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Engage Indigenous knowledge on climate change, NZ told


Response to latest IPCC report must integrate Indigenous voices, researchers say

New Zealand’s response to the latest global climate report must include Indigenous perspectives, leading researchers have said.

Following the March release of a Synthesis Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Māori researchers said the response should include their “long-established principles and value systems”.

In a statement, Sandy Morrison of the faculty of Māori and Indigenous studies at the University of Waikato said that planning should take into account “what many Māori call mokopuna decisions—those decisions which will impact on our future generations”.

“We have seen the trauma suffered by so many of our communities through widespread flooding, destructive weather events and Cyclone Gabrielle. Is this the future that we want? Those most impacted are already those most disadvantaged.”

Integration of knowledge

Christina Laalaai-Tausa, a political scientist and climate researcher at the University of Canterbury, said that the report “reaffirms our deep concerns relating to climate change. It continues to show the drastic impacts of the climate crisis, particularly for vulnerable people and regions including the Pacific.”

She said that Pacific communities rely on Indigenous knowledge, which has “provided alternative ways for survival”, but this knowledge “now needs to be integrated with science and technology to ensure lives and ecosystems survive”.

“This requires emphasis on prioritising investment into climate finance to support adaptation and mitigation in the region,” she said, adding that current levels of climate financing were “utterly unacceptable”.

“The Pacific needs to now look at long-term national and regional planning to avoid risks of maladaptation.” Short fixes “are no longer sustainable and can in fact add to vulnerabilities in the region. Again, there is urgent need for financial support to integrate technology and innovation into what works in local communities.”

Last to be heard

Fellow Canterbury researcher Dalila Gharbaoui said the report “advances key understandings of multidimensional aspects of climate adaptation and maladaptation tied to cascading risks around existing inequities especially for Indigenous peoples and marginalised populations. Indigenous peoples’ rights, innovation and knowledge have been underrepresented from the first IPCC assessment.”

Despite increasing coverage, the content in the Synthesis Report “is still broad in scope, and nuanced complexities of Indigenous knowledge systems are still overlooked”.

“It is important to note that Indigenous lead authors are still underrepresented” in the report, Gharbaoui said. This is an important caveat as Indigenous peoples are the first impacted by the climate crisis and last to be heard.”