Three B.C. First Nations have reached a pact through which two of the groups have agreed to assist the third tackle the environmental effects of business development on their traditional territories.
The memorandum of understanding was announced Monday by the Haisla, Nisga’a and Halfway River First Nations after being developed through the First Nations Climate Initiative, or FNCI, a network launched in 2019 to deal with climate change and Indigenous concerns. Each the Haisla and the Nisga’a nations are pursuing liquefied natural gas projects of their respective territories.
For Halfway River Chief Darlene Hunter, the memorandum is overdue recognition that her community – positioned 75 kilometres northwest of Fort St. John in a region crisscrossed by logging roads and oil and gas operations – has been heavily affected by industrial development.
“We sit on top of the Montney play and everybody’s attempting to get in there,” Ms. Hunter said Tuesday in a telephone interview, referring to the Montney natural gas formation that straddles the British Columbia-Alberta boundary.
Montney natural gas fields in northeastern B.C. would feed LNG Canada, a liquefied natural gas processing facility under construction in northern B.C. on a Kitimat industrial site on the Haisla Nation’s traditional territory.
The identical region is a possible source for other proposed LNG projects, including Cedar LNG, a partnership between the Haisla and Pembina Pipeline Corp., and the Ksi Lisims project, being pursued by the Nisga’a and Rockies LNG and Western LNG.
Through the memorandum of understanding, the three nations plan to explore nature-based solutions on the Halfway River territory – including planting trees and restoring wetlands – to guard and restore ecosystems, in addition to nurturing carbon sinks.
The FNCI on Monday also called on the B.C. and federal governments to expand carbon markets, saying those markets could help governments reach net-zero targets and help foot the bill for enormous restoration projects on Indigenous territories.
Carbon markets have existed for years but have been dogged by concerns over accreditation and verification.
The B.C. government is within the strategy of reviewing its forest carbon offset protocol, which was introduced in 2011 before being repealed in 2015. Projects approved under the previous protocol proceed to generate credits under grandparenting provisions of other provincial regulations, and there’s increasing demand for offset options from purchasers within the offset market, the federal government said in a 2021 discussion paper.
In a web based address to FNCI members meeting Tuesday in Vancouver, B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman said he expects the revamped protocol to be published in the approaching months.
“We wish to be sure that that the B.C. system in place will address each ecological stringency and market opportunity – and to try this, now we have to be sure that we meet international verification standards,” Mr. Heyman told the gathering.
An enhanced carbon market could help First Nations restore landscapes, enhance wildlife habitat and protect waterways for future generations, Ms. Hunter of Halfway River said.
“We want the governments of British Columbia and Canada … to expand carbon markets to make these nature-based solutions a reality,” she said.