Governments must include recognition and protection of Indigenous Territories in COP15 text to save the planet by 2030, urges coalition

December 14, 2022
The role of Indigenous Peoples and Territories in preserving biodiversity in the post 2020 GBF is key to averting the current tipping point in the Amazonia and 8 other key ecosystems, and to keep the planet's temperature below 1.5°C

Tiohtià:ke, Unceded Kanien’kéha territory (MONTREAL, Canada)—Indigenous leaders, researchers, and environmental organizations from the Initiative “Amazonia for Life 80% by 2025” urged governments today to clearly recognize Indigenous Territories (IT) in Target 3, which is outlined in the proposed text for the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) and to be signed at the close of COP15.

This would ensure that we do not close to 2030 with unfulfilled objectives such as Aichi, the previous set of biodiversity targets proposed in 2011 that have yet to be met.

IT are home to 80% of the remaining biodiversity on the planet and nearly 500 million people  spread across more than 90 countries; they represent about 22% of the global surface. Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs) have a vital role in protecting Earth’s biodiversity and currently, the climate and biodiversity conventions have failed to reflect them in their agreements.

ITs existed prior to borders as we know them and belong to ancient cultures that live in harmony with nature through their worldview and knowledge systems. ITs are part of the rights of Indigenous peoples in the United Nations Declaration of 2007.

Overwhelming evidence corroborates the conservation performance of these territories, proving comparable or higher rates than those of protected areas. However, while protected areas are financed from national budgets, Indigenous territories are not financed by states or climate funds.

On December 10th, here in Montreal, the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity urged the Parties to include in Target 3: “Indigenous Peoples Territories and customary lands and waters” as a third pathway to recognition beyond protected areas and Other Effective Area-Based Conservation Measures” (OECM). This announcement follows the proposal presented by COICA, the Amazonian umbrella organization of Indigenous organizations of nine countries back in March on the CBD talks in Geneva. Ecuador inserted the term in Geneva and today it is in brackets, therefore not officially part of the text.  For the upcoming decisions at COP 15, the Initiative “Amazonia for Life: protect 80% by 2025” exhorts the Parties to take into consideration the following guidelines:

1. ITs should not and cannot be subject to simplification or category as OECM. Territorial rights are part of the Indigenous rights included in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Convention 169, and other international and national legal frameworks that have already been ratified.  Their raison d’être or leif motive is not conservation, conservation is an outcome of their worldviews and knowledge.

2.  Despite all the existing scientific evidence, ITs are not mentioned in the Convention’s texts. This ongoing omission results in the transgression of  territorial rights, prevents the allocation of resources by States and climate funds, and is starting to diminish our capacity to protect the integrity of our ecosystems as extractives expand into our lands.

3. Protected areas overlap hundreds of IT around the world.  The recognition of IT in the GBF will stop this trend, acknowledging Indigenous governance in territory and respecting their consent. In many countries the only path to achieve global goals is the expansion of protected areas on top of Indigenous territories.

4. The Amazonia and eight other key ecosystems have entered a dangerous tipping point, its simile is metastasis. This means that the measures taken at this COP 15 will define the survival of these ecosystems.  The Global Biodiversity Framework  must address the current state and tipping points of the ecosystems that support life on the planet with regional targets. In the Amazonia, the process of savannization has already begun in Brazil and Bolivia. In this context, the IUCN Motion 129 in 2021 “Avoiding the point of no return in the Amazon protecting 80% by 2025” constitutes a key milestone for global policy.

5. Indigenous leaders highlight the relationship between biodiversity loss and violence.  Assassinations of Indigenous leaders and environmental defenders as well as extinction must be understood as symptoms of the same problem: extractivism. Indigenous peoples are on the front line fighting the silence of the Convention, while legal and illegal industries (oil, logging, mining, cattle ranching, among the main) are expanding. We call on world leaders gathered at COP15 to establish a global agreement to protect 80% of the Amazonia before 2025.

Reactions by other Indigenous leaders and members of the Amazonia for Life: protect 80% by 2025 Initiative:

Harol Rincón Ipuchima, Coordinator of Climate Change and Biodiversity of COICA, says: “Talking about climate change without addressing the destruction of the Amazonia is jarring. Science now recognizes that Indigenous peoples have historically curbed the engines of deforestation and biodiversity loss in our territories as our ancestors taught us. It is imperative to recognize 100 million hectares of Indigenous territories in the Amazonia basin and the immediate protection of 255 million hectares of undesignated intact and slightly degraded ecosystems vital to safeguard at least 80% of Amazonia.”

Alicia Guzmán León,´s Amazon Program Director and Co-Coordinator of the Initiative “Amazonia for Life: protect 80% by 2025”: “The GBF might be the last chance to discuss the future of the Amazonia.  At the current rate of deforestation and degradation, the tipping point would have unraveled in all the region by 2030, meaning that the largest forest on the planet might collapse in 7 years.  Inserting Indigenous territories in this text is an immediate policy solution.  We have to stop dividing the conversation of ecosystems, biodiversity, people, climate change; everything is connected and what is decided in Montreal will change the path of history.”

Diego Casaes, Campaign Director at Avaaz, said: “The Amazonia is being eaten alive. Emergency measures must be taken to avoid a tipping point of no return, including the protection of 80% by 2025. At COP15, Parties should ensure that the goals and targets of the post 2020 global biodiversity framework and the COP decisions reflect the obligation to respect the rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities. Without the Amazonia, there’s no credible path to halt and reverse biodiversity loss.”

Cyril Kormos, Executive Director, Wild Heritage, said: “Indigenous territories are critically important to secure the rights and livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples and also vital to save the diversity of life on Earth and fight climate change. If Amazonia reaches tipping points, and the forest starts to collapse, the rest of the planet won’t be far behind!”

“Amazonia Against the Clock” report key key data:

According to the report, protecting 80% of the Amazonia is still feasible by 2025: the remaining 74% (629 million hectares of primary forests and low degradation priority areas) is still standing and requires immediate protection and 6% of the region can still be restored.  

  • Combined deforestation and degradation has reached 26% of the region – the Amazonia is under a dangerous transformation process.  The countries with the highest rates of combined deforestation and degradation are: Brazil: 34%, Bolivia: 24%, Ecuador: 16%, Colombia: 14%, Peru: 20%.
  • 66% of the Amazonia is subject to some type of fixed or permanent pressure: agriculture, oil , mining and more than 800 planned and operating hydroelectric plants, among others. 
    • 84% of deforestation in the Amazonia is caused by the agricultural sector
    • Most transformation occurred in undesignated areas beyond Indigenous Territories and/or protected areas.
    • Deforestation caused by cattle ranching in the Amazon rainforest accounts for nearly 2% of global CO2 emissions annually.
    • Brazil is a leader in the global livestock industry, with the largest cattle herd in the world (215 million animals).
  • Indigenous leaders have offered 13 solutions to protect 80% by 2025, including:
    • The recognition of 100 million hectares of Indigenous Territories (IT) and a management model where budgets for IT are guaranteed.
    • Moratoria on 277 million hectares of intact Key Priority Areas..
    • The implementation of a co-governance model for the management of IT and protected areas.
    • A conditioned debt forgiveness to safeguard 255 million hectares of undesignated intact/primary ecosystems that are at imminent risk — the panel highlighted the economic restrictions of the national budgets. Debt average 78% of the regional GDP of Latin America, and total debt service alone represents 59% of its exports of goods and services. This reality leads governments to overexploit natural resources of the Amazonia.

The “Amazonia for Life Initiative” calls for the protection of at least 80% of the Amazonia by 2025 to avert the “tipping point” in the largest carbon sink for the planet. The initiative is supported by, Avaaz, Amazon Watch, RAISG, Wild Heritage, and over 900 organizations who signed the declaration supporting the goal.


Press contacts:

Bryan Ludeña – COICA: / +593 98 979 5277
Alicia Guzmán – / +593 98 641 5612
Raul Estrada- / +525580196422