April 24, 2023

Guest post by Victor Ufot


I spent a portion of this past Earth Day reading the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s Sixth Assessment Report from Working Group II on Polar Regions. What struck me most was that when looking at the global impacts of climate change, all warming scenarios show the polar regions facing significant consequences, with repercussions among the most severe in the world.

Climatic instability is causing the Arctic region to change quickly, creating serious problems for its residents and the global population. According to the IPCC assessment, the effects of climate change in the Arctic are on the verge of becoming irreversible and may last for hundreds or even thousands of years. Therefore, it is critically important to implement the recommendations outlined in the report to lessen human activities' effect on the Arctic region.


The need for inclusive and integrated co-management

It is essential to incorporate a variety of stakeholders and communities in planning and decision-making processes and to rely on various information sources, including Indigenous and local knowledge, to address these difficulties. One of the most important recommendations is the need for inclusive and integrated co-management. According to the report, this is a process where a variety of stakeholders, including indigenous peoples and local communities, participate in decision-making regarding the management of natural resources. This process acknowledges the interconnectedness of ecosystems and the value of local knowledge to promote equitable distribution of benefits and obligations in order to achieve more sustainable and equitable management of the available natural resources.

Co-management recognizes the importance of various perspectives and of embracing conflict resolution in decision-making processes. Low-cost participatory approaches to co-management can support equitable adaptation strategies and reduce climate risks in polar regions. A Canadian example of this approach is the federal government’s collaboration with Indigenous organizations and communities to monitor and lower exposure to toxins in the Arctic.


Supporting climate resilience in Arctic communities

Another key recommendation from the IPCC is the need to invest in and enable climate resilience in Arctic communities.  Given the accelerating rate of change and the rising likelihood of catastrophic events, reactive measures are unlikely to be effective in lowering risks in polar regions.

There is currently a deficiency in accounting for how climate change interacts with other threats due to the narrow scoping of climate change planning, preparation, and response. To address this, sustainable development strategies that emphasize self-determination are necessary. As are improvements in land and resource sovereignty and resource co-management, especially for Indigenous communities. An example of this approach is the Inuvik Wind Project led by the Government of the Northwest Territories and funded in part by the Government of Canada. The project will lessen energy poverty in Inuvik and create stable jobs while reducing dependence on fossil fuels.

It is anticipated that the consequences of inaction in addressing climate change will be more severe than previously assumed. However, there is still optimism that some of the more detrimental consequences of climate change on Arctic and Northern regions communities may be mitigated by adhering to the IPCC’s recommendations.

With another Earth Day now passed, this year let's all make a commitment to taking action to safeguard our planet and the delicate ecosystems that support life. We can lessen the effects of human activity on the Arctic region and strive towards a more sustainable future for all by embracing the IPCC recommendations for inclusive and integrated co-management techniques and investing in community resilience.

Victor Ufot

Research Network Communications Assistant