• Indigenous Climate Action

ICA is at the UNFCCC, COP 23 in Bonn, Germany


Hi, My name is Heather Milton-Lightening.


I’m from Treaty Four and live in the beautiful Qu’Appelle valley. I’m a steering committee member with ICA. I just wanted to put together a short blog post on #COP23 for you. Since I will be attending the, “United Nations Framework on Climate Change Conference,” in Bonn, Germany from November 6-17th representing ICA on the “It Takes Roots Delegation of ITR.” This meeting is also called the “conference of the parties,” meaning governments not parties as in fun, also why everyone uses the hashtag #COP23 since this is the 23rd session. Yes, 22 international meetings on Climate Change have happened already.

What’s going to happen in Bonn? 25000 people from Governments, organizations and business will be attending #COP23. If you’ve been paying attention to these international meetings you would know that an international agreement was created at #COP21 called the Paris Agreement. This agreement outlined the international strategy to fight climate change. A link to the text of the Paris agreement is here: http://unfccc.int/paris_agreement/items/9485.php

Since the Paris Agreement was ratified in November 2016, the UNFCCC has been working on how to implement the outcomes of the agreement.

In short, very short the Paris Agreement countries said they would agree to the following:

  • To keep global temperatures "well below" 2.0C (3.6F) above pre-industrial times and "endeavor to limit" them even more, to 1.5C

  • To limit the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity to the same levels that trees, soil and oceans can absorb naturally, beginning at some point between 2050 and 2100

  • To review each country's contribution to cutting emissions every five years so they scale up to the challenge. Every country has an individual plan (or “Nationally Determined Contributions”) to tackle its greenhouse gas emissions

  • For rich countries to help poorer nations by providing "climate finance" to adapt to climate change and switch to renewable energy.

So #COP23 is about the how. How to get this process done. People are now talking about the negotiations being about the “rulebook.” Meaning how will this process be governed, under what timelines, etc.

Paris was challenging for Indigenous Peoples. We almost didn’t make it into the text of the agreement. Which would’ve set a precedence for the exclusion of Indigenous Peoples rights globally. We are in the text but mention only a few times and of course without the recognition that Indigenous Peoples lands carry 90% of the world bio-diversity yet we are maybe 2% of the global population. That speaks volumes. Or the recognition of our rights. So for the negotiations on Indigenous Peoples for this #COP23 a lot of discussion while be around Indigenous knowledge in the implementation as this one of the points that made it into the Paris Agreement. To regain ground in terms of Indigenous Rights within the implementation we have a lot of work to do!

Other challenges, impacted communities globally were calling for the end of the fossil fuel regime. Telling the world’s leaders to “keep it in the ground.” No new oil, gas, coal projects. A moratorium on Tar Sands mining, ect. We can’t afford to continue to pollute at the rate we are. Impacted communities are those at the source of the extraction- where the mines, where the oil wells are; and those who live in refining communities like Aamjiwnaang who has 63 petro chemical companies in 50 km radius.

False solutions. That’s a big one. More nuclear energy, green coal development, mega and micro hydro dam projects, bio-mass, and the list goes on. We know that substituting one extraction process for another doesn’t solve the problem. For example, expanding nuclear energy probably isn’t the greatest idea considering we don’t have anywhere to store it. No one wants to be contaminated and nor should they be in the lifecycle of nuclear-period.

Finance. This one is a big one too. Why? Well who is going to pay for the implementation of the Paris Agreement. What about small island states and other places impacted by climate already? In the Arctic, who pays for a community like Shishmaresh to move inland as permafrost is eroding the shore line the community is built on? Or the impacts of severe storms that continue to hit the Caribbean? The Paris Agreement has created funds for mitigation, adaptation and resilience*; including technology transfers. Specifically funds that are prioritized for the global south. Global north countries that expend the most greenhouse gases (GHG) are expected to pay into the funds. However, with the US who is responsible for 15% of GHG emissions globally deciding to leave the agreement, it should be interesting. Considering the US government under Obama committed $3 Billion to the Green Climate Fund.

Carbon Markets. So, this is a big bone of contention. This creates a new global market where polluters can write off their carbon emissions by buying offsets. For example, if Shell was burning x amount of carbon into the atmosphere, they would buy the same amount of offsets. Offsets being forests, marshes, any “natural” place that stores carbon from the atmosphere! There are active carbon markets being developed in California, Ontario and Alberta. The contention becomes around the buyer’s. Do they just accumulate offsets and never stop polluting? Does this market solution just mean corporations will now be buying and selling our forests? We’ve seen mono-culture projects that eradicate land to plant trees that according to science absorb the most carbon the fastest. What does this mean for Indigenous rights? Or the forests. Cap’s are also being talked about. Putting a cap on the amount of emissions. So you could pollute up to this amount but not exceed it. Then you would trade offsets to keep yourself under the capped amount of emissions. Again, does this actually slow down extraction?

Legally binding. Okay so this is a big deal for any international agreement to be legally binding. Hence a treaty is legally binding and recognized internationally as such. The Paris Agreement is for the most part is voluntary. There are few ways to enforce the agreement. For example, Canada decides not to contribute to the Green Climate Fund? What would the repercussions be? Economic sanctions? Probably not. That’s the challenge of the international scene within the UN, everything is up for negotiation. Everyone is looking out for themselves. It’s hard to get 200 countries to agree on something, let alone enforce it.

Okay so that’s super brief. I could go into deep, deep detail. But we don’t have time for that. Let’s just take a brief look at home. Canada under Justin Trudeau has created a new cabinet leader for Climate Change- Katherine McKenna and with that the Pan Canadian Climate Framework as Canada’s plan to meet our requirements under the Paris Agreement. However, once you’re are done reading through all the texts, reports, findings, and readings produced by Canada you begin to see some drastic holes. Somehow Canada is proposing to meet, “emissions abatement pathway consistent with net emissions falling by 80% in 2050 from 2005 levels” through clean technology, transition to a low carbon economy, a scale up of research and development, and private sector investment. Which are all good things and we should be doing them anyways, Paris Agreement or not. But not once in any of the documents does Canada talk about the Tar Sands or oil and gas. That’s giant, well more like largest human development project on earth size hole in their proposed plans. We are one of the largest contributors to emissions globally thanks to the tar sands development, and without a phase out plan we will never meet our requirements.

What is ICA doing? We’re looking inward. We believe our people are the best solutions to climate change. The way we live, our understanding of the world around us and our practice of our knowledge slow the impacts of climate change. We believe we are our own best experts, the solutions lie in our communities and we can save ourselves. We’re developing a toolkit to do that. We are working on ways to elevate the voices of communities. We’re paying attention to other communities globally for best practices, models and projects that are working for Indigenous Peoples. We’re figuring it out too while trying to pay attention to the on goings of the Canadian government, the world of non-profits and the communities we work with.

What am going to be doing? Representing ICA where ever I can. I have accreditation to go inside the official UN meetings so I hope to update you on the negotiations as they happen. I will be participating at the Global Indigenous Caucus meetings during #COP23. As a member of the ITR delegation I will be speaking at a number of events about ICA, the challenges of climate change in our homelands and the solutions we see. I hope to do some interviews with key people too so you can get a sense of what is going on out there in the world to solve this massive global problem. Please feel free to message and comment, the more input the better!

*Mitigation: Slowing the rate of global warming, Adaptation: Taking steps to live with the effects of global warming

#cop23 #UnitedNations

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