Climate change and biodiversity loss exacerbate the challenges faced by First Nations across British Columbia, including economic marginalization, even though First Nations’ contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and environmental degradation is minimal.
Land-based carbon offsets projects could be a potential source for economic development within First Nation communities in BC while aligning with ecosystem-based management practices and First Nations' rights and responsibilities.
The BCAssembly of First Nations (BCAFN) has received the mandate from First Nations leadership to support community-led climate initiatives across the province (Resolution no. 5/2021) to:
- Enhance First Nations’ capacity and build resilience to adapt to the impacts of climate change;
- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the community level and help keep global warming below 1.5oC; and
- Place First Nations in a leadership role to advance and benefit from the growth of a new, clean and just economy, which is also premised on respect for their Rights, Title and Treaty Rights.
To help achieve this mandate, the BCAFN has been exploring options on how to support First Nations carbon offset projects in a way that respects and affirms Indigenous Rights. The BCAFN has prepared the discussion paper First Nations Carbon which seeks to provide information and promote dialogue on opportunities and challenges found in current carbon policies and legislative frameworks.
The BC Assembly of First Nations has also been engaging directly with the provincial and federal governments on carbon offset protocols to advocate that their policies benefit First Nations and respect First Nations' rights.
Dialogue on First Nations Land-based Carbon Offsets
On April 19, 2022, the BCAFN hosted a virtual open discussion on First Nations-led land-based Carbon Offset projects, with presentations from former BCAFN Climate Specialist and current project Manager at Ecotrust Canada, the Coastal First Nations' Great Bear Initiative, the Government of British Columbia, and the Assembly of First Nations, moderated by Joseph Pallant, Director of Climate Innovation at Ecotrust Canada. The session aimed to discuss the benefits, limitations, opportunities, and challenges of community-led land-based carbon offset projects.
Over the past year, the BCAFN has been exploring options for supporting First Nations interested in developing community-led land-based carbon offset projects that also respect and affirm Indigenous Rights. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), and many others have confirmed that recognizing Indigenous land rights decreases deforestation rates, increases carbon storage, and leads to greater biodiversity.
The BCAFN has prepared First Nations Carbon, a discussion paper that provides information and promotes dialogue on carbon, First Nations rights with respect to carbon, how carbon offsets work, and how First Nations can benefit from them.
1. BC Assembly of First Nations — First Nations Carbon Discussion Paper
Michelle Connolly, Project Manager at Ecotrust Canada and former BCAFN Carbon Specialist. Michelle presented a summary of the First Nations Carbon Discussion Paper.
Download the BCAFN Discussion Paper
2. Coastal First Nations — The Great Bear Forest Carbon Project (CFN)
David Oxley, Business Corporations Manager, and Dani Warren, Corporate Administrator with Coastal First Nations — Great Bear Initiative. David and Dani shared their experiences with the Great Bear Forest Carbon Project.
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3. Assembly of First Nations (AFN)
William David (Mohawks of Akwesasne), Director of Economic Devleopment at the AFN. William presented potential co-benefits from carbon offset projects for First Nations in the Canadian context.
4. BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy
Warren Greeves, Senior Economic Advisor for the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. Warren presented an overview of BC's Offset Program and Requirements, BC's Foresty Carbon Offset Protocol, and a summary of the timing and next steps BC will take the support carbon offset projects.