World leaders at last year’s international climate change conference COP26 pledged $1.7 billion to support Indigenous people’s efforts to protect their rights and land. Led by the United States, United Kingdom, Norway, Germany, and more than a dozen philanthropic organizations, the financing is intended to support projects like mapping traditional territories, implementing conflict resolution mechanisms, and bolstering collective governance structures. The announcement was hailed as a historic commitment that could help the world’s governments stick to the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F).

But Indigenous leaders were skeptical.

“We cannot receive this news with enthusiasm because we were not consulted in the design of this pledge,” said the Global Alliance of Territorial Communities, an international Indigenous coalition, in a statement. “We suspect that many of these funds will be distributed through existing climate finance mechanisms, which have demonstrated great limitations in reaching our territories and supporting our initiatives.”

According to research by the Rights and Resources Initiative and Rainforest Foundation Norway—two nonprofit organizations dedicated to protecting forests and Indigenous rights— only 17 percent of global climate and conservation funding intended for Indigenous and local communities actually goes to projects led by Indigenous people. Indigenous women receive even less: roughly 5 percent of total world funding. The remaining money goes to larger organizations like the World Wildlife Fund and the Wildlife Conservation Society. But instead of waiting for the global climate and conservation funding model to change, Indigenous communities are taking action by starting local funds that support grassroots efforts, as well as larger international platforms and finance mechanisms that can raise and distribute money around the world.

Read the full article about protecting Indigenous lands by Joseph Lee at Grist.