The COP27 climate summit has pitted the human rights of Indigenous peoples against rich nations’ energy needs.

By Theodora Dryer , Marlene Brito-Millán , Amrah Salomón , TRUTHOUT
Published November 21, 2022 on

The Global North’s scramble for energy-secure futures dominated the COP27 last week in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. Corporate and mining lobbyists promoted high speed trains, lithium car batteries, hydrogen mega projects, and wind farms to transition from fossil fuels and reduce carbon emissions while Indigenous activists resisted those same projects which are already causing irreparable environmental devastation and worsening climate change.

The myth of “clean energy” has long been a guiding logic of the UN climate conference. COP27 illustrated not just a tension between financial strategies which environmental activists say are pointless, such as net zero carbon trading, but a battle over what transitioning from fossil fuels will look like.

“[If] everything is based on stopping emitting carbon then the solution [proposed] is electromobility, renewable energy, (solar, wind, green hydrogen),” said Indigenous activist Lesley Muñoz Rivera, a member of the Plurinational Observatory of Andean Salt Flats (OPSAL in Spanish) and the Colla people from Chile who attended COP27. “The problem is being looked at in a segmented way thinking only about gas emissions and not seeing that water, communities and ecosystems are also affected. The problem is not seen as a whole. They only propose the zero-carbon solution, but they have not quantified the cost of these solutions. The proposals to bet on this type of energy would greatly affect Indigenous peoples, their territories, waters and ecosystems — for example in the case of lithium extraction in the salt flats.”

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