Building peace in the minds of men and women

Indigenous Knowledge and Science Policy

International climate change science and policy

Climate change policy and LINKS

Many small island, rural and indigenous peoples are already facing the first impacts of climate change. Their high vulnerability relates to their reliance upon resource-based livelihoods and the locations and configurations of their lands and territories. These communities however, are also key sources of knowledge and understanding on climate change impacts, responses and adaptation.

Since 2009, the LINKS programme has promoted indigenous knowledge and its inclusion in global climate science and policy. Through community dialogues, field studies, publications and convening events at local, national and global levels, the Climate Frontlines initiative has supported indigenous peoples, scientists and policymakers to understand how climate change impacts communities and how communities in turn use their knowledge to observe and respond.


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the international body for assessing the science related to climate change. IPCC reports provide the scientific basis by which governments may take decisions on addressing climate change. 

In 2009 the IPCC decided to focus attention on indigenous knowledge within its Fifth Assessment Report volume on climate change impacts, vulnerability and adaptation. Since then, UNESCO has worked both with IPCC and other bodies to support and advance global understanding of the links between indigenous knowledge and adapting to global climate change.

Released in 2014, the Fifth Assessment Report’s Summary for Policymakers supported the importance of indigenous peoples as a foundation for adaptation and recognized that these have currently not been used in adaptation.

Adaptation planning and implementation at all levels of governance are contingent on societal values, objectives, and risk perceptions (high confidence). Recognition of diverse interests, circumstances, social-cultural contexts, and expectations can benefit decision-making processes. Indigenous, local, and traditional knowledge systems and practices, including indigenous peoples’ holistic view of community and environment, are a major resource for adapting to climate change, but these have not been used consistently in existing adaptation efforts. Integrating such forms of knowledge with existing practices increases the effectiveness of adaptation.




The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) seeks to 'stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system.'  Since the Third Assessment Report of the IPCC, issues related to adapting to climate change have increasingly been under consideration by the UNFCCC bodies. One of the issues relates to the role of indigenous and traditional knowledge (ITK) in adaptation action.

ITK is strongly recognized in adaptation-related discussions at the UNFCCC

The 2015 Paris Agreement recognizes the role of indigenous knowledge

...adaptation action should follow a country-driven, gender-responsive, participatory and fully transparent approach, taking into consideration vulnerable groups, communities and ecosystems, and should be based on and guided by the best available science and, as appropriate, traditional knowledge, knowledge of indigenous peoples and local knowledge systems...

And the Decision adopting the Paris Agreement recognizes the need to strengthen it

135. Recognizes the need to strengthen knowledge, technologies, practices and efforts of local communities and indigenous peoples related to addressing and responding to climate change, and establishes a platform for the exchange of experiences and sharing of best practices on mitigation and adaptation in a holistic and integrated manner;