FASS student champions Métis perspectives at international climate change conferences

December 15, 2023
Evan Accettola (left) and Métis Nation of Ontario Youth Council president Jordyn Playne (right) at the 28th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

In a major stride for Métis representation and Indigenous voices on the world stage, Simon Fraser University’s (SFU) Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) student Evan Accettola brought his unique perspective as an Indigenous student to international discussions on sustainability and the environment. An undergraduate student majoring in Sociology with minors in Indigenous Studies and Criminology, Accettola participated as a SFU student representative at the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP28) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

A pivotal annual event aligned with the United Nations (UN) Framework Convention on Climate Change, COP28 gathers UN member states together to assess and work on advancing global efforts in climate action. This year, the conference centered on the integration of diverse knowledge systems, particularly Indigenous insights and perspectives, in shaping climate change reduction strategies such as reducing global carbon emissions and developing sustainable solutions. 

Besides representing SFU, Accettola also attended on behalf of the Métis Nation of Ontario Youth Council (MNOYC) of which he currently chairs in addition to SFU’s Indigenous Student Union. As a Licensed Practical Nurse and member of the Canadian Nurses Association Indigenous Relations Circle, Accettola’s unconventional background offers him a profound understanding of the importance of an interdisciplinary perspective. 

“As a youth who grew up in the climate crisis, I have a unique understanding of climate change supplemented by my diverse educational background and my lived experiences as a Métis person,” says Accettola. “It has allowed me to engage in discussions on climate change's impacts on health, social determinants of health, crime, and individual experiences, especially for Indigenous populations.”

At COP28, Accettola emphasized the value of integrating traditional Métis knowledge with contemporary sociological theories to create a more holistic and inclusive framework for sustainable climate solutions. By highlighting the interplay between societal structures, Indigenous practices, and policy, Accettola showcased the critical role of an interdisciplinary approach in addressing complex environmental issues.

In addition to participating in COP28, Accettola also attended the 2023 Student Energy Summit (SES) in Abu Dhabi. As the world’s largest youth-led energy conference, more than 600 students from over 50 countries gathered to share and learn about innovative approaches to energy sustainability, climate change, and natural heritage preservation.

“I had an amazing time participating in both COP28 and SES 2023,” says Accettola. “I've never had such an experience where I connected with so many diverse, interesting voices from across the globe and learned from so many new people while we all connected on one shared issue—the importance of combating climate change.” 

Accettola’s experience as a student contributing to global conversations not only underscores SFU’s commitment to nurturing future leaders who are equipped with a broad, interdisciplinary understanding of world challenges, but also highlights the need for including diverse voices in environmental dialogues. As Accettola represented the aspirations and perspectives of Canadian youth, particularly those from Indigenous backgrounds, this participation marks a significant step in shaping a more inclusive and sustainable global future.

Accettola with the Métis National Council delegation.