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Interviews - issue #8

COP26: Observer Status

An interview with Ann Marie Chischilly

Where the Leaves Fall contacted global changemakers for their thoughts and responses to this year’s COP26 - the UN Climate Change Conference. Ann Marie Chischilly is the director of the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals (ITEP). She is responsible for managing ITEP's work with Northern Arizona University, state and federal agencies, tribes and Alaska Native villages. She currently serves on several federal advisory committees, including the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Advisory Committee, the Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment and EPA’s National Safe Drinking Water Council. From 2013 to 2015, she also served on the Department of Interior’s Advisory on Climate Change and Natural Resource Science. You can read the edited interview that was published in the print edition of Where the Leaves Fall here.

Where the Leaves Fall What do you feel are the most pressing issues for COP26 to address and why?

Ann Marie Chischilly I believe one of the most pressing issues for the UN enterprise with regards to Indigenous Peoples is the lack of formal recognition. Currently, Indigenous Peoples only have observer status as opposed to full member status. During this time of climate change, the world has begun to listen to the Indigenous Peoples’ voices and are learning more about sustainable stewardship of their lands, water and air. In 2018, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the then UN’s Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples, stated that Indigenous’ land contains 80% of the world’s biodiversity. However, Indigenous Peoples are not represented at the UN table to protect their stewardship, instead, oftentimes they are criminalised and/or killed for their efforts.

WtLF What outcomes (and practical measures) would you like to see emerge from COP26?

Ann Marie I believe that the 80% of the world’s biodiversity needs a voice, needs to be respected and needs to be protected in order for real change to occur. That can only occur if Indigenous Peoples are formally recognised as members of the UN. At COP26, the UN General Assembly should do this and welcome Indigenous Peoples’ voices as valuable contributors. The UN would have to quickly design a process in which Indigenous Peoples can apply to become members.

‘Indigenous Peoples are not represented at the UN table to protect their stewardship, instead, oftentimes they are criminalised and/or killed for their efforts.’

— Ann Marie Chischilly

WtLF How optimistic are you that COP26 will deliver positive change, and why?

Ann Marie Not very. Without any incentives or enforcement mechanisms, it’s difficult to rely on the goodwill of member states. There are no consequences to the member states currently if they do not show up, abide by their climate plans, or meet their national determined contributions.

WtLF What do the world leaders, and everyone else, need to change on a personal level?

Ann Marie Everyone needs to think about the next generations. What will it look like if we don’t change today? Then take action however they can.

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