A Handbook of Contemporary Research
Edited by Matthew Rimmer
Chapter 16: Intellectual property, Indigenous knowledge and climate change
Indigenous communities have been hard hit by the impacts of environmental degradation, biodiversity and climate change. Carola Betzold and Anaid Flesken have observed: About 300 million people belong to one of the roughly 5,000 Indigenous peoples worldwide. While their ecological footprint is very small, Indigenous peoples tend to be disproportionately affected by environmental problems, for they tend to live in sensitive ecosystems, are closely related to, and directly depend on the natural environment and its resources. Environmental degradation hence compounds the already difficult situation of Indigenous peoples, who typically suffer from problems such as poverty, marginalisation, discrimination, and exclusion from policy-making processes. There has a particular concern about the impact of climate change and global warming upon Indigenous communities and their lands, territories, natural resources and associated traditional knowledge. There have been fierce debates over intellectual property, the environment, and climate change in a range of international fora. The question of the protection of Indigenous intellectual property and traditional knowledge has emerged during these international discussions. There has been a significant fragmentation of the global governance of intellectual property, climate change, and Indigenous knowledge. In a survey of intellectual property and climate change, the World Intellectual Property Organization acknowledged: ‘Although Indigenous peoples regard themselves as the mercury in the world’s climate change barometer, they are rarely considered in public discourses on climate change.
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