Skip to content
banner image

“The Voices of those Who Speak for Mother Earth Must Not Be Silenced”

Statement By Tom Goldtooth, Leader of the Indigenous Environmental Network Delegation to UNFCCC COP-16 Negotiations

Dec 9, 2010

Media Contacts: (interviews available in Spanish & English)
IEN media hotline: +52 998 108 0748 Email:

I have come to the UNFCCC COP-16 climate talks in Cancun, Mexico as a member of Grassroots Solutions for Climate Justice — North America a delegation of Indigenous Peoples and representatives from fossil fuel impacted communities who are on the frontlines of addressing the climate crisis. On Tuesday Dec 7th I spoke at a Vía Campesina press conference of social movement and civil society leaders inside the Moon Palace, hosted by our allies at the Global Justice Ecology Project. Together with my brothers and sisters from Vía Campesina, Friends of the Earth, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance and allies from around the world we expressed our solidarity with the many diverse communities and movements participating in the “Thousand Cancuns Day of Action for Climate Justice”. I also stated my deep concerns that the COP negotiations are failing to address the core issue of reducing emissions and have instead become a trade show for promoting false solutions and generating capital. We were honored to be joined by Pablo Solon, the UN ambassador from Bolivia and together we left the talks to join the thousands of people rallying outside in the streets in a People’s Assembly addressing the real, community led solutions to the climate crisis.

On the Wed December 8th when I returned to the Moon Palace to continue my role in the negotiations I was denied entry, informed that my accreditation had been suspended and then removed from the grounds. I also learned that over a dozen of my brothers and sisters from other accredited civil society organizations were also denied entry. I am please to report that due to the support of both government and civil society allies who advocated on my behalf, that as of this morning, my accreditation has now been re-instated. To everyone who assisted the Indigenous Environmental Network and myself we issue our deepest thanks and gratitude.

However, even though I have been fortunate enough to regain my personal access to the negotiations, the treatment I received is indicative of a larger and disturbing pattern in which the voices of civil society are being silenced within the United Nations process. The UNFCCC has drastically limited the number of civil society representatives allowed inside the talks and increasingly our freedom of speech and right to peaceful protest is being withdrawn. We must stand united against this type of censorship that is designed to silence the massive opposition to the co-optation of the UN process by an unholy alliance of short-term thinking, denial and greed. I have included below a statement from the members of our delegation who were ejected on the 7th of December and continue to be denied access to the talks.

Both inside and outside the UN process the voices of Indigenous peoples, social movements and the communities most directly affected by our fossil fuel dependency must continue to be heard as we reject false solutions like the carbon market mechanisms of REDD. We demand that the Cochabama People’s Agreement be acknowledged as a path forward towards addressing the real solutions to the climate crisis based in traditional Indigenous knowledge, community-based practices, Indigenous and human rights and the rights of Mother Earth.

Tom Goldtooth the Executive Director of Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) a network of Indigenous Peoples empowering Indigenous Nations and communities towards sustainable livelihoods, demanding environmental justice and maintaining the Sacred Fire of our traditions.  IEN has brought 17 Indigenous leaders to Cancun as part of the Grassroots Solutions for Climate Justice — North America Delegation uniting representatives from fossil fuel impacted communities who are on the frontlines of solving the climate crisis. To book interviews or get further background information on North American climate justice organizing contact the IEN Media Hotline: +52 998 108 0748
Statement from members of Global Grassroots Justice Alliance and Youth for Climate Justice Who were expelled from COP-16

Media Contacts: (interviews available in Spanish & English)
Grassroots Global Justice Alliance & Youth 4 Climate Justice +52 998 108 0758
Grassroots Global Justice Alliance & Youth 4 Climate Justice  +1 213-618-2851 <>

We are representatives of Grassroots Global Justice Alliance and Youth 4 Climate Justice who
were a part of an organized and peaceful demonstration inside the Moon Palace on Dec. 7, to draw attention to the serious dangers of false solutions such as REDD and the carbon market.  In response the UNFCCC, silenced our voices and ejected us from the Convention. All three of us are representatives of communities who are already being disproportionately impacted by climate change and the unjust social and economic conditions that have created this crisis. By penalizing and ejecting us as individuals the UN is also silencing the collective voices of our communities. We stand firmly rooted in our principles to lift the voices of women, young people, and Indigenous peoples throughout the world and to advance the real solutions to cooling the planet found in our grassroots movements. We stand in solidarity with the thousands of people who took action on Dec. 7, as part of the Global Day of Action.

Quotes from the 3 Banned Climate Justice Organizers:

“Our delegation came to the UNFCCC to bring forward our communities’ solutions to the climate crisis, to give testimony about the shifts happening to create local, place-based economies and reconnect to our mother earth. What we found were negotiations that excluded our participation so we took action to ensure our voices were heard.” — Joaquin Sanchez Jr. Youth for Climate Justice, Oakland, CA, USA

“How am I supposed to register the concerns of hundreds of Asian families poisoned by the Chevron oil refinery in Richmond, CA when the UN has selectively denied me access to the convention? The UN is systematically silencing the voices of impacted communities. We are experts in our own right, we know these issues all too well. Those who are on the front line of
the problem also need be on the front line of the solutions.” — Mari Rose Taruc, Asian Pacific Environmental Network and Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Richmond, CA USA

“I came to COP16 representing the public health concerns of low-income communities of color living in Los Angeles being impacted by toxic emissions. Throughout the past two weeks I have seen how the UNFCCC meeting has systematically limited and suppressed voices of dissent to programs being promoted through the UN such as REDD which will only increase the poisoning of the communities I represent back home.” — Sunyoung Yang, Bus
Riders Union and Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Los Angeles, CA USA

10 Dec, 2010
Posted in News, Forests and Climate Change