Robert Comeau is an alumnus of SOI’s 2015 Arctic Expedition, a proud Inuk, and actively involved in representing the youth voice on issues affecting the Arctic and its people.
Through a series of photo and text blogs titled “Inuk in Paris” Rob shares his journey at COP21 in Paris where he will speak to his perspective on the Arctic, the challenges and opportunities facing this region and engages with youth and leaders from around the world on solutions for a better future.
See Rob’s journey through photos and check back on the previous posts:
by: Robert Comeau
As we enter into the final stages of negotiations here at Le Bourget, negotiations are reaching into the early hours of the morning and starting up again only a few hours later. This is a time when world leaders need to put national interests aside and come to a compromise to ensure a comprehensive agreement that is ambitious in order to set targets that will bring emissions down to pre-industrial levels. The primary narrative at this point is to halt the warming to 2 degrees pre-industrial levels. However, this is a global average, 2 degrees for the world would be closer to 7 or 8 degrees in the Arctic. The implications of this are irreconcilable to those that live in the Arctic. Entire communities would have to be relocated, traditional methods of acquiring food will disappear, and the entire way of life of Arctic indigenous communities will be drastically altered. Indigenous peoples rights are embedded in international agreements such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples of 2007 so it should consequently be present in the Paris Accord.
The draft document is subject to continuous changes because of influences from the inside and the outside. At this point in the negotiations, it is crucial to acknowledge the work being done by not only the negotiators but also Civil Society and the Media. These partnerships and synergies present a viable option to collaboratively lobby countries and negotiators in the best possible manner.
For example, The Indigenous Peoples Caucus (IPs Caucus) meets every morning to bring all indigenous stakeholders onto the same page and ensure that we do not become marginalized in these deliberations. Peoples from South America are lobbying the representatives from their country just as peoples from all over North America, the Pacific and other parts of the world are mobilizing to ensure that the rights of Indigenous Peoples are entrenched in the final text. This Caucus has also facilitated a number of ACTIONs, which are demonstrations here inside of the Blue Zone of COP21, where only accredited individuals can enter. On the 9th of November, the IPs Caucus hosted an ACTION where we were able to garner attention through chants and songs from the general public inside the event to include Indigenous rights in Article 2.2 of the final Paris agreement.
Indigenous rights are briefly mentioned in Preamble of the draft text released on December the 9th, but this is not enough. The Preamble is purely aspirational and is not legally binding. Recognizing, respecting, and protecting Indigenous rights need to be present in the operative text to ensure that those the most affected by Climate Change, Indigenous communities, are protected. Developed countries are worried about the liability that comes with this entrenchment and the possible financial obligations that come from these liabilities. It is interesting to note that Indigenous knowledge is recognized in the operative text in Article 4, which is focused on Adaptation. The draft text points to integrating Indigenous peoples knowledge into the relevant socioeconomic and environmental policies and actions when talking about mitigation of changes to our climate. Inuit have been able to adapt to their environment since time immemorial and will no doubt be the same with the changes we are seeing in our communities. It is no longer a question if we are going to see changes and that we will be able to adapt to them, but a question of empowering Arctic indigenous communities through the operative text in the Paris Accord.
UNFCCC COP21 has been an amazing experience for many people including indigenous peoples from the Arctic and is a source of hope for many. The Arctic is home to polar bears, sea ice, and humans who will all adapt to the changes in their environment accordingly and there is a certain optimism that the international community will commit to protecting some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world.