State of the Planet

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Leaders from Glaciated Regions Highlight Importance of Women, Youth, and Indigenous Peoples at COP26

On November 9, the Cryosphere Pavilion at COP26 in Glasgow hosted the event “Elevating Adaptation Action in Mountains.” Ministers from Peru, Nepal, Austria and  Poland, and representatives from the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development advocated for strategies that involve both mitigation and adaptation in mountain regions.

The session was kicked off by Alenka Smerkolj, the secretary general of the Alpine Convention, an international treaty between the eight nations that share the Alps. She focused on the ecological implications of climate change in Alpine regions. She championed the importance of healthy soils and commented on the importance of restoring a variety of ecosystems in the Alps. 

Radha Wagle, the joint secretary of ministries of forests and environment in Nepal, took the opportunity to note that it was “gender day” at COP26. “I hope we can see the issue of the climate crisis from the perspective of gender justice,” she said. 

Wagle continued, noting that while women, children and marginalized communities are most affected by climate change in the developing world, they should also be looked to as a resource. “Better to see women and marginalized people as an agent of change,” said Wagle, “rather than just as a vulnerable group.” She went on to explain that Nepal is including intersectional issues in all climate policy.

Other ministers spoke about the challenges posed by climate driven migration, local communities as drivers of adaptation actions, and how to support local communities with regional initiatives.

As part of the event, the Hindu Kush Himalaya region debuted a new theme song, intended to bring awareness to the region. The song, entitled “HKH Calling,” features vocals by Trishala Gurung and was composed by Chandresha Pandey and Ranzen Jha.



The event also featured youth representatives from Nepal, Austria and Peru. Bindu Bhandari, the outreach and engagement manager from the organization Climate Interactive, advocated for meaningful involvement of youth in climate negotiations. She urged organizers not to tokenize youth participants. Education and effective communication about climate change were flagged by several of those present.

Karen Huere, a representative from ONAMIAP—an organization of Indigenous women from Peru—and member of the Asháninka Indigenous nation, whose lands are in the Amazon, urged people to think of the downstream effects of climate change in mountain regions. “We cannot talk about mountains without talking about forests,” she said. “They are highly interconnected.” 

Huere also spoke to the role of Indigenous women. “Indigenous perspectives are intergenerational. Their knowledge comes from their ancestors, and the youth need to be in these spaces to share it. Indigenous women are adapting to climate change and they have been doing so for a while,” said Huere. “The international community should hear what they have to say.” The range of speakers and the perspectives they represent shows that climate change in mountain regions is an issue of global significance. 

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