Climate change ‘impacts how we exist,’ says Métis leader at global climate summit.
From disappearing salmon stocks and caribou herds to wildfires and a changing landscape, Indigenous leaders are sharing their impressions at the UN climate summit of how a warming planet is impacting their communities and way of life.
They’re also pushing to have a stronger voice in how countries and the UN tackle climate change.
“It literally impacts everything we do,” said Dane de Souza, the climate change policy advisor with the Métis National Council.
There is no amount of money that can compensate communities for the loss and damage from climate change, said de Souza, who made the trip from Manitoba to Dubai to take part in COP28.
“It impacts how we gather at the table as a family, it impacts how we pass on our knowledge and our memories to our children from our grandparents and beyond. It impacts how we live. It impacts how we exist and it impacts how we enjoy life in Canada,” he said, while speaking on stage at an event.
There are several dozen Indigenous representatives from Canada at the climate talks, including youth, elders and business leaders.
‘Loss and damage’
“There is not enough time in the day to properly explain how much damage has been caused by climate change,” said Lorraine Netro, an elder from the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation in Yukon, who fought back tears while speaking at an event focused on Indigenous perspectives and experiences.
“It’s really emotional when we talk about our homelands and when we talk about loss and damage because everything that is alive keeps us as First Nations people in our traditional territory alive,” said Netro.
To be in the United Arab Emirates for COP28 is a homecoming of sorts for Raylene Whitford. She lives in Alberta, but spent some of her career in finance in the UAE. She’s proud to see so many Indigenous voices at the UN summit.
“Historically, we’ve been excluded from these types of conversations. So it’s so great to see Indigenous people from so many different countries here at the conference,” said Whitford, a director with the Canadian Sustainability Standards Board.
The climate conference is an opportunity to share ideas, collaborate and find new opportunities in managing important issues, such as the environment, energy, and economic prosperity, said Karen Ogen, chief executive of the First Nations LNG Alliance and a member of a group called Energy for a Secure Future.
“In Canada, we have economic reconciliation, but at the same time too, we have climate initiatives that we need to be very cognizant of and be very diligent in how we’re going to mitigate those in B.C. and in Canada,” she said.
“Our First Nations are continuously having to manage poverty and we want to be able to start to manage prosperity,” said Ogen.
In October, the Assembly of First Nations released a national climate strategy, which included seven priority areas such as prioritizing First Nations knowledge and ensuring First Nations are equipped to mitigate, prevent, respond, and recover from all emergencies.
During the first day of COP28, countries agreed on a tentative deal to create the world’s first climate damage fund. The agreement is designed to help developing countries cope with the impacts of climate change such as floods, drought and rising sea levels.
While communities in Canada wouldn’t qualify for the fund, Indigenous leaders say they want their voices and experiences to be heard as there is a growing international spotlight on the issue of loss and damage from climate change.
“We have to be the voice for the water. We have to be the voice for the land,” said Myrle Ballard, director of Indigenous science at Environment and Climate Change Canada.
Related stories from around the North :
Antarctica : Blog : COP28 in oil-rich Dubai – Can states agree action to protect the cryosphere ?, Irene Quaile
Norway : Lawmakers in Norway make a deal opening up for deep sea mining in Arctic Ocean, The Associated Press