 23-year-old activist from the Marshall Islands, expressed his concerns to Al Arabiya English, saying, “I am worried about losing my home, and I feel like it’s unfair that I should be worried and that I should be trying to come up with solutions and making an adaptation plan.”

Despite being among the world’s smaller polluters, the thinly populated, low-lying islands are some of the first places threatened by rising sea levels due to global warming. They also face natural disasters such as droughts, tropical storms, and cyclones.

They are now confronted with the choice of either reinforcing their coastlines by reclaiming the seabed or facing potential displacement in approximately 70 years, a timeline during which some forecasts predict the country could be submerged due to rising sea levels.

Razan al-Mubarak, the UN Climate Change High-Level Champion of the UAE, which is hosting COP28, identifies one of the greatest challenges as the lack of data and the complexity of converting it into actionable information. This information is crucial for making informed decisions to aid indigenous communities and women.

Al-Mubarak expressed to Al Arabiya English that the data collected isn’t being effectively communicated, not due to a lack of data but rather a lack of confidence in it, emphasising the need for greater interaction between various databases and asserting that we now possess the technology to facilitate this.

In response to a query about the disparity in fund allocation, UAE official al-Mubarak stated that it’s crucial to first acknowledge and recognise that the funds aren’t reaching the intended recipients.

She highlighted the need to collectively understand the obstacles and ensure that indigenous peoples are involved in designing the financial mechanisms to guarantee that the funds reach them.

On Monday, the presidency of COP28 announced a new initiative called ‘COP28 Gender-Responsive Just Transitions and Climate Action Partnership’.

This commitment aims to take action on data, finance, and equal opportunities. The implementation of this initiative will be reviewed during COP31.

On Tuesday, 68 out of more than 196 countries pledged their commitment to the initiative.

Al-Mubarak expressed her hope that all the parties would agree and sign the pledge: “We’re shooting for the stars.”

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