On December 2 -13, 2019, leaders from almost 200 countries gathered in Madrid, Spain at the 2019 United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference (COP 25) to address the next crucial steps in the UN climate change process. Mountains were prominently featured at COP 25, where many stakeholders gathered to raise awareness about the effects of climate change on fragile mountain environments and communities. Several events were dedicated specifically to mountain areas and promoting their resilience to climate change.
Canadian Mountain Network (CMN) Co-Research Director Norma Kassi attended COP 25 where she joined the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus as a guiding Elder and adviser for negotiations. As a member of the Vuntut Gwich’in First Nation and the Wolf Clan, local traditional knowledge was passed down to Norma from a young age. For over 30 years, she has been working on issues related to food security, climate change, Indigenous protected areas, protection of species and ecosystems, Indigenous-led and community-based research, youth engagement, building community capacity, and supporting the growth of Land Guardians, stewards and monitors.
“COP 25 occurred at an important time and place to bring Indigenous knowledge to the dialogue of climate change, especially when our homelands in the Arctic are melting quickly and of huge concern to us daily,” says Norma. “In our country, we have the biggest mountains in the world, and the glaciers in those mountains are experiencing the detrimental effects of climate change. It is absolutely paramount to engage the youth, work with them and build capacity at every level as we move forward and take action.”
Norma spoke on four different panels addressing conservation of mountain ecosystems on the ground through partnerships, Indigenous knowledge as a solution for climate change, building capacity for Indigenous youth living in the Yukon and Northwest Territories, and the importance of Indigenous-led research and land-use planning. She also reported on government support to address challenges facing Indigenous communities, who are leading the way towards climate solutions, including through renewable energy technologies.
Norma Kassi meets Greta Thunberg
During the COP 25 event entitled, “Nature-based solutions on the ground (SDG15): UN support to people and landscapes”, Norma highlighted the benefits of mountains for humans and ecosystems, and the threat posed by melting glaciers to mountain communities. This event brought together UN agencies and partners representing Indigenous peoples and local communities, the private sector, and youth to demonstrate collaborative actions between agencies, funds and programmes to address climate issues through the lens of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with a particular focus on SDG 15 (life on land).
Norma also discussed how CMN is supporting several Indigenous-led projects across the country targeting issues such as traditional laws and wildlife management, the development of Indigenous protected areas, the creation of community-led climate change research protocols, and the importance of training and mentoring Indigenous youth by Indigenous leaders across Canada
“The most important thing for our youth right now is to have a very in-depth understanding of our history as Indigenous peoples and the ways of which we have survived up to now, to build resiliency in all aspects of their lives – emotionally, spiritually, physically and mentally. We need land-based training and education for our youth which is the most ethical space for Indigenous peoples to learn and be empowered to create change. CMN is working towards braiding Indigenous and Western knowledge together and I’m excited to be a part of that.”
Norma also had the chance to speak with youth climate activist Greta Thunberg. “It was a pleasure just to take the time to say thank you to Greta Thunberg, for her incredible work in rallying up the world’s attention to this crisis that we are all faced with,” says Norma.
The world is finally recognizing that they cannot achieve conservation goals without Indigenous peoples and traditional knowledge. Through this event, international climate change experts learned about Indigenous communities across Canada, who are leading the way to climate solutions. COP 25 was an opportunity to engage in discussions, provide ideas and solutions, create partnerships and represent Canada at the highest level while supporting world Indigenous leaders and showcasing achievements in Canada to the world.