Inuit have lived off the land for millennia and the wildlife and environment around them are central to their culture, well-being, and economy. Climate change is causing permafrost to thaw, sea ice to disappear, and threatening the animals Inuit rely on. The North is warming at three times the global rate and as the impacts of climate change continue to threaten ways of life, it is increasingly essential to mitigate climate change and build resilience in the North.
Today, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, Carolyn Bennett, and the Minister of Indigenous Services, Seamus O’Regan, announced federal support of $1 million to implement the National Inuit Climate Change Strategy (NICCS). Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, a non-profit organization that represents 65,000 Inuit, released this ambitious four-year plan to work with governments to deliver climate action by and for Indigenous and northern residents.
Canada’s support will help develop programs that prioritize:
- Knowledge and capacity building – to advance Inuit capacity and knowledge in climate decision making.
- Health, well-being, and the environment – to improve Inuit and environmental health and wellness outcomes through health, education, and climate policies.
- Food systems – to reduce the climate vulnerability of Inuit and market food systems.
- Infrastructure – to close the gap with climate-resilient new builds, retrofits to existing builds, and Inuit adaptations to changing natural infrastructure.
- Energy – to support regional and community-driven energy solutions leading to Inuit energy independence.
By working together with partners, the Government of Canada can take practical and meaningful action to fight climate change, protect Canada’s communities and grow the economy.
“Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami’s climate change strategy is climate action by Inuit, for Inuit. As stewards of the land, Inuit are drawing upon their unique history and extensive traditional knowledge to fight climate change, innovate, and make their communities more resilient to the impacts of a warming world. We will continue to support Inuit leadership and work together to protect Inuit Nunangat, the Inuit homeland.”
– The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change
“Inuit are on the front line of climate change-its impacts are seriously affecting their well-being and their way of life. Through the National Inuit Climate Change Strategy, Inuit will take a leadership role in tackling the causes and effects of climate change.”
– The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, M.D., M.P., P.C. Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations
“Climate change affects all of us but especially Inuit and other northern residents, who are experiencing significant changes in their health and way of life. Through Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami’s climate change strategy, Inuit are showing leadership and making a difference. They are taking steps to cope with climate change and reduce its impact. Together, we will work to address this urgent priority in a culturally-appropriate and relevant way.
– The Honourable Seamus O’Regan, Minister of Indigenous Services
“Inuit have a relationship with the environment that is steeped in meaning. It shapes our identity, values and world view. Our environment is a fundamental source of learning, memories, knowledge and wisdom. The National Inuit Climate Change Strategy is a response to an unprecedented global climate crisis. It is a hopeful, forward-looking plan in the face of potentially catastrophic change that welcomes unique partnerships that are respectful of Inuit rights and knowledge.”
– Natan Obed, President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami
The NICCS focuses on five key pillars that generally align with the Pan-Canadian Framework: knowledge and capacity building; health, well-being and the environment; food systems; infrastructure; and energy.
The NICCS ultimately presents a vision for Inuit self-determination with respect to climate action, with distinctions-based, Inuit-governed funding from the federal government.
Temperature has increased in all regions of Canada and in the surrounding oceans. Since 1948, when nation-wide records became available, Canada’s annual average temperature over land has warmed by a best estimate of 1.7°C, with higher temperature increases observed in the North, the Prairies, and northern British Columbia.
According to the recent Canada’s Changing Climate Report, observed changes in snow and ice features across Canada present a coherent picture of a warming climate: fall and spring snow cover, the duration of seasonal lake ice cover across the Arctic, and summer sea ice extent have decreased; glaciers have thinned; and permafrost has warmed.
Interviews with elders, hunters, and community members featured on the Canadian Centre for Climate Services webpage have added much to scientific research on climate change. Inuit observations have provided useful information at different time scales and levels of detail that have significantly contributed to our understanding of climate change in Nunavut. Some examples:
- Sea ice conditions have changed; the ice is thinner, freezes up later and melts earlier. Similar observations have been made for lake ice.
- Aniuvat (permanent snow patches) are decreasing in size. There is more rain, and the snow and ice form later in the year and melt earlier.
- The weather is unpredictable. It changes faster than it used to with storms blowing up unexpectedly.
- Water levels have gone down, making it hard or impossible to travel by boat in certain areas.