COP26 opened on Monday in Glasgow and members of the UdeM community are part of the Canadian delegation. They told us about their goals at the Conference.
Samuel Rainville, Coordinator of the First Peoples Student Centre at UdeM Student Services, and Eddy Pérez, International Climate Diplomacy Manager at Climate Action Network Canada and a lecturer on climate change and climate justice at UdeM, are part of Canada’s delegation at COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference being held in Glasgow, Scotland, through November 12. They took a few minutes to answer questions from UdeMNouvelles.
Why are you at COP26?
Eddy Pérez: Climate Action Network, which includes more than 1,500 organizations around the world, has a hundred members attending this conference. It’s always the largest delegation at a COP. I thought it would be valuable to have Samuel [Rainville] here because of his background as an urban Innu from the Pessamit community, his university education in environmental science, and his role as an ambassador for Mikana, a non-profit organization that raises awareness of Indigenous realities and perspectives among various audiences.
What exactly will you be doing at this big international meet?
Samuel Rainville: I will be meeting with Indigenous leaders from around the world. I want to find out about their best practices. This year in particular, I think Indigenous perspectives have a critical role to play at COP26. Indigenous people in many lands are often the first to feel the effects of climate change because of their lifestyle and particularly the way they feed themselves. Traditional Indigenous knowledge and scientific data complement each other and I think this deserves attention in academe and at international conferences. With the other members of civil society in attendance here, we want to exert pressure for a serious analysis of the current situation and to make sure the commitments made keep us under the critical threshold of 1.5°C global warming by 2030.
EP: We already have a meeting set up with Benoit Charette, Québec’s Minister of the Environment and the Fight Against Climate Change, and we hope to talk to other Québec and Canadian elected officials who are here, such as Québec Premier François Legault and Steven Guilbeault, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change. The goal is clear: climate action must be stepped up because we are already feeling the consequences of climate change. The voices of communities around the world must be heard and policy-makers must sit up and take notice.
Many people are pessimistic about the possibility of change because of the lack of political will. Are you still optimistic?
SR: Yes. In June, Canada passed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, which recognizes the right to self-determination and the right to protection of lands, territories and resources that are closely tied to Indigenous culture and identity. This is a step forward in the struggle against racism and discrimination in Canada, which are important elements in the fight to protect the environment, as it is often marginalized populations that are hardest hit by climate change and least heard by governments. I hope we will finally be able to value the role of Indigenous peoples and their expertise in the fight against global warming. From my meetings with Indigenous leaders from around the world, I also hope to bring back information that I can share with UdeM’s Indigenous community and with Indigenous youth organizations. I want to inspire other Indigenous young people to attend a future COP.
EP: We will be working very hard at COP26 to push for more action on climate change from the Canadian government and other governments the world over. But it is also important to recognize the leadership of communities that are working to change things, especially when it comes to protecting the land, the waters and biodiversity. Climate action is owned by everyone.