For Immediate Release; 12 December 2015

logo-cop-21-carr--Contacts: Lobsang Yangtso [English, Tibetan] or Mandie McKeown, International Tibet Network [English] +44 (0)7748 158 618.

[Paris] Tibetans and Tibet supporters in Paris welcomed the adoption of the COP21 Agreement, to limit warming to “well below” 2 degrees, but expressed disappointment that binding language on the protection of human rights had been deleted from the final text, and sent out an urgent call for action to protect the Tibetan Plateau. Tibet Third Pole [1], a coalition of Tibet Groups and individuals, has been working in Paris over the last two weeks, alongside French Groups and the Central Tibetan Administration, to raise concern about the environmental crisis on the Tibetan Plateau.

“We take away a number of positives from our time in Paris, having been able to convey our concerns about the Tibetan Plateau to a great many influential leaders, and make connections with like-minded organisations and peoples”, said Mandie Mckeown of International Tibet Network, which supported the Tibet Third Pole team.“This is the first universal climate agreement in history and it is commendable that there is mention of the aspiration to limit to warming of 1.5 degrees, but with the Tibetan Plateau warming more than twice as fast as the rest of the world, this hasn’t come a moment too soon. There is still so much work to be done for climate justice and Tibetans and Tibet supporters will continue to stand with other frontline communities in pressing for binding commitments to reduce warming still further.”

Tibet Third Pole is concerned that language which would have enshrined the protection of human rights was weakened, being removed from Article 2 (the “purpose” of the agreement), and expressed disappointment that references to people living under occupation were deleted entirely. [2] In this regard we express our appreciation to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights who called for groups on the front lines of the climate crisis, and those most vulnerable, to be given explicit protection in the agreement. “Indigenous peoples, migrants, older persons, minorities, children, persons with disabilities, those living under occupation, women and girls—all need and deserve dedicated attention”. [3]

Lobsang Yangtso, a Tibetan advocate for Tibet Third Pole who spent two weeks in Paris highlighting Tibet’s environmental crisis, said: “We welcome language in the agreement that recommends Climate Change adaptation take into account traditional knowledge, knowledge of indigenous peoples and local knowledge systems [Article 7] and recognises the the fundamental priority of safeguarding food security [Annex]. Now it is vital that these references are used to deliver justice for impacted people on the frontline of climate change. Tibet Third Pole will continue to press China to halt the removal of Tibet’s nomads from the Tibetan grasslands, a policy the EU has expressed concern about [4] and the suspension of which has been recommended by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food.” [5]

Tibet Third Pole’s call for action to protect the Tibetan Plateau includes the following steps:

  • To highlight the plateau’s global importance as both a climate regulator and watershed, we call for an immediate independent scientific analysis on the state of the Tibetan Plateau, including listing and monitoring threatened and endangered species and regular independent information on the state of the melting of glaciers there. This information should available for downstream nations and communities.
  • We appeal to governments to press China halt its irresponsible environmental policies in Tibet, to cease the construction of mega-dams on Asia’s headwaters and to give stewardship of Tibet’s grasslands to Tibetan nomads.
  • We call for human rights language in the Paris Agreement to be strengthened at the earliest opportunity.
  • We urge the 10 Asian nations downstream from Tibet to form a multilateral forum to pressure China for an immediate moratorium on all damming and mining projects in Tibet, thereby leading to a more secure water-sharing environment in South and South East Asia and safeguarding food, water, ecological and economic security.

Lobsang Yangtso concluded: “A highlight of COP21 was being able to hand over the report “Tibet: An Environmental Challenge” [6] to the President of France, other Ministers and a number of UN leaders, but I consider much more important my meetings with so many people from frontline communities all over the world standing for climate action, especially nations downstream from Tibet. The success of these meetings depend on our building a strong network with them in future, in order to achieve our shared objectives of protecting the precious ecosystems of the Tibetan Plateau for the sake of all who depend upon it.”

1. Since the invasion of Tibet in 1949, Tibetans have been excluded from the stewardship of fragile Tibetan plateau, known widely as the the “Third Pole” due to the mass of ice fields that contain the largest reserve of fresh water outside the polar regions. Tibet is the source of the 10 major river systems that provide irrigation, power and drinking water for over 1.4 billion people in Asia – nearly 20% of the world’s population. Tibet Third Pole is facilitated by International Tibet Network ( and representatives in Paris included Tibetan Women’s Association, Australia Tibet Council, Tibet Justice Center, Students for a Free Tibet France, Regional Tibetan Youth Congress, France and France Tibet.
2. COP21 Final text is available at
3. See
4. See EU High Representative Catherine Ashton’s statement to the European Parliament: “The EU questions whether the objective of environmental protection can only be reached by eliminating the traditional way of life of Tibetans who have lived in harmony with nature for centuries.
5. The UN Rapporteur wrote: “Nomadic herders should be encouraged to contribute to adaptation strategies, rather than having to pay the price of changes they are not responsible for.”
6. This report was authored by Australia Tibet Council. See