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The Energy Transition: Opportunities and Challenges for Indigenous Communities in the US and Canada

Past Event

February 8, 2023

6:00 pm - 7:00 pm

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The Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs hosted a panel of experts for a discussion about opportunities and risks for indigenous communities in the North American energy transition.

According to the US Department of Energy, wind resources on US tribal lands could meet up to 32% of US electricity needs. Similarly, according to MSCI, 79% of US lithium reserves are located within 35 miles of an Indian reservation. These data highlight the critical role that indigenous peoples and lands will play in the transition to a low carbon economy–in the US and globally.

The panel discussed the Biden administration’s efforts to strengthen indigenous consultation and environmental justice around natural resources and renewable energy development with US native communities. They also explored how Canadian indigenous leaders are developing equity-based partnerships to develop renewable energy and critical minerals projects under the principles of Free Prior and Informed Consent–and whether such partnerships can meet the needs of indigenous groups in the US as well as ESG-focused investors and project developers.


  • Robert Johnston, Executive Director, Columbia SIPA Center on Global Energy Policy


  • Niilo Edwards, CEO, First Nations Major Projects Coalition
  • Kate R. Finn, Esq., Executive Director, First Peoples Worldwide, University of Colorado
  • Chief Sharleen Gale, Chair, First Nations Major Projects Coalition & Chief, Fort Nelson First Nation
  • Mark Podlasly, Chief Sustainability Officer, First Nations Major Projects Coalition
  • Gare Smith, Partner and Head of Business & Human Rights Practice, Foley Hoag
  • David Conrad, Deputy Director, U.S. Department of Energy Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs