17 September 2009: For immediate release
169 groups from the worldwide Tibet movement urge Ban Ki-Moon to act to save Tibet, the Earth’s Third Pole
Tibetans and supporters will protest against Hu Jintao at the UN Climate Summit, New York 22 September, to demand that China return stewardship of Tibet’s grasslands to Tibet's nomads
The Canada Tibet Committee has today signed a letter to the UN Secretary General (1) calling on him to use his influence to press China on climate-change protections for the Tibetan plateau - the Earth's Third Pole - and Tibet's nomads. 169 Tibet groups around the world, all members of the International Tibet Support Network, signed the letter in advance of the Secretary General's Climate Summit in New York on 22 September, which Hu Jintao will attend. On that day, Tibetans and supporters will protest outside the Summit (2) against China’s policy of removing Tibet's nomads from their land, and demand that the nomads become essential partners in all efforts at adapting to climate change in Tibet and Asia.
Called the Earth's Third Pole because it is the largest repository of glacially stored water outside the North and South poles, the Tibetan plateau is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world, melting the glaciers and placing at risk the so-called "ecosystem services" that more than a billion people, in ten Asian nations, depend on for life-giving sustenance.
China's permanent removal of Tibet's nomadic herders (3), from the very ecosystems that have defined their culture and livelihood, comes despite growing scientific evidence (4) which re-affirms that the nomads’ sustainable land-use practices actually enhance and protect the high altitude grassland ecosystems of the Tibetan plateau. Tibet's nomads must therefore be vital partners in restoring and conserving the ecosystems and ecosystem services that Asia - and especially China - depends upon.
"For over fifty years China’s policies in Tibet have degraded the environment and natural resources of the Roof of the World" said Dermod Travis. "Today, as over-exploitation and increased degradation of Tibet's ecosystems combine with the impacts of climate change, China's response to this international crisis is to permanently remove all two million nomads from Tibet's high-altitude grasslands. China's actions thus not only threaten the extinction of Tibet's nomads, but also threaten the future of a billion people who rely on healthy ecosystems in Tibet."
Tibet groups are calling on Mr Ban - who recently met with nomadic herders in Mongolia about adaptation to climate change - to advocate for the rights of Tibet's nomads during the Secretary General's Climate Summit on 22 September. In December, a Tibetan advocacy team will bring these issues directly to the UN's climate negotiations in Copenhagen at the so-called COP15. There they will speak on behalf of Tibetans in Tibet who - because they continue to live under China's occupation - do not have the freedom to express their views on how best to adapt to climate change and secure their own culture, livelihood, and wellbeing.
"Very few people know about the implications of the permanent removal of nomads from Tibet's grasslands, because China suppresses all debate on this issue (5)" said Travis. "We are calling on Secretary General Ban to make sure that all of Tibet's nomads are firmly on the climate change agenda as full partners in addressing how best to deal with climate change, in Tibet and for all who depend on Tibet."
i. Halt the removal of Tibetan nomads from the grasslands and return stewardship of Tibet's grasslands to Tibet's nomads.
ii. Halt all land uses that threaten the Tibetan Plateau's ecosystems, ecosystem services and water resources.
iii. Press China’s government to ensure that Tibetan nomads are the key decision-makers in any activities involving Tibetan grasslands and freely consent to any efforts made to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change in the region.
5. China has admitted a political motivation to the removal of the nomads. In 2007, the Tibet Autonomous Region Party Secretary Zhang Qingli stated that the restructuring of Tibetan farming and grazing communities was not only to promote economic development, but to counteract the Dalai Lama’s influence. http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2008/eap/119037.htm. In March 1998 Qi Jingfa, then China’s Vice-Minister of Agriculture, was quoted by Xinhua as stating that it was the Chinese government’s policy “to end the nomadic way of life for all herdsmen by the end of the century”.
The International Tibet Support Network (ITSN) is a global coalition of Tibet related non-governmental organizations, which works to maximize the effectiveness of the worldwide Tibet movement. ITSN Member organizations hold varied positions on Tibet's future political status, but all regard Tibet as an occupied country and are dedicated to ending human rights violations in Tibet, and to working actively to restore the Tibetan people's right under international law to determine their own political, economic, social, religious, and cultural status.