Indigenous People’s Global Summit on Climate Change

Jessi Kershner
Posted on: 12/19/2010 - Updated on: 3/02/2020

Posted by

Jessi Kershner

Project Summary

The Indigenous People’s Global Summit on Climate Change brought together over 400 indigenous participants from all over the world to exchange their knowledge and experience with climate change impacts, as well as successful adaptation strategies currently being used and recommendations for future actions.


Indigenous peoples from all regions are currently experiencing the impacts of climate change including temperature increases, precipitation changes, rising sea levels, increased flooding and erosion, droughts, and unpredictable and extreme weather events. These climate-related changes are likely to cause significant changes in fish and animal populations, habitats, and overall ecosystem integrity. Because Indigenous Peoples rely so heavily on the natural environment, they will be the first to feel many negative impacts. The Indigenous People’s Global Summit on Climate Change brought together Indigenous Peoples from all regions to share their knowledge and experiences about the impacts of climate change, as well as ways to adapt. The purpose of the summit was to pursue four key objectives:

  1. Consolidate, share and draw lessons about the impacts and effects of climate change on Indigenous Peoples’ ways of life and their natural environment, as well as their responses to these impacts;
  2. Increase the participation, role and visibility of Indigenous Peoples in local, national, regional, and international processes in formulating strategies to respond to the impacts of climate change;
  3. Assess proposed solutions to climate change (including mitigation and adaptation strategies) from the perspective of Indigenous Peoples, and promote public awareness of the impacts and consequences of such solutions; and
  4. Advocate for effective solutions and strategies in response to climate change from the perspective of Indigenous Peoples.


The Indigenous People’s Global Summit on Climate Change was held in Anchorage, Alaska in April 2009. Over 400 indigenous people from 80 countries attended the summit, and each region provided a report on the impacts of climate change on indigenous peoples in their region, successful adaptation strategies currently in use, and recommendations for future action. Regions represented at the conference included: Arctic, Latin America, Pacific, Caribbean, Asia, Africa, and North America. The conference had four thematic break-out sessions: Health, Wellbeing and Food Security; Ways of Knowing: Traditional Knowledge, Contemporary Knowledge and Decision-Making; Environmental Stewardship: Natural Resources Ownership and Management; and Energy Generation and Use in Traditional Territories of Indigenous Peoples.

Key messages from the Arctic region included:

  • Arctic temperature has increased twice as much as the global temperature;
  • In summer 2008, the Arctic Ocean sea ice shrunk to the smallest ever seen in satellite images, opening up the Northwest Passage for navigation;
  • Climate change is negatively impacting the health of Indigenous Peoples and leading to increased economic development of the Arctic; and
  • To adapt to these changes, indigenous peoples of the Arctic believe they need to find a balance between old and new ways (i.e., between scientific and experience-based knowledge)

Key messages from the North America region included:

  • Climate change poses a threat to Indigenous People’s food security and sovereignty;
  • Indigenous People’s rights to self-determination, land, water, and cultural practices are essential for them to adapt to climate change impacts;
  • Climate change impacts felt by First Nations Peoples include temperature increases, precipitation changes, melting glaciers and snow cover, rising sea level, unpredictable and extreme weather, increased floods, and droughts; and
  • Nuclear power projects, “clean coal” development, and genetically modified food systems were rejected as potential solutions; in addition, they cautioned against market-based mitigation strategies that pose a threat to Indigenous sovereignty, ecosystems, rights, and livelihoods.

Outcomes and Conclusions

The main outcome of the conference was the Anchorage Declaration, which was adopted by consensus at the Summit and represents the common position of all indigenous participants. Key messages and recommendations from the conference were presented at the fifteenth Conference of Parties (COP-15) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen, Denmark in December 2009.


Kershner, J. (2010). Indigenous People's Global Summit on Climate Change [Case study on a project of the United Nations University]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE:’s-global-summit-climate-change (Last updated December 2010)

Affiliated Organizations

The UNU-IAS Traditional Knowledge Initiative seeks to build greater understanding and facilitate awareness of traditional knowledge (TK) to inform action by indigenous peoples, local communities and domestic and international policy makers. Key outputs include research activities, policy studies, capacity development and online learning and dissemination.

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