The Arctic Taking Climate Policy into our Own Hands

Amber Church

Icebergs off of Baffin Island

When you can see the impacts of climate change simply by walking out your back door it becomes a much harder reality to ignore.  Perhaps this is the reason why Canada’s Arctic has made the conscious decision to move forward with climate action irregardless of the actions of the federal government.

All three territorial governments, Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut have some version of a climate action or greenhouse gas emissions plan, many of which include hard emission  caps and independent reporting and verification through organizations such as the Climate Registry.  Northern First Nations governments similarly are taking strong stances on climate action and are working to increase their capacity and involvement in the issue – a number will be attending COP 16 for this purpose in fact.

The Wheaton Glacier whose retreat I studied for my masters research

The North is also working to greatly improve their capacity in climate change research.  The Arctic Council’s Arctic Climate Impact Assessment was a ground-breaking document that documented current and future climate impacts in the Circumpolar North led by and taking in the perspectives of people from the North.  Their upcoming work on Arctic oceans, due out shortly, will surely follow in these footsteps.  The results of the International Polar Year, likewise proved the vitality and quality of northern researchers and their ability to translate science and social science into strong policy outcomes.

All of these positive steps forward are unfortunately just steps however.  In many ways the North’s focus on taking action on climate change is driven by our need to – but the reality is we need others to join us. Its wonderful that our small population can help lead by example, but unless Canadians as a whole start to move towards stronger climate commitments, our small efforts won’t be enough to protect our home.


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