Inuit group travels to Glasgow for COP26

The Inuit Circumpolar Council has three calls to action to share at the world’s biggest conference on climate change.

By David Lochead, Nunatsiaq News - November 4, 2021
Inuit Circumpolar Council Vice President Lisa Koperqualuk speaks at the Inuit Studies Conference in Montreal in 2019. (Lisa Gregoire / Nunatsiaq News file photo)

As an unusually warm autumn lingers in Nunavut, with temperatures hovering several degrees above normal, a group of Inuit are making demands on the world’s biggest stage for discussing climate change.

Lisa Koperqualuk and others from the Inuit Circumpolar Council have gone to Glasgow, Scotland, to represent Inuit at the 26th annual United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP26.

It’s is the largest annual event for representatives of nations and other organizations, as well as individuals, to discuss and commit to action on climate change.

“It’s giving us an opportunity to speak out and have a voice,” Koperqualuk, vice-president of the ICC, said about her involvement in the event.

Koperqualuk is from Puvirnituq, Nunavik, where said she has noticed the impacts of climate change in her hometown this October, as there was no snow.

“I was very surprised,” she said, adding that normally October is a time when blizzards are starting and ice is forming. Warmer temperatures mean people in Puvirnituq have to wait longer for the ice to be solid enough to travel on.

Joining Koperqualuk are ICC chairperson Dalee Sambo Dorough, National Inuit Youth Council president Brian Pottle and several Inuit elders and knowledge holders.

The ICC has released a paper with three calls to action to attendees of COP26. It calls for unprecedented efforts to cap global emissions, the inclusion of Indigenous knowledge and participation in climate decisions and the inclusion of Inuit input in international policy for the protection of Arctic waters.

But making these calls at a global conference means the group has to make their positions heard as some of the world’s most influential people, like Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and billionaire Jeff Bezos, make highly publicized commitments.

“It’s a challenge in itself to participate in a very large conference like this,” Koperqualuk said.

But she added that even though Inuit are a small group of peoples compared to the rest of the world’s population, ICC members will still have space to advocate at the conference.

The Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform at the conference is an opportunity for groups like the ICC to share traditional knowledge to be included in research and policy toward climate change.

Koperqualuk said she will be participating in two events at COP26, both on shipping.

She will be a speaker at an event on Friday, titled reducing ships’ black carbon emissions to protect the Arctic, where she plans to address the carbon emissions of ships operating in the region.

For the session on marine governance, she said she plans to advocate for Inuit involvement in decisions regarding marine transportation through Arctic waters.

“We’re having our voice here to say, ‘We must participate in governance regarding maritime transport,’” Koperqualuk said.

She also said the ICC has applied to become a non-country member of the International Maritime Organization, and a decision is expected this month.

“It’s a longer wait.”