A Nunavut climate activist hopes her keynote address translates into real-world action

Ashley Cummings, an Inuk from Pangnirtung, is calling for concrete action from world leaders as COP26 nears.

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Ashley Cummings spoke about Inuit perspectives on climate change at the World Forum on Climate Justice on Sept. 23. (Courtesy of Ashley Cummings via Nunatsiaq News)

Ashley Cummings stepped up to the virtual podium last month with the hope that her words will push world leaders to take action on climate change.

“I want that snowballing pressure to keep compounding,” said the Inuk activist.

She was speaking at the second annual World Forum on Climate Justice, a conference on how to advocate for people who are especially vulnerable to climate change. It was her first keynote address, and an opportunity she wanted to make the most of.

The forum was held virtually from Sept. 21 to Sept. 23, just one month before delegates from almost every country are set to meet at a UN-hosted conference in Scotland called COP26 with their own plans to reduce carbon emissions. 

Cummings, who was born in Pangnirtung, said her speech was about how climate change affects infrastructure and food security in the Arctic, and how that in turn affects the people who live there.

“We need to consider the humanity of [climate change]” Cummings said.

Cummings said her experience at this event was better than previous experiences where she would be invited to conferences as a panelist to represent an Indigenous perspective but not actually get the chance to participate.

But her first keynote speech would a have challenge other conferences she attended did not, as the whole event was online.

Before the pandemic, Cummings said she would find a crew of people at a conference to stick with throughout the whole event. Without that camaraderie being an option, she said that she was able to establish connections with her fellow speaker, Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim.

As well, Cummings she said interacted with the audience members through a question and answer part of her address.

“Despite the isolated feeling, there was still a lot of opportunity for connection,” she said.

As COP26 nears, Cummings said she wants to hear plans from global leaders about how to tackle climate change.

She said that she hopes the result is concrete action, so that “not only do we achieve [tackling climate change] but we hold ourselves and other countries accountable.”

“That’s definitely the goal,” Cummings said.

“I try my best to achieve it.”