Tackling Climate Change: Development of Mitigation Policies With Indigenous Voices

Tackling Climate Change: Development of Mitigation Policies With Indigenous Voices

Brenda GUNN (Canada)

Faculty of Law, University of Manitoba, Canada

My presentation will speak about the need to include Indigenous peoples in developing and implementing climate change mitigation plans. My presentation will only briefly discuss how climate change impacts Indigenous peoples.  The focus will be on how the internationally recognized right to participate in decision making on the basis of free, prior and informed consent can be operationalized when states are developing climate change plans.  International law recognizes the right of Indigenous peoples to participate in decisions that impact their rights, yet few states are developing and implementing climate change plans with Indigenous peoples' participation. For example, Canada's INDC claims that climate change is a shared responsibility between Federal and provincial governments in Canada, with each level of government having “its own legal framework, policies and measures in place to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, a federal/provincial/territorial intergovernmental forum, has agreed that climate change will be on its agenda on an ongoing basis.”  Canada’s INDC completely ignores the role of Indigenous governments. This omission is particularly concerning as Indigenous peoples are at the frontlines of climate change and thus need to be included in the mitigation and adaptation planning. Without Indigenous peoples’ direct participation in climate change planning, states run the risk of downloading impacts onto already stressed and vulnerable communities. For example, Canada’s approach to clean energy includes investing in “low-impact hydro.” However, the impacts of hydro developments are directly felt by Indigenous peoples whose lands are subject to flooding and whose waterways are contaminated by increased mercury, etc. While “low-impact hydro developments” may help reduce Canada’s overall greenhouse gas emissions, Indigenous peoples are the ones who directly suffer from such approaches.  To ensure that climate change planning does not further exacerbate the existing vulnerabilities of Indigenous peoples, it is critical that Indigenous peoples are actively involved in the development and implementation of climate change plans.  My presentation will include a powerpoint presentation.



I am an Indigenous legal scholar in Canada.  My main research areas are on Indigenous peoples' rights in international law, as well as environmental law.  Most of my research relates to promoting the recognition and protection of Indigenous peoples' land rights.  I have a B.A. from the University of Manitoba and a J.D. from the University of Toronto.  I completed her LL.M. in Indigenous Peoples Law & Policy at the University of Arizona. I articled with Sierra Legal Defence Fund (now Ecojustice Canada), the preeminent environmental NGO in Canada. I was called to the bars of Law Society of Upper Canada and Manitoba. I also worked at a community legal clinic in Rabinal, Guatemala on a case of genocide submitted to the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights. I also worked with First Nations on Aboriginal and treaty rights issues in Manitoba. As a proud Metis woman I continue to combine my academic research with my activism pushing for greater recognition of Indigenous peoples' inherent rights as determined by Indigenous peoples’ own legal traditions. My research focuses on promoting greater conformity between international law on the rights of Indigenous peoples and domestic law.  I continue to be actively involved in the international Indigenous peoples’ movement, regularly attending international meetings, including the review of Canada before CERD.  I provided technical assistance to the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the analysis and drafting of the report summarizing the responses on the survey on implementing the UN Declaration. I developed a handbook on understanding and implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that is quickly becoming one of the main resources in Canada on the UN Declaration (http://www.indigenousbar.ca/pdf/undrip_handbook.pdf) and has delivered workshops on the Declaration across Canada and internationally.  In 2013, I participated in the UNITAR Training Programme to Enhance the Conflict Prevention and Peacemaking Capacities of Indigenous Peoples’ Representatives, which continues to impact my research.  

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