Located in the Central Canadian Arctic and in a landscape that has been facing the dangerous effects of climate change for decades, Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautiniq / Kitikmeot Heritage Society (PI/KHS) has come to realize that our organization can no longer be silent and must take on a position of leadership towards climate action. We hope that through our project and resulting strategies, we become an example for other Inuit businesses and cultural organizations to follow this lead. The Arctic is warming faster than any other region on Earth. Inuit have been witnesses and casualties to the massive changes happening in the Arctic environment, land and sea, and strong advocates for immediate action. Our reality in the North makes action difficult. In Nunavut, every single community is fly-in only. Our homes are powered and heated by diesel. Food is flown in or shipped across great distances. Within our organization, many team members live and work from the South, often travelling to Cambridge Bay to facilitate projects, taking multiple planes to do so. We are growing increasingly conscious of our carbon footprint and looking for change.
While PI/KHS has always tried to operate in an environmentally conscious manner, the notion of environmental impact has been informed more by Inuit values and worldview than quantified measurements of our programs and organization’s energy footprint. In preparation for the construction of a green energy building, and assuming a stronger position of environmental leadership in Nunavut, it is essential that we receive basic training and awareness of key indicators and evaluations of energy use.
In 2021, we will begin working with Blue Sky Engineering to coach us through understanding how energy use is measured and assessed, how much energy our building and practices consume, and how this compares with other similar institutions at a national scale. Understanding this data will allow us to synthesize and better communicate our need to project partners, community members, the Government, and donors/builders for our new cultural facilities. The self-reflection of this project will give us a critical starting point for realizing and contributing to new energy solutions.
In moving forward with our carbon action strategy, we seek to align our work with existing Inuit priorities. In 2010, the Hamlet of Cambridge Bay released a Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan which references key areas of action for the community:
Recognize / formalize the information that hunters and trappers are able to provide regarding ice and snow conditions
Continue to increase community awareness about climate change
Continue to document Elder knowledge for baseline information
Develop guidelines and standards for planning and development for climate change at the community level
This Plan outlines how the Hamlet can adapt today to the increasing effects of climate change, rather than detailing how organizations and businesses within the community and region can act to become more aware of their carbon footprint in an effort to reduce their impact and increase efforts to move towards net zero emissions and sustainable alternatives. We have reflected on the Hamlet’s priorities and developed programs that will further their goals—such as documenting Elder knowledge for baseline information.
Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), the national representative organization for the 65,000 Inuit in Canada, has developed a National Inuit Climate Change Strategy which identifies practical actions in five priority areas where integrated approaches and coordinated actions are necessary to meet our pressing adaptation, mitigation, and resilience-building needs: 1) knowledge and capacity-building; 2) health, well-being, and the environment; 3) food systems; 4) infrastructure; and 5) energy. ITK outlines a vision:
Sustainable Inuit communities bound by the inextricable links between our culture, way of life and the environment working collaboratively in the face of a changing climate to overcome inequities, ensure our long-term prosperity, and strengthen our health and well-being.
In addition, ITK outlines a purpose:
To shape local, regional, national, and international climate policy.
To advance Inuit-driven climate research, policy making and actions through ethical partnerships that meet our distinct, immediate, growing and diverse needs.
In order for ITK’s vision to be brought to life, businesses, corporations, and organizations like ours must take ownership of our impact and explore ways to act. We must work to develop robust carbon reduction strategies that are not only feasible, but strengthen Northern communities as a result. This project will help our organization begin to participate in this process.