Bringing young Indigenous voices to COP27

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For Monique Chapman, stepping up as one of the youth delegates attending this year’s COP27 conference was a no brainer.

“COP27 presents an opportunity to showcase to the rest of the world what we are all doing to respond to climate change and prove that we are climate change champions in some way. Some may say it’s the equivalent of the Olympics or Academy Awards for the climate change nerds – and how could I say no to that?” she says.

COP27 is the annual United Nations’ global climate change summit. Leaders from around the world gather to assess progress in dealing with climate change and negotiate protocols and agreements. As part of the Canada delegation, the GNWT is sending a group to represent the NWT—including two young people.

 “All our lives, we have heard the older generations talking about how important it is to save the environment, that climate change is real, that we need to do something to protect the future generations. It’s been a lot of talk, and we would like to help move us towards the action,” says Chapman. “The older generations told us they’d act to protect the next generations to come. We are that next generation – we will be sitting at that table beside you, asking you to prove to us what you will do to protect us and our planet.”

Born and raised in Yellowknife, she is a member of the Fond du Lac Denesuline First Nation, with a degree in Marine Biology from Dalhousie University. “I am proud to be a Northern, Indigenous, woman in STEM representing the Northwest Territories,” she says.

She previously attended the Canada Youth Summit and the United Nations’ Youth Summit in 2019, but is invigorated by the idea that COP27 draws a bigger crowd and more attention, both at home and internationally.

“At these summits, it was great being able to share our ideas with each other of how we think the world should be responding to climate change or our concerns – but the momentum seemed to end when the summits did. I hope COP will be different though, and we will push each other towards improved adaptation and mitigation. I hope to see how an idea brought up at a conference like this might be the spark we need to create bigger and better change back home.”

For Chapman, it’s important for Canada as both a G7 and G20 country to attend the conference, but it’s equally important that the north has a special seat at the table.

“No one knows what impacts were facing or how we’re responding to climate change better than ourselves,” she says. “In some jurisdictions, the impacts of climate change are more subtle and you need to see a chart or some numbers to see the changes taking place. In the North though, we can simply look outside or hear stories from our neighbours. By humanizing the impacts – connecting a face and a name with the impacts we are experiencing – I hope this will motivate others attending COP27 that more action is needed to respond to climate change.”

For her, climate change is personal. She’s worried about what the climate change crisis means not just for the world, but for her home. 

“I’m concerned that everything that makes the NWT feel like home to me – the beautiful lakes, the expanse of forests, the abundant wildlife and berries, the cozy winters and not-too-hot summers – are going to lose their familiarity soon as climate change alters the North. It’s alarming to already be able to see the changes in the short 26 years I’ve been here: changing wildlife migrations, hotter summers, fewer berries, and so on,” she says.

That’s also why she’s so proud to be representing not just the youth of the NWT, but also the Indigenous population.

“Indigenous peoples’ traditional knowledge of changes to the environment and how to protect it is invaluable. Climate change is greatly impacting our lands, which Indigenous peoples have been protecting for thousands of years and, in recognizing this, its important to ensure that Indigenous voices are heard at all tables,” she says. “Over 50 percent of people in the NWT are Indigenous. Recognizing that is important, and it’s good to see that reflected in the delegation.”

But in the end, what she hopes comes out of COP27 isn’t just conversation.

“My hope is simple, though I know it’s not small: I want to see action, not more talk or pointing the finger.”


Learn more about climate action in the NWT here.