Inuvialuit Regional Corporation Climate Change Strategy

In 2022, the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (IRC) released its Climate Change Strategy summarizing a wide range of environmental and climate impacts facing the Inuvialuit Settlement Region (ISR) and providing its plan for community focused policy actions. Climate change affects multiple environmental, ecological and human systems at once in the ISR. These overlapping impacts are in some ways more pronounced for Inuvialuit communities due to the high value placed on living on the land. To ensure this vital connection to the land is kept intact, this strategy describes a wide cross-section of systems affected by climate change and proposes solutions that leverage positive synergies between people, organizations and the natural environment. The ISR Climate Change Strategy describes a multifaceted course of action toward climate change mitigation, adaptation and resilience across six thematic areas: Food Security Wellness; Safety; Housing and Infrastructure; Education and Awareness; Ecosystem Sustainability; and Energy. The goals and actions will support Inuvialuit communities in adapting to a wide range of current and foreseeable climate change impacts. The implementation of this strategy will be Inuvialuit-led and result in greater resiliency to the rapid changes being observed on the land, ice and sea. Over the centuries, Inuvialuit have passed down an extensive body of knowledge related to travelling, harvesting and prospering on the land they call home. This invaluable knowledge together with the latest climate science, is leveraged here to realize a more sustainable future. Inuvialuit organizations and beneficiaries, including youth and Elders, will continually be engaged in the implementation of the Strategy’s actions.

Understanding and Assessing Impacts

Inuvialuit Traditional and Local Knowledge (TLK) experts have warned that the land and waters of the ISR are not what they used to be and Inuvialuit communities have raised deep concerns about climate change and the rapid and unfamiliar environmental transformations underway in the ISR. Across generations, Inuvialuit have shared stories and observations about irregular weather patterns and a rapidly changing environment. Over the past few decades, Inuvialuit have also participated in the collection of research data on climate change impacts include shifting ice freeze-up and break-up trends, plant and animal species migration, coastal erosion, permafrost degradation, land slumps, flooding, and health and wellness effects. For Inuvialuit whose cultural identity and overall wellness are intrinsically linked to the land and waters of the ISR, the risks associated with climate change can lead to both tangible and intangible consequences.

The ISR Climate Change Strategy uses data from the Climate Atlas of Canada, the National Snow and Ice Data Center, as well as Canada in a Changing Climate Report to support observations made by Inuvialuit community members. Inuvialuit TLK experts have linked several specific changes to higher average temperatures, including freezing rain during winter months, heavier snow consistency and greater prevalence of fog and cumulonimbus cloud formations. The changing climate introduces unique challenges to preserving the Inuvialuit way of life. For example, climate change is restricting travel and access to the land and high water levels make it difficult to distinguish where the banks of rivers are located. This is impacting traditional harvesting as a means of sustenance and expression of culture, as well as safety and reliable travel across ISR lands and waters. Extreme weather and coastal erosion is also impacting housing and infrastructure, and ecosystem health and diversity.

Identifying Actions

The ISR Climate Change Strategy is designed to work in tandem with other climate change programs and is intended to connect with complimentary strategies that address climate change across Inuit Nunangat, the Inuit homeland in Canada. The Strategy aims to address the wide-ranging issues and opportunities resulting from climate change that Inuvialuit communities face and will continue to experience in the coming years. This document is composed of core goals across six thematic areas:

  1. Food and Wellness
  2. Safety
  3. Housing and Infrastructure
  4. Education and Awareness
  5. Ecosystem Health and Diversity
  6. Energy

These six thematic areas were selected on the basis of their representation of the breadth of climate change impacts observed in the ISR, the local priorities identified by Inuvialuit community members over multiple engagement sessions and the ISR’s commitment to a shared vision of sustainability across Inuit Nunangat. A series of actions were identified and provide an overview of how Inuvialuit organizations, communities and other stakeholders can make progress towards the core goals. This strategy’s success will depend on strong partnerships between Inuvialuit and Inuit organizations across the country, as well as the Government of Northwest Territories (GNWT), the Government of Yukon, the Government of Canada, municipalities, educational and research institutions, private businesses and other key stakeholders.

Implementation

Each goal is accompanied by enabling actions for advancing climate change mitigation and adaptation in the ISR. In many instances, work is already planned or underway to implement these actions and support climate resilience in Inuvialuit communities. The goals and actions embedded in this strategy effectively set the course for a comprehensive climate change program for the ISR. The implementation of the actions outlined in this document requires ongoing management to ensure success and necessitates open communications channels between project leading teams and Inuvialuit community members who have the most at stake. Two accompanying plans, a Communications Plan and a Program Review Plan, will support the strategy implementation process.

Outcomes and Monitoring Progress

In addition to the goals and actions, suggested indicators for each thematic area are also identified to provide early guidance on the metrics to monitor throughout the implementation of the strategy. These indicators are only hypothetical; the actual indicators used for tracking progress will be developed in concert with individual project proposals and may ultimately differ. Beyond the suggested indicators, it is expected that community meetings will be organized over regular intervals to share updates on implementation activities.

As the region’s understanding of climate change impacts grows, it will be necessary to periodically review and update this strategy to appropriately reflect evolving regional priorities linked to the well-being of Inuvialuit communities. The review cycle for this document will fall in step with the reporting schedule of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In addition to the formal review cycle, this document may also be revised intermittently to stay aligned with complimentary strategies and plans at the local, regional, territorial, national, circumpolar and international levels.

Next Steps

Along with implementation of the Strategy, transformative and long-term nature of both the climate change impacts and actions described necessitates open communication channels between project leading teams and Inuvialuit community members who have the most at stake. Continued remote engagement activities, including teleconferences and online comment forums, will be adopted to facilitate community-level reviews and endorsement of this completed strategy, as well as discussions on specific actions being prepared for implementation.

Resources

Link to Full Case Study

Additional Resources: