Washington DC – In a joint statement released last week, President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised that their two countries would “play a leadership role internationally in the low carbon global economy over the coming decades.” They announced new commitments to work together to boost investment in clean energy; establish a pan-Arctic marine protection network and low-impact Arctic shipping corridors; limit greenhouse gas emissions, including methane; and pursue a number of other initiatives designed to slow global warming and speed up protection of the fragile Arctic.
Below is a response statement by the Indigenous Environmental Network and the Alaska Native network – REDOIL.
Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network states:
“We welcome President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s bilateral dialogue and joint statement on Climate, Energy and Arctic Leadership. IEN particularly welcomes the commitment to respect and promote the rights of Indigenous peoples in all climate change decision making. The stated commitment to cut methane emissions from oil and gas operations is admirable and is a strong step towards reducing North America’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It is encouraging to hear these leaders talk publicly about reducing GHG emissions and the threat methane poses to overall climate stability.
However, we are concerned that this U.S.-Canada shared vision also promotes a business as usual approach with no further commitments to building a 100 percent clean economy by 2050 and keeping at least 80 percent of fossil fuels in the ground. It appears to rely on carbon trading and offsets as solutions, which only allow carbon pollution to continue at the expense of the communities most affected, including communities in Alaska.
The Joint Statement says the US and Canada intends to implement their INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) pledges for emission cuts as well as providing help to developing country partners. However, citizens need to know these INDCs are a farce. They will not prevent the stabilization of the global temperature to the 1.5 OC aspiration threshold cited in the Paris Agreement. Instead some scientists project that if we implement the current INDCs on the table, we could see global temperature rise by as much as 6 to 8 degrees Celsius by the end of this century.
Furthermore, IEN rejects the integration of mega-hydro power as renewable energy, as stated in the Joint Statement. IEN is reminded of the Pimicikamak Cree Nation of Manitoba, Canada whose lands are flooded by a mega-hydro dam, who are vehemently opposed to US and Canadian renewable energy standards that allow energy generated by mega hydro dams to be classified as renewable energy. This rejection also applies to agrofuel and large format biomass projects that use native and GE trees and tree plantations as energy sources for power generation. Under the Statement’s section on the acceleration of clean technology innovation, Obama and Trudeau include strengthening unconventional oil and gas and carbon capture and storage (CCS). This means more hydraulic fracturing development that many community-based Indigenous peoples are rejecting. CCS is also not supported by many Indigenous peoples, as it violates indigenous natural laws and traditional knowledge.”
The Joint Statement also makes a lot of reference to the Arctic.
Faith Gemmill, Executive Director of Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands (REDOIL), a grassroots Alaska Native group in Alaska states:
“The Joint Statement’s mention of Indigenous sovereignty and inclusion of Indigenous rights is a particularly bitter pill to swallow for Alaskan Natives. We’ve seen our ancestral lands transferred to corporate entities created by land claims and our rights traded for profit at any and all cost. The sovereign authority of Alaska Natives continues to be undermined along with our ancestral ways of life. Business as usual with oil, gas, coal development is devastating and only compounds the effects of climate change.
“Our reality calls for our land and ecosystem to be left intact, that our rights as Indigenous peoples remain intact. We do not support any agreement, which would continue to threaten our ability to engage in our traditional ways of life. The Joint Statement does little to address this reality, but calls for false solutions such as carbon markets and offsets to somehow end the reality of melted glaciers and sea-ice, rising sea levels, and the pollution of our Arctic homelands.”
Lorraine Netro of Old Crow Agency, Yukon, Canada and Gwich’in Steering Committee board member says:
“For our people, the 15 rural communities that comprise the Gwich’in Nation of Alaska and Canada, protection of the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has always been an international issue. The food security and human rights of the Gwich’in are directly tied to the Porcupine Caribou Herd whose calving and nursing grounds are on the Coastal Plain. Our Ancestral knowledge has long indicated what Western science only more recently has validated – that the Coastal Plain is the biological heart of the Arctic Refuge. We urge President Obama and Prime Minister Trudeau to take immediate actions now for further protections as we face continued threats of oil drilling for this sacred and biologically critical area.”