WINTER 2011 64
In 2010, with the aim of deviating from “business as usual,”1
the member states of the United Nations Framework Con-
vention on Climate Change (“Convention”) gathered in
Cancun, Mexico.2 The Convention currently consists of two
tracks, the Ad Hoc Working Group under the Kyoto Protocol
(“AWG-KP”)3 and the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term
Cooperative Action (“AWG-LCA”).4 The latter track agreed
that developing countries would take on a greater responsibility
in climate change mitigation.5 Many of these countries already
play a key role in the mitigation effort by voluntarily partici-
pating in projects.6 Now they have agreed to further their role
under the AWG-LCA by implementing nationally appropriate
mitigation actions (“NAMAs”) for sustainable development7
and outlining a national strategy for reducing emissions from
deforestation and forest degradation (“REDD”).8 Developed
countries, under AWG-LCA, will continue to provide ﬁnancial,
technological, and capacity-building support for both projects.9
However, many climate change programs involving outside
investment have resulted in violations to the rights of indigenous
peoples,10 such as forced relocation or loss of sacred land.11 In
an effort to prevent further violations, the developing countries
should consider investing foreign funds in indigenous technolo-
gies when implementing their NAMA and REDD Agreements.
Indigenous technology stems from traditional ecologi-
cal knowledge.12 This speciﬁc knowledge is a collection of
“botanical, zoological, hydrological, cultural, and geographical
knowhow . . . that has developed over time, and that continues
to develop.”13 Implementing traditional ecological knowledge
has the potential to result in carbon sequestration, forest protec-
tion, renewable energy production, and land rehabilitation.14
The technologies derived from this knowledge have proved
to be environmentally sustainable for eons.15 Moreover, the
indigenous technologies are evolving to combat climate change
Simona Gomez Lopez, a representative from a Mexican for-
est community explained how her village evolved their cooking
methods to mitigate climate change during the opening plenary
of the Sixteenth Conference of the Parties in Cancun, Mexico.17
The community recognized the forest warming, the rains start-
ing earlier, and the rivers drying up.18 The village also noticed
that their traditional use of wood for cooking, which required
two to three truckloads of wood per family, was signiﬁcantly
contributing to deforestation.19 To mitigate their contribution
to climate change, the community created an environmentally
IS NEWER TECHNOLOGY ALWAYS BETTER?:
WHY INDIGENOUS PEOPLES’ TECHNOLOGY SHOULD BE INCORPORATED INTO
THE INTERNATIONAL FIGHT AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE
by Ashley Gardana*
* Ashley Gardana is a J.D. candidate, May 2012, at American University Wash-
ington College of Law.
friendly kiln and now has eight for regular use.20 These kilns
require approximately eighty percent less wood. 21
Indigenous technology, which can help mitigate climate
change, is also a valuable tool for reforestation and biodiversity
conservation projects.22 For example, the indigenous peoples in
the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh devised new sustain-
able forest management practices, which expanded twenty acres
of forest to one hundred acres.23 Additionally, the Serangan
community of Bali rehabilitated their coral reefs and mangrove
forests, and managed to plant ﬁfteen thousand pieces of coral in
various coastal regions of Indonesia.24 This collection of knowl-
edge is a valuable resource that developing countries should
incorporate in the NAMA and REDD projects as appropriate.25
Incorporating indigenous technology into mitigation and
adaptation efforts will help alleviate the obstacles other climate
change programs face.26 Certain programs under the Kyoto
Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (“CDM”) caused
signiﬁcant threats to indigenous peoples who refused to hand
over their territories for the purpose speciﬁed in the projects.27
The CDM is considered a success.28 However, because devel-
oped countries meet their emissions targets by designing proj-
ects that mitigate climate change in developing countries,29
they have such a strong incentive to maximize the emission
reductions yielded from these projects that the effects on local
populations are often ignored.30 For instance, one CDM project
included hydroelectric dams, which impacted river ecosystems
and required relocation of an entire indigenous community.31
Conversely, traditional ecological knowledge employed in the
Indian Himalayan region utilizes hydro-energy from the hill
streams and rivers through traditional watermills.32 Placing the
ﬁnancial support of developed countries in technology derived
from traditional knowledge can help maintain indigenous com-
munities’ continued existence with sustainable means.
Implementing the Cancun Agreements with traditional eco-
logical knowledge also upholds the general principles developed
from the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous
Peoples (“Declaration”).33 While not a binding treaty, the stan-
dards of the Declaration are widely accepted and incorporated
into policies and programs.34 The preamble of the Declaration,
“[r]ecogniz[es] that respect for indigenous knowledge, cultures
and traditional practices contributes to sustainable and equitable
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT LAW & POLICY65
development and proper management of the environment.”35
Investing in available indigenous technologies while respecting
indigenous rights can help developing countries fulﬁll their obli-
gations under the AWG-LCA.
The indigenous communities are the most vulnerable to
not only climate change impacts, but the mitigation measures
as well.36 Although the Convention has begun to recognize
indigenous peoples, “cooperative action” within the Ad Hoc
Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action requires
improvement.37 Incorporating proven and available indigenous
technologies can provide nationally appropriate mitigation
actions for sustainable development and reforestation projects
within developing countries while still respecting the rights of
1 UNITED NATIONS FRAMEWORK CONVENTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE, CLIMATE
CHANGE: IMPACTS, VULNERABILITIES AND ADAPTATION IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES 5
2 The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun, COP 16 / CMP
6, UNITED NATIONS FRAMEWORK CONVENTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE, http://unfccc.
int/meetings/cop_16/items/5571.php (last visited Feb 22, 2011).
3 Kyoto Protocol to the United National Framework Convention on Climate
Change, Dec. 10, 1997, 37 I.L.M 22, http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/convkp/
4 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Bali, Indon.,
Dec. 3-15, 2007, Dec. 1/CP.13 Bali Action Plan, in Rep. of the Conf. of the
Parties on its thirteenth sess., U.N. Doc. FCCC/CP/2007/6/ Add.1 (Dec. 2007),
5 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Thirteenth Ses-
sion of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action, Cancun,
Mex., Nov. 29-Dec. 10, 2010, Outcome of the Work of the Ad Hoc Work-
ing Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention, FCCC/
AWGLCA/2010/L.7, ¶¶ 48, 70 (Dec. 10, 2010), http://unfccc.int/resource/
docs/2010/awglca13/eng/l07.pdf [hereinafter AWG-LCA Outcome].
6 Christina Voigt, The Deadlock of the Clean Development Mechanism:
Caught Between Sustainability, Environmental Integrity and Economic Efﬁ-
ciency, in CLIMATE LAW AND DEVELOPING COUNTRIES LEGAL AND POLICY CHAL-
LENGES FOR THE WORLD ECONOMY 235 (Benjamin J. Richardson et al. eds., 2009)
(recognizing the most notable as the Clean Development Mechanism, Commu-
nity Development Carbon Fund, and the Global Environmental Facility).
7 See AWG-LCA Outcome, supra note 6, ¶ 48.
8 Id. ¶ 70.
9 Id. ¶ 52.
10 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, G.A. Res.
61/295, U.N. GAOR, 61st Sess., 107th plen. Mtg., U.N. DOC. A/RES/61/295
(Sept. 13, 2007) [hereinafter UNDRIP], http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpﬁi/
11 Melissa Farris, Comment, The Sound of Falling Trees: Integrating Environ-
mental Justice Principles into the Climate Change Framework for Reducing
Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD), 20 FORDHAM ENVTL.
L. REV. 515, 517 (2010).
12 What is Indigenous Knowledge?, WORLD BANK, http://www.worldbank.org/
afr/ik/basic.htm (last visited Jan. 14, 2010) (discussing signiﬁcant contribu-
tions to global knowledge that have originated from indigenous people such as
medicinal properties, pastoralist practices, and architecture).
13 Terri Hansen, Traditional Ecological Knowledge Can Guide Community
Adaptation and Resilience, MOTHER EARTH J., Nov. 24, 2010, http://mother-
Endnotes: Is Newer Technology Always Better?
14 KIRSTY GALLOWAY MCLEAN, UNITED NATIONS UNIVERSITY, ADVANCE GUARD:
CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACTS, ADAPTATION, MITIGATION AND INDIGENOUS PEOPLES – A
COMPENDIUM OF CASE STUDIES 19 (2010), http://www.unutki.org/downloads/File/
15 Eric Kwa, Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples in South Paciﬁc: The
Need for Regional and Local Strategies, in CLIMATE LAW AND DEVELOPING
COUNTRIES LEGAL AND POLICY CHALLENGES FOR THE WORLD ECONOMY 102 (Benja-
min J. Richardson et al. eds., 2009).
16 See MCLEAN, supra note 14, at 20.
17 Simona Gomez Lopez, Representative of the Indigenous Peoples of Mexico,
Address at the United Nations Convention on Climate Change Conference in
Cancun, 16th Sess., 1st plen. mtg. (Nov. 29, 2010).
22 See MCLEAN, supra note 14, at 6.
23 Id. at 61.
24 Id. at 67.
25 Id. at 6.
28 CDM Statistics, UNITED NATIONS FRAMEWORK CONVENTION ON CLIMATE
CHANGE, http://cdm.unfccc.int/Statistics/index.html (last visited Jan. 14, 2011).
29 Damilola S. Olaquyi, Beautifying Africa for the Clean Development Mecha-
nism: Legal and Institutional Issues Considered, in CLIMATE LAW AND DEVELOP-
ING COUNTRIES LEGAL AND POLICY CHALLENGES FOR THE WORLD ECONOMY 262
(Benjamin J. Richardson et al. eds., 2009).
30 See Voight, supra note 6, at 238.
32 See McLean, supra note 14, at 20.
33 UNDRIP, supra note 10; see also Siegfried Wiessner, United Nations Dec-
laration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples-Introduction, UNITED NATIONS
AUDIOVISUAL LIBRARY OF INTERNATIONAL LAW, http://untreaty.un.org/cod/avl/ha/
ga_61-295/ga_61-295.html (last visited Mar. 2, 2011).
34 Wiessner, supra note 33.
35 See UNDRIP, supra note 10.
36 MIRJAM MACCHI ET AL., INT’L UNION FOR THE CONSERVATION OF NATURE, INDIG-
ENOUS AND TRADITIONAL PEOPLES AND CLIMATE CHANGE 15 (2008), http://cmsdata.
37 Stanley K. Riamit, Tebtebba Foundation, Statement on behalf of the Interna-
tional Indigenous Peoples’ Forum on Climate Change, Intervention before the
United Nations Framework Climate Change Convention (Dec. 10, 2010), http://
hls_iipfcc.pdf (emphasis added).