In 2019, the Climate Action Network was developed as part of the Coastal First Nations – Great Bear Initiative (CFN-GBI) an effort to support Climate Action Coordinators within each of the member Nations of the Coastal First Nations Great Bear Initiative through regular meetings and project support. Coastal First Nations (CFN) is a unique alliance of nine Nations (Metlakatla, Gitxaala, Heiltsuk, Nuxalk, Gitga’at, Kitasoo/Xai’xais, Wuikinuxv, Skidegate, Old Massett and the Council of the Haida Nation) living on British Columbia’s North and Central Coast and Haida Gwaii. While each Nation has its own distinct culture, governance and territory, many are experiencing similar significant impacts of a changing climate, including coastal flooding and erosion, changes in the health of salmon populations, diminishing numbers of key species, and lower harvests of traditional foods. Climate Action Coordinators lead and support climate action within their own communities through projects such as community energy plans, emergency preparedness, food security initiatives, clean energy systems and energy efficient infrastructure. Coordinators meet regularly through the Climate Action Network to collaborate on work plans for their communities, achieve energy and climate-related goals and support each other as challenges arise. They also attend conferences and participate in training opportunities to continue to build their individual skills and capacity.
The effects of climate change have bolstered community efforts to uphold traditional laws of each Nation in order to steward the land and maintain self-governance and autonomy to guide communities for generations to come. In 2000, the Coastal First Nations Great Bear Initiative was created as a collective of nine First Nations (Metlakatla, Gitxaala, Heiltsuk, Nuxalk, Gitga’at, Kitasoo/Xai’xais, Wuikinuxv, Skidegate, Old Massett and the Council of the Haida Nation) that are working to build a conservation-based economy in their traditional territories. In 2019, the Great Bear Initiative Climate Action Peer Network was developed as part of an effort to support Climate Action Coordinators within each member Nation through regular meetings and project support. Each coordinator leads and supports climate action within their own communities by setting priorities and identifying projects in consultation with community members. Project examples, including community energy plans, emergency preparedness, food security initiatives, clean energy systems and energy efficient infrastructure. Key features of the Climate Action Peer Network program include: supporting local capacity building through training, coaching, and funding; respecting local knowledge, priorities, and wisdom of communities; and working together to share learning, stories, lessons, and opportunities. The Network also shares climate science information and modelling including community-based monitoring projects based on observations by harvesters and knowledge-holders.
Local Climate Action Coordinators (CACs) have been hired in eight CFN communities to work on their nations priorities and visions related to climate mitigation and adaptation. The CACs are supported by the Climate Action Network (CAN), a peer network, which provides 1:1 mentorship and support, regular check-ins, monthly team meetings, and group and individual training opportunities. CACs collaborate to create work plans for their communities, achieve energy and climate-related goals and support each other as challenges arise. They also attend conferences and participate in training opportunities to continue to build their individual skills and capacity. Most recently, the CAN facilitated a culturally relevant online project management workshop for the Climate Action Coordinators. The CAN also drafted a Clean Energy and Climate Adaptation Declaration for CFN-GBI member First Nations. Some of the adaptation actions undertaken by network Nation members include:
- The North Shore Sea Level Rise Risk Assessment & Adaptive Management Plan.
- The 2020 Groudwater Study to better understand the relationship between groundwater and surface water; to address basement flooding; to track annual groundwater table elevation changes and impacts to buried utilities.
- Skidegate Band Council is utilizing the Crown Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada First Nations Adapt program to develop models that will help predict estimated sea-level rise and storm surge increase from climate change. They are also developing the Skidegate Shoreline Protection Options Study.
- Nuxalk is conducting a comprehensive integrated flood risk assessment and increase community awareness of flood risks.
Some communities are also undertaking actions related to energy management and greenhouse gas reduction, such as the Kitasoo/Xai’xais Baron Lake hydroelectric power facility upgrades, the Gitga’at Nation Clean Energy for Hartley Bay Working Group. Heiltsuk, Old Masset and Nuxalk are all participating in Impact Canada’s Indigenous Off Diesel Initiative, a program aimed to support communities in implementing their community energy plans. Metlakatla is in the development phase of a feasibility study to acquire a zero-emission ferry to service their community.
Success of the Peer Network model is attributed to its emphasis on building community capacity through collaborative action while prioritizing flexibility to allow communities to take their own approach.
CAN members are continuing to move forward projects and programs that increase resilience, including flood assessment, sea level rise studies, protecting rivers, food security, monitoring programs, and energy projects.