NWT delegation to bring Indigenous, youth voices to COP27
The territorial government is sending a five-person delegation to the United Nations’ 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) taking place in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, from November 6 to 18.
The conference is an annual climate change summit, where world leaders gather to discuss progress and negotiate agreements. It is known as COP27 because it is the 27th time world leaders from 197 nations that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992 will gather under the convention.
Last year, the GNWT faced criticism over the lack of Indigenous representation in the four-person delegation sent to attend COP26 in Scotland.
This year, the territorial government made sure to include Indigenous representatives, said Cory Doll, the NWT Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (ENR) manager of climate change and air quality.
Among the delegates is Phoebe Rabesca, a Tłı̨chǫ Government lands administration officer, and Monique Chapman, a waste reduction analyst with the GNWT who will be attending as a youth Indigenous representative.
Reegan Jungkind, a student at the University of Alberta, will also be attending as a youth representative. In addition, the GNWT is sending Doll and deputy minister of ENR Erin Kelly to the summit.
Rabesca and Chapman were selected by the territory’s climate change council, and Jungkind was selected by Ecology North, Doll said.
“I think that the delegation this year is very strong,” Chapman said. She is proud to be one of two Indigenous delegates, and is also proud that most of the representatives are women. “It’s, I think, setting a really good tone that so many women are really passionate about climate change, and really willing to get involved in the Northwest Territories.”
For Jungkind, who was born in Yellowknife and raised in Hay River, finding out that she was selected to attend the conference was surreal. “One of my biggest goals in life has always been to bring the Northwest Territories into international conversation and represent Northern voices,” she said. “I’ve been dreaming about this since I was probably like 11 or 12.”
Although North Americans often talk about climate change as if it is something happening somewhere else, Northerners experience climate change every day, she said. Jungkind and other delegates said they hope to bring this message to the conference and advocate for the North. In fact, the delegation will co-host an event with the Yukon government to bring attention to climate issues in the North.
A major focus for Doll is making sure that the unique circumstances in the North are well understood with national and international audiences, especially as federal climate change adaptation plans and policies are being developed.
“Sometimes, it’s weird, you go to COP and you have more of a chance to interact with, say, your federal colleagues than here. And with some new policies coming out, there’s a real good opportunity for them to understand some of that uniqueness and ways that the North might be different than the South,” he said.
Doll expects adaptation to be a key topic of discussion this year. Helping developing nations transition to renewable energy and climate reparations – a process where industrialized nations would pay developing nations to cover climate-related damages – are also expected to be core issues at COP27, the New York Times reported.
In some ways, the Northwest Territories is in a very similar situation as developing nations, Jungkind said. “It’s not like the rest of Canada, we’re still a little bit behind,” she said. Doll also points out that the NWT only accounts for 0.2 percent of Canada’s emissions, yet residents are experiencing significant climate change impacts.
Both Jungkind and Chapman intend to take in everything they can while at COP27 and come back with fresh insight and ideas. Chapman said she looks forward to learning more about how to engage with youth as the territory looks to form a climate change youth advisory group.
Having grown up hearing about the need to do something about climate change to protect future generations, youth are experts in their own right and bring an important perspective to the table, Chapman said. “We are those future generations, we’re already here.”