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Mary Annette Pember
Indian Country Today

In her first news conference at the COP26 conference in Glasgow, Scotland, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland described her global challenge for every applicable country to join in setting ambitious domestic offshore wind energy commitments.

“Climate change doesn’t recognize territorial or political boundaries. It’s a global problem that requires a global effort to address it,” Haaland said.

Haaland, Laguna Pueblo, was joined by representatives of Denmark, the International Energy Agency and other international colleagues to showcase U.S. and international commitments to increase offshore wind development to create jobs and reduce carbon emissions.

(Related: Homelands in peril)

Since March, the Interior reached a historic milestone with the approval of the first commercial-scale offshore wind project in the U.S., located off Massachusetts. Last month, Haaland outlined a path forward that includes up to seven new offshore wind lease sales in the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf of Mexico by 2025.

She reiterated President Joe Biden’s goal to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore energy by 2030.

Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Bryan Newland, Bay Mills Indian Community, also joined Haaland at the U.N. climate summit for the conference. He noted that Indigenous knowledge and Indigenous-led conservation are essential to addressing climate change.

“Our ancestors have spent millenia learning to use nature based approaches to coexist among our lands, waters, wildlife and habitats,” he said. “As Indigenous people instruct us to care for the next seven generations of people who follow us, we have an obligation to act for their benefit.”

Newland noted that Indigenous communities are facing threats due to the severity of climate related issues, facing relocation and destruction of ecosystems.

“This is a critical moment for Indigenous communities around the world who are calling in unison for bold action toward a sustainable, equitable and inclusive future,” Newland said. “We can no longer stand by while tribal communities are washed away.”

Haaland promised to continue working on achieving Biden’s goals of creating a robust, nationwide clean energy economy using nature-based conservation.

“Not only is the United States back at the table, we’re leading with the power of our example,” Haaland said.

Haaland, however, dodged a question raised by a reporter about why the U.S. has not joined other nations' promise to stop mining coal domestically.

“We are working with what we have to make sure that we are providing the leadership we need for those communities,” she said.

Haaland noted that in order to get funding flowing to address many climate change issues, Congress must first pass President Biden’s Infrastructure package.

She announced that she and members of her cabinet will be meeting with Indigenous youth virtually around the world during the conference. 

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