Tibet Third Pole joined NGOs from around the world today at the UN’s climate-change negotiations in Bangkok, Thailand, to advocate for equitable and durable solutions to the world’s growing climate-change crisis. For Tibetans and more than one billion Asians downstream from Tibet, the stakes couldn’t be higher.
Known as the Earth’s Third Pole because it holds more freshwater, stored as glacial ice, than any other place on Earth except the Arctic and Antarctic, the Tibetan Plateau is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world. Scientists are already warning of the disruption of essential ecosystem services, including water resources, as well as increasing risk of catastrophic floods and impacts to the Indian monsoon, which provides vital rainfall to people from Pakistan to eastern China.
China’s response to this growing climate-change crisis has been two-fold. First, China has begun building dozens of mega-dams and water diversion projects to capture and re-direct water from a region that stretches from Pakistan, through India and SE Asia to an increasingly thirsty China.
Second, China is forcibly removing all of Tibet’s 2.25 million nomadic herders from the region’s high-altitude grasslands, exacerbating a climate-change crisis with a human-rights crisis and covering it all up with a greenwash of landscape-scale conservation.
“This human-rights crisis comes despite the traditional ecosystem knowledge that the nomads have used, every day for millennia, to live sustainably on the plateau,” said Venerable Ngawang Woeber, a member of Tibet Third Pole and president of the NGO Guchusum.
“China’s removal of Tibet’s nomads only worsen the climate-change crisis already affecting the region, even as scientific evidence continues to confirm the nomads’ positive role in promoting ecosystem abundance, diversity, and resilience. Why on Earth would you remove a people whose knowledge is essential to the restoration, management, and conservation of ecosystem services that more than a billion people depend on?”
“We formed Tibet Third Pole in response to China’s threat to Tibetans and Asians alike,” said Charlotte Mathiassen, co-coordinator of Tibet Third Pole. “We seek to build alliances and collaborations with scientists, governments, NGOs, and peoples across Asia whose fate and future depend on the ecosystem services that the Tibetan Plateau provides."
Tibet Third Pole’s mission focuses on advocacy and alliance building in order to secure:
An immediate halt to all land uses that threaten the Tibetan Plateau's ecosystems and ecosystem services, especially the plateau’s water resources;
An independent, international scientific assessment of the Tibetan Plateau's ecosystems, ecosystem services, & land-use policies;
An immediate halt to the removal of Tibetan nomads from the grasslands;
The use of social & ecological assessment tools & data to determine appropriate human & ecosystem adaptation and mitigation strategies on behalf of sustainable land uses and landscape-scale conservation;
Transparent, inclusive, & participatory transboundary resource management & decision-making mechanisms that include all local and regional stakeholders whose lives depend on the ecosystem services of the Tibetan Plateau, including Tibet’s nomadic herders;
The creation of strategic conservation zones across the Tibetan Plateau as a way to enhance the health of ecosystem services & that involve and support the traditional livelihoods and sustainable land-use practices, both in Tibet and in downstream nations.
The world has gathered in Bangkok to continue addressing the ethical challenge that climate change has created: Does a sovereign nation have a moral responsibility to act not only in its own self-interest, but also in the interest of people living beyond its borders?
We answer yes, and agree with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that these negotiations constitute a “moral imperative” they must be “guided by the principles of equity and transparency, and involve all in the decisions that affect us all.”
“We formed Tibet Third Pole to seek just and enduring solutions not only on behalf of the Tibetan Plateau, Tibet’s nomads, and their essential role in sustaining the plateau’s critical ecosystem services,” said Kirti Dolkar Lhamo, president of Tibetan Women's Association and a member of the T3P alliance. “We are here to work with all whose lives depend on the shared, life-sustaining ecosystem services that the Tibetan Plateau provides.”