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February 3, 2023
In line with First Nations-in-Assembly resolution: Declaring a First Nations Climate Emergency (AGA 2019), the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) sent a delegation to the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP 27) for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which took place in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, November 6 to 20, 2022. The AFN has been participating in international climate negotiations for several years, including all recent COP events.
Representing the AFN at COP 27 were Kúkpi7 Judy Wilson of the Neskonlith Indian Band, BC Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Terry Teegee, Chief Harvey McLeod of the Upper Nicola Indian Band, Vuntut Gwitchin Elder Lorraine Netro and BC Assembly of First Nations Youth Council member Taylor Behn-Tsakoza. AFN Staff Mel White and Graeme Reed, as well as Union of BC Indian Chiefs Climate Policy Analyst Josh Kioke joined as technical support.
The impacts of a rapidly changing climate can no longer be ignored, nor are they disconnected from the intersecting biodiversity, food, water, and economic crisis facing countries around the globe. On the domestic front, First Nations on the East Coast are still recovering from Hurricane Fiona, which left tens of thousands of homes without power for weeks in 2022. On the West Coast, First Nations in British Columbia are rebuilding after an endless series of natural disasters, including recurring atmospheric rivers, long forest fire seasons, and higher temperatures. The frequency of such disasters will increase as Canada warms at a rate two times faster than the global average, while the north is warming three to four times faster. This confirms the concerns that First Nations Knowledge Keepers have been raising for several decades as disasters (both natural and structural) become increasingly common across Canada and the globe.
The changing climate is impacting First Nations’ way of life – from the environment to our economy, spirituality, and infrastructure – and our health. The magnitude of these challenges will require a transformational shift in the approach that Canada and the world is taking to address the climate crisis. It is evident that these current approaches are failing as emissions and inequality rise exponentially. Indigenous-led climate crisis solutions and approaches are critical.
COP 27 Priorities:
Considering these urgent issues, the AFN released a position paper, Setting First Nation Expectations for COP 27 in advance of COP 27. Grounded in the declaration of a First Nations Climate Emergency (05/2019), the position paper applied the First Nations Climate Lens to discussions occurring at the UNFCCC and shared three priority areas. These priorities were to:
Under each priority area, specific recommendations were shared in the full position paper. In addition to these substantive priorities, we identified a vital communication priority to amplify First Nations’ voices and climate leadership on the international stage. First Nations are uniquely positioned to lead efforts to protect, conserve and sustainably manage the environment due to our reciprocal relationship with all of Creation.
The AFN delegation played an important role in the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change (IIPFCC), also known as the Indigenous Peoples Caucus, participating in the Preparatory Caucus meeting, as well as daily Coordination meetings. Combined, over 250 Indigenous Peoples from around the world came together to discuss priorities, build solidarity, and develop negotiation positions related to loss and damage, Article 6, climate finance, and other relevant topics.
The AFN Delegation also participated in activities organized by the Facilitative Working Group (FWG) of the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform (LCIPP), including the second Annual Knowledge Holders Gathering, and the Inaugural Indigenous Youth Roundtable. In these events, Kúkpi7 Judy Wilson, Elder Lorraine Netro, and Taylor Behn-Tsakoza shared recommendations on how to support traditional knowledge and food systems for future generations, as well as how to enhance Indigenous youth inclusion within the UNFCCC.
At the Indigenous Peoples Pavilion, AFN hosted an event in collaboration with the Métis Nation (MNC) and Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) called Advancing Indigenous Climate Leadership: Lessons from First Nations, Métis Nation, and Inuit.
The AFN also participated in many side events, including Elder Lorraine Netro, who spoke at the Indigenous Women as Leaders in Climate Action panel, sharing her perspective on the importance of our lands, rights, and its connection to our identity.
For the first time, Canada hosted its’ own pavilion. The AFN delegation alongside representatives of the MNC and ICC played essential roles in opening and closing, as well as the organization of a dedicated day on Indigenous Climate Leadership.
COP 27 offered a significant opportunity to maintain the momentum from the second AFN National Climate Gathering, convened on the unceded and unsurrendered territory of the Wolastoqiyik, Mi’kmaq and Peskotomuhkati Peoples in September 2022. Over 450 First Nations leaders, Knowledge Keepers, women, men, youth, gender-diverse peoples, academics and allies participated in the Gathering, articulating the diversity of First Nations’ perspectives on climate change, and exploring First Nations-led climate solutions. These perspectives are essential as the AFN finalizes a National Climate Strategy.
COP 27 also provided a significant opportunity to call on Minister Steven Guilbeault, and newly appointed Ambassador for Climate Change, Catherine Stewart, to ensure that First Nations’ governance, laws, priorities, and worldviews breathe life into Canada’s climate plan committing to “position Indigenous climate leadership as a cornerstone of a strengthened climate plan.”
Finally, COP 27 ended with the announcement of a historic “loss and damage” fund. Countries reached this landmark decision to establish and run a loss and damage fund, particularly for nations most vulnerable to the climate crisis. The fund would support countries experiencing the effects of climate change; however, questions remain for how First Nations can participate meaningfully in these discussions.
For more information, please contact:
Assembly of First Nations