The Spinoff: Breakfast with the Secretary General: Māori activists press the UN on climate change

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The United Nations Secretary General has given a nod to indigenous rangatahi in their fight for climate justice.

Yesterday morning, rangatahi Māori activists made their way to Auckland Museum’s event centre for an unusual meeting. Te Ara Whatu, Aotearoa’s first indigenous youth delegation to the United Nations, joined climate minister James Shaw and other climate activists in hosting Secretary General António Guterres for a roundtable breakfast on climate change. The foyer of Auckland Museum’s events centre, set with half a dozen tables, laden with muesli, yoghurt, and fruit, was buzzing with school blazers, activist t-shirts and a media entourage.

Hardly a pot of muesli was touched as young campaigners quizzed the Secretary General, while officials were glued to their phones eager to capture the perfect tweet. Te Ara Whatu representatives Hana Maihi, Pania Newton, India Logan-Riley and I were among those going hungry at the breakfast, focused instead on raising the urgent need to uphold indigenous knowledge and rights in the fight to tackle climate change.

Globally, indigenous peoples are disproportionately affected by climate change, and particularly so for our neighbours and whanauka throughout Te Moana Nui A Kiwa. With two key intergovernmental reports (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2018, and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services approved just two weeks ago) painting an ominous picture for the future of our global climate and biodiversity, the role of indigenous people as kaitiaki and leaders in environmental protection is front of mind for many campaigners and organisations, though few provide tangible support for indigenous organisations to do this important mahi.

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