We are standing at the crossroads – AMC Grand Chief Nepinak

Grand Chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC).
Grand Chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC).

VANCOUVER – CLIMATE – Assembly of Manitoba Grand Chief Derek Nepinak issued the following statement on the Indigenous Peoples/Federal Government meetings in Vancouver on Climate Change:

“Following a call by the Prime Minister of Canada for a meeting with Indigenous leadership, the Assembly of First Nations called for a two-day preparatory meeting with First Nations leaders from across the country to prepare to address the Prime Minister on climate change. As an invited guest of the AFN Regional Chief Kevin Hart, I brought forth the ‘Great Binding Law’ as developed and articulated by a cross representation of women and men Elders from the Manitoba Region during our engagement as Intervenors at the National Energy Board hearings on Enbridge’s Line 3 replacement project.

Ogichi Tibakonigaywin (“The Great Binding law” in English) speaks to the elements needed to form the foundation for effective planning for addressing climate change and ensuring we keep our lands, air and water safe for generations to come. Many of the participants in the preparatory meeting cited the great binding law and documented it for their own discussions within their respective regions.

We know from the Paris COP21 meetings in early 2016 that we are standing at a crossroads respecting the ability of humankind to continue to live comfortably on the surface of our mother the Earth. We know that the goals of the Paris agreement do not become effective until 2020 and that a sense of urgency must be instilled in current government deliberations respecting climate change. This sense of urgency must be brought by Indigenous communities who are living with the impacts of climate change every day. In this reality, we must demonstrate leadership and be at the forefront of planning and implementing climate change policy. We can do this because we are the original stewards of this land and governments around the world are looking to indigenous knowledge now to help save ourselves from ourselves.

Paris COP21 also reminds us that there is a threshold of 1.5-2.0 degrees Celsius global warming before we reach a point of no return. That is, if we pass the threshold of 1.5-2.0 degrees Celsius, the planet could become uninhabitable for human beings in the next 30-40 years. This is a bleak outlook considering that we have a responsibility as parents to leave the world in a better place than we found it. It must be with the goals of preserving our planet for all future generations that we must begin developing and implementing mitigation and adaptation plans immediately.

Mitigation and adaptation plans must take into consideration the impacts of projects that would continue to expand the use of fossil fuels in energizing the mobility and lifestyles of people around the world. We know that in order to stay within the targets identified in the Paris agreement, we must leave at least 80% of known oil reserves around the world in the ground. This means that adaptation to new sources of energy that are sustainable and efficient is of the utmost importance. It also means that we must look to existing project proposals to expand fossil fuel utilization and pipeline expansion with an increasingly skeptical view of how these projects will help us prevent future climate calamity.

As the original peoples of these lands, we were successful stewards of our ecosystems for thousands of years. It is the knowledge of the land that we carry within our memories and DNA that will lead the way

towards sustainable energies for future generations. In order to realize our responsibility and build the necessary capacities, we must build meaningful, consistent and permanent participation in any state mechanism that is designed to begin compartmentalizing and working towards climate change solutions. The Liberal government has recently committed to developing a ‘pan-Canadian Climate Change Strategy’, which we believe will be the general framework for the First Minister Meeting happening in Vancouver on March 2nd & 3rd. The framework, which the government has yet to fully develop, is said to be a six-month project that will include four components;

1. Clean technology, innovation and jobs

2. Carbon Pricing

3. Sectoral mitigation opportunities

4. Adaptation and resilience

These four working groups may be broken into smaller working sub-groups and will likely take on a fairly intensive process over the coming months. The degree to which indigenous participation will be included in this federal plan is not yet ascertained however Canada has committed to a ‘nation to nation’ approach for this process. How that will look has yet to be determined.”

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