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Indigenous leadership must play a key role in Canada’s climate goals

November 30, 2023

A new report by Deloitte Canada outlines Indigenous Leaders’ calls to action to corporate Canada, governments and non-government organizations committed to climate action and reconciliation

NationTalk: Toronto – There is no net-zero without nature. And there is no nature without reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. This, from a new report by Deloitte Canada that comes on the heels of an ever-growing climate crisis in Canada, which disproportionately affects Indigenous Peoples. The report, Bringing carbon down to Earth – Indigenous leadership in nature-based climate solutions argues that Indigenous leadership in land management, jurisdiction and decision-making must play a key role in working towards Canada’s climate goals, and outlines specific calls to action by Indigenous leaders and representatives to corporate Canada, governments, and non-government organizations.

The report is a result of an initiative Deloitte launched in January 2023 to explore ways to advance Indigenous-led climate action through carbon projects. The Indigenous Leadership in Nature-based Climate Solutions initiative brought together Indigenous leaders and subject matter experts who identified meaningful actions that corporate Canada, governments and NGOs can take to commit to authentic climate action and reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.

While Canada strives to meet its 2030 goals for greenhouse gas emissions reductions (40-45% below 2005 levels), the report highlights that one quarter of the pledge can be achieved through improved stewardship of forests and wetlands, most of which are Indigenous traditional territories. Indigenous Peoples have a long history of sustainable coexistence with their territories—and their knowledge systems have protected biodiversity for millennia.

“We’ve been talking about climate change for a very long time now and we’re clearly seeing its acute impacts around the world. While we must continue dialogue, the time is now to act in a fulsome and integrated way,” says Fiona Kirkpatrick Parsons, Senior National Advisor / kā-nīkānīt of Deloitte Indigenous and a member of Lac La Ronge First Nation. “We have an opportunity in Canada to take a fully collaborative approach to climate action by ensuring corporate Canada, governments and Indigenous Peoples—the traditional rights-holders and stewards of the land for many generations—are working closely together to develop practical solutions to this most pressing issue that affects every living being on the Earth—our mother.”

Nature-based solutions (NBS) mitigate climate change through actions that protect, sustainably manage, and restore ecosystems while benefiting communities and people. They represent an important tool for supporting and advancing Indigenous leadership in climate action and are effective for rapid decarbonization and biodiversity preservation.

The report details short, medium and long-term calls to action grouped into three areas of opportunity for change:

  • Policy and jurisdiction;
  • Protocols and carbon markets; and
  • Economic empowerment and sovereignty.

At the forefront, however, is the need to recognize Indigenous land and title rights, which directly impact a First Nation’s ability to develop projects and claim ownership of carbon rights within its own territories. This underpins Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission Call to Action #45, which speaks to the recognition and integration of Indigenous laws and legal traditions.

To access the specific calls to action to corporate Canada, government and NGOs, please find the full report here.

Hear from participants of the Indigenous Leadership in Nature-based Climate Solutions initiative:

“We have a [land] management plan for the next seven generations. But it’s not just a carbon plan. It involves water, land—it’s about everything,” said forum participant David Flood. “It’s looking at the bigger picture because these things are not siloed. They are integrated as a multi‑value issue.”

“I have seen good and not-so-good offers. I want my investor to know our values—that we do not agree with selling to the extractive industry—and that if they want to work with us, it needs to be Indigenous-led and with us as majority shareholder,” said Dani Warren of Great Bear LLP. “How we make decisions and [establish] relationships comes before the money. There isn’t a lot of education available for investors [on how to be a good partner].”

“It is important to work with people who are from the land and on the land, and to use their knowledge systems,” noted Steven Nitah. “Five percent of the world’s population is Indigenous, yet we manage 80 percent of the world’s remaining biodiversity. That’s our qualification right there.”

“We need big changes, not little changes,” noted one forum participant. “We need the courage to imagine a different system, centered by and for Indigenous Peoples.”

About Deloitte Canada

Deloitte provides audit and assurance, consulting, financial advisory, risk advisory, tax, and related services to public and private clients spanning multiple industries. Deloitte serves four out of five Fortune Global 500® companies through a globally connected network of member firms in more than 150 countries and territories bringing world-class capabilities, insights, and service to address clients’ most complex business challenges. Deloitte LLP, an Ontario limited liability partnership, is the Canadian member firm of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited. Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, a UK private company limited by guarantee, and its network of member firms, each of which is a legally separate and independent entity. Please see for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited and its member firms.

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