‘We need to be at the table’: Local resident attends UN Climate Change Conference for fourth time

    Local resident Big Wind Carpenter attended their fourth UN Climate Change Conference this year, once again representing the Northern Arapaho Tribe as part of the International Indigenous Peoples’ Forum on Climate Change.

    Carpenter was selected to join the organization’s new International Indigenous Youth Forum on Climate Change this year, and they participated in the “knowledge holders bilateral,” where Indigenous representatives from throughout the world share their “traditional ecological knowledge” and explain “how we use those technologies to take care of the environment,” supporting the Nature Based Solutions section of the Paris Climate Accord, which highlights “the importance of nature for addressing the climate crisis.”

    Because Indigenous “knowledge systems have a tie to the land, (they) should be utilized” to combat climate change, Carpenter said – but advocates are also working to ensure that Indigenous knowledge is applied “in conjunction with us – (not) just taken from us and then implemented by an agency.”


    Article 6

    The Indigenous Caucus at COP 28 also advocated for more inclusion in Article 6 of the Paris Agreement this year, Carpenter said.

    That portion of the document featured “eight mentions of Indigenous people” as recently as two years ago, Carpenter recalled – but those mentions were removed during COP 27.

    “Last year was really concerning,” Carpenter said. “So then this year we were really advocating hard (for) more language … recognizing our rights. …

    “It was definitely a battle.”


    By the end of COP 28, Carpenter said Indigenous people were mentioned three times in the newly revised version of Article 6 – an improvement, but still “not where we were” two years ago.

    “It’s definitely a tug and pull with a lot of these situations,” Carpenter said. “We receive them one year, then they’re taken off the next.”

    That’s why it’s “really important” for Indigenous people and other civic organizations to participate in COP gatherings every year, Carpenter noted, crediting “grassroots organizing out of civil society” with the “victories” that were achieved at the session in Dubai: First, hundreds of millions of dollars were pledged to support loss and damage payments for countries suffering from climate crises, and second, the words “transitioning away from fossil fuels” were added to the agreed-upon negotiation text.


    “We can see wins in certain areas, and it’s because of our advocacy,” they said. “The only way that we’re going to continue to see those changes is if we keep showing up in record numbers. …

    “As people from impacted communities, from areas that are vulnerable to climate change, we need to be at the table to advocate on our behalf.”

    Red Desert

    Carpenter was able to highlight some of the work they’ve been doing with the Wyoming Outdoor Council and the Indigenous Land Alliance of Wyoming to incorporate “Tribal co-stewardship” into Red Desert land management plans during a presentation they made at COP 28.


    It was part of a talk focused on the Sharm-El-Sheikh Adaptation Agenda, which Carpenter worked on last year.

    h/t Big Wind Carpenter/Associated Press

    The agenda features 30 global “adaptation” targets meant to increase human resiliency ahead of future “climate consequences,” according to the UN website.

    Carpenter called it “mitigation … as a preventive measure” that could help avoid loss and damages in the future.

    “We’re hoping to bring this idea of how we can manage public lands out here to Wyoming, and especially the Red Desert – being a space that is sacred to over a dozen Tribes,” they said. “(We’re) trying to ensure that those relations that are happening are better.”

    Carpenter encouraged local residents interested in getting involved in environmental justice to contact the WOC or the Lander Climate Action Network for more information – noting that their own climate work began, and continues, in Fremont County and on the Wind River Reservation.

    “I became an environmental activist on the Reservation when I was 13 … because of environmental racism that was happening,” Carpenter said. “I felt I needed to be an advocate for my community.”

    From there, Carpenter got involved at the regional and national levels before attending their first international event – the annual UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York.

    After that, they said, “people reached out to me and were like, ‘Hey, you should come to the International Climate Conference.’”

    “It can seem so very, very high-level when we talk about international policy, and a lot of it is hard to understand and very technical, but it’s all really interwoven, the work that I do, (with) coming from this community and knowing where I’m from and knowing that a lot of these places are at risk and we’re seeing these changes happening right now,” Carpenter said.

    They pointed, for example, to the glaciers of the Wind River Range, which are melting at an accelerated pace and may disappear in the coming decades.

    “Within my lifetime, I’m going to see something that has fed life for thousands of years no longer going to exist,” Carpenter said.

    “We can’t wait any longer trying to make these decisions.”

    With that sense of urgency in mind, Carpenter commended the Lander City Council for passing its greenhouse gas emissions reductions resolution this week.

    “It was actually really good news to (see them) sealing the deal on that,” Carpenter said. “It’s been really good to see how all this work ties back to a local level.”


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