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Climate justice can only be achieved with racial justice

Within the widening racial justice movement amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Ecotrust Canada continues to dive deeper into building Natural Climate Solutions. Why? Because climate change is, above all, a justice issue. The same systemic change needed to mitigate climate change is needed to achieve racial justice and equity.

While the climate movement hasn’t always centred its work on justice for the lives of Black, Indigenous, and people of colour, it must now more than ever. Climate change already disproportionately impacts Black, Indigenous, and people of colour in Canada and around the world – many of whom, such as Larissa Crawford and Erica Violet Lee, are leading the climate justice movement.

When we advance anti-racism, we’re better able to advance climate justice. When space is created to honour the traditional knowledge and lived experience of diverse people, we are better able to respond to climate change and sustainability needs with more efficiency and relevancy,” said Larissa Crawford, founder and managing Director, Future Ancestors Services Inc.

Our current economic system was born out of an exploitive, extractive, colonial model that still uses racism as a tool to maintain power. Across Canada, we must decolonize this system and transition toward a new economy that is equitable, inclusive, and sustainable.  At Ecotrust Canada, we believe that Natural Climate Solutions can be a critical catalyst for this transition.

For example, our Indigenous community partners in Northeast Superior, Ontario, are taking climate action through improved forest management, while building a self-determined economic system.

Climate projects are important because they are the best attempt to rekindle our relationship to the natural environment. To allow our youth to take forest management responsibilities to meet the needs of the next seven generations,” said David Flood, General Manager, Wahkohtowin. “If we don’t pave the pathway, who will?

Innovative forest carbon management approaches can create economic opportunity through carbon offsets and other funding mechanisms, which allow Indigenous communities to create financial benefits directly from the stewardship of their traditional territories.

Ultimately, projects like those in Northeast Superior are designed to disrupt a colonial economic system that is long overdue for change, and to shift power to Indigenous rights holders. It is just one example of how community-led Natural Climate Solutions can restructure systems of oppression and racism, while simultaneously benefiting local people and mitigating global climate change.

By Denby McDonnell, Project Manager, Climate Innovation