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The Role of Indigenous Peoples and Traditional Knowledge in Combating Climate Change

Sam Johnston

UNU's activities

There are still major gaps in climate science around the role of Traditional Knowledge (TK):

  1. what type of contribution can it make;
  2. how is it relevant to mitigation and adaptation;
  3. where are the knowledge holders;
  4. how can TK be presented in a form that is useful to the climate scientists;
  5. how can the next assessment of the IPCC use TK; and
  6. what is the role of TK and indigenous people in the post-Kyoto regime being developed under the UNFCCC process?

Building on its previous work, the UNU Institute for Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS) has identified three main research activities that can make valuable contributions to this discussion: (1) Case studies on best practice; (2) The Indigenous Peoples Climate Change Assessment (IPCCA); and (3) Examining the epistemological divides and relationships between western climate science and TK.

Focus areas:

Technology Transfer

Regions covered:


Participating entities:

WMO, UNESCO, UNU Media Studios, UNU-EHS, UNU-ISP, UN Permanent Forum Indigenous Issues, UNDP

Non-UN partners:

Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), World Bank, Tebtebba (Indigenous Peoples’ International Centre for Policy Research and Education), ICC, Woods Hole Research Centre, the Government of Denmark.


Key products for COP 15:

  1. Report of the Indigenous Peoples' Global Summit on Climate Change (Anchorage, April 2009)
  2. The Canaries in the Global Coal Mine Are Singing: Climate Change, Adaptation and Indigenous Peoples — A Compendium of Case Studies
  3. Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples - Country Case Studies on Local Mitigation and Adaptation Measures
    1. Malaysia: Bidayuh-Jagoi Case Study, Jennifer Theresa Rubis
    2. Indonesia: Customary Iban Community — Life Beyond Carbon: The Exemplary Contribution of the Self-Determining Societies of the Indonesian Archipelago In Resolving the Planetary Social-Ecological Crisis Without Carbon Trading – The Case of the Customany Iban Community, Henro Sangkoyo
    3. Philippines: Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines: The Calamian Tagbanua and the Ikalahan views and actions on Climate Change
    4. Ecuador: Limoncocha Case Study, Amazon Basin – requires light editing (first draft only submitted, lacks references), review from Asian summit may suffice (12 pages)
    5. Tanzania: Engikaret Village, Elifuraha Isaya Laltaika


Page last modified 2019.04.16.

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