Indigenous Peoples’ Experiences with Just Transitions
With the pressing challenges caused by the global climate crisis, transition to clean and green energy is a must. However, reports show that such a transition has not been just so far. Indigenous territories host large renewable energy projects (such as solar, wind, geothermal, and hydropower projects) that are usually carried out without respect for the rights of the concerned Indigenous Peoples to their lands and resources and meaningful consultations with them to obtain their Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC). These projects result in conflicts with and displacement of Indigenous communities and the destruction of their livelihoods and the environment violating the rights of the communities, including to self-determination. Many such projects, particularly mega hydropower dams and big solar farms are reported in Bangladesh, Nepal, and North East India. The impacts of large-scale renewable energy projects on the rights of Indigenous Peoples are complex and multifaceted, among them are:
Land Rights: Indigenous Peoples often have deep cultural and spiritual connections to their traditional lands, which are threatened by the development of large-scale renewable energy projects. Such projects require displacement of indigenous communities or the expropriation of their lands, including disruption of cultural practices and ways of life of the communities.
Environmental Damage: Large renewable energy projects can have significant environmental impacts, such as altering river flows or causing deforestation. Indigenous Peoples who rely on natural resources for their livelihoods and cultural practices are particularly affected by these impacts, potentially leading to eventual displacement.
Economic Impacts: While large renewable energy projects can create jobs and generate revenue, those benefits do not always accrue to indigenous communities. Indigenous peoples are excluded from the planning and development of these projects and do not benefit from the economic opportunities they provide, potentially even leading to their further impoverishment.
It is important for decision-makers and developers to take into account the perspectives and needs of indigenous communities in the planning and implementation of those energy projects to ensure that the project impacts are addressed effectively. That should involve engaging in meaningful consultation with the affected communities to obtain their FPIC, respecting their land rights and other human rights, and ensuring that they are able to participate in the economic benefits of these projects. The transition cannot be clean and green if it inflicts injustice in the supply chain process. The clean energy transition needs to be clean, green, and just so that no one is left behind.
About the Side Session
In the context above, this side event seeks to present Indigenous Peoples’ experiences from the ground affected by hydropower and other projects touted as “clean” and “green” energy projects. The Indigenous Peoples’ representatives will share their perspectives and aspirations with such projects to explain what transitions should look like.
The side event will involve the following Indigenous Peoples’ representatives:
Tej Bahadur Thapa, Secretary, Tanahu Hydropower Project affected committee, Nepal
The side event will be undertaken in the format of a moderated panel discussion with the Indigenous Peoples’ representatives first sharing their experiences on the ground with the projects. They will also share how their communities are carrying out their struggles at national and international levels to assert their rights. They will then present their recommendations for their aspirations on just transitions. Participants will also be allowed to ask questions to the panelists towards the end of the side event in an open discussion.
Right Energy Partnership with Indigenous Peoples
Indigenous Peoples Rights International
Asia Indigenous Peoples Network on Extractive Industries and Energy (AIPNEE)
Community Empowerment and Social Justice Network (CEMSOJ)
Indigenous Rights Advocacy Centre