AFN National Chief Says COP21 Final Agreement a Necessary Global Commitment to Fight Climate Change, Action Must Involve Indigenous Peoples and Respect Indigenous Rights

OTTAWA, Dec. 12, 2015 /CNW/ - Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde stated that the final agreement from 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is an important commitment to global action and calls on all states to ensure all efforts involve Indigenous peoples and respect Indigenous rights.

"Indigenous peoples are the first to feel the effects of climate change and we must be involved in developing and implementing the necessary actions to address this urgent issue in a way that respects our rights," said National Chief Bellegarde.  "This global commitment to action is positive, but the agreement indicates the parties may be trying to detract from their existing human rights obligations.  First Nations will not allow that to happen.  These rights are not optional in fighting climate change.  We commend the Canadian delegation, the many non-government organizations for their support and advocacy, and we lift up the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, for acting as a champion of Indigenous rights.  First Nations and Canada together will lead by example and demonstrate that implementing the rights of Indigenous peoples is the best way to address climate change."

The agreement signed today sets the goal of limiting average global temperature rise to 1.5° C; a five-year review cycle starting in 2018 to evaluate and strengthen national action plans towards the goal of zero emissions; financing to help developing and vulnerable nations to deal with the impacts of climate change; and linking climate adaptation goals to mitigation.  The agreement does acknowledge Indigenous rights and traditional knowledge but only urges states to recognize them.  First Nations and many Indigenous peoples were seeking stronger language to ensure respect and implementation of Indigenous rights.

"The agreement serves as a floor, not a ceiling, and now is the time for action," said National Chief Bellegarde.  "First Nations expect all states to dramatically scale up action to exceed the minimum standards in the agreement.  Here at home, First Nations fully expect to participate in the follow-up gathering of federal and provincial leaders that the Prime Minister says he will call within 90 days.  We fully expect to be part of the development of any national energy strategy.  This is consistent with our rights and our responsibilities to our traditional territories.  Our traditional knowledge and approaches to sustainable, responsible development have much to offer these discussions.  This is about protecting our traditional territories and creating a better world for the generations to come."

National Chief Bellegarde participated in COP 21 as part of Canada's official delegation at the invitation of Minister McKenna and was one of Canada's representatives at the opening plenary.  AFN Northwest Territories Regional Chief Bill Erasmus has been at COP 21 for most of the discussions, along with AFN officials.

COP 21, also known as the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, brought together thousands of delegates from government, intergovernmental organizations, UN agencies, NGOs and civil society to craft a global agreement to act on climate change.  There is more information on the official COP21 website at

The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada.  Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Comms, @AFN_Updates.


SOURCE Assembly of First Nations

For further information: Alain Garon AFN Bilingual Communications Officer 613-241-6789, ext 382; 613-292-0857 or; Jenna Young Castro AFN Communications Officer 613-241-6789, ext 401; 613-314-8157 or

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