Climatic Change

, Volume 139, Issue 3, pp 429–443

Adaptation and Indigenous peoples in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

  • James Ford
  • Michelle Maillet
  • Vincent Pouliot
  • Thomas Meredith
  • Alicia Cavanaugh
  • IHACC Research Team

DOI: 10.1007/s10584-016-1820-0

Cite this article as:
Ford, J., Maillet, M., Pouliot, V. et al. Climatic Change (2016) 139: 429. doi:10.1007/s10584-016-1820-0


Indigenous peoples are uniquely sensitive to climate change impacts yet have been overlooked in climate policy, including within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). We identify and characterize the discourse around adaptation in the UNFCCC, examining implications for Indigenous peoples based on a critical discourse analysis of the original Convention and decision texts from subsequent Conference of the Parties (CP). CP16 in Cancun (2010) was a critical juncture after which adaptation emerged as a central component of climate policy in the Convention, with a shift from a purely scientific approach to adaptation to one where local, Indigenous, and traditional knowledge are also valued. Since CP16, the discursive space for incorporating the voices, needs, and priorities of Indigenous peoples around adaptation has expanded, reflected in decision texts and engagement with Indigenous issues in the work streams of relevant bodies. We outline opportunities for greater engagement of Indigenous issues in the UNFCCC post-Paris Agreement, noting the underlying State-centric nature of the Convention limits what can ultimately be achieved.

Supplementary material

10584_2016_1820_MOESM1_ESM.docx (133 kb)
ESM 1(DOCX 133 kb)

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  3. 3.McGill University (Montreal, Canada), Makerere University (Kampala, Uganda), Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia (Lima, Peru)and University of GuelphGuelphCanada