The Inuit people of the Arctic, facing some of the most dramatic effects of climate change, are seeking a bigger voice in any international action taken to address it.
In a position paper issued just before the start of a major international climate change conference, the Inuit Circumpolar Council listed five major recommendations for ways that the “stark warnings” that the Indigenous people of the Arctic have been issuing for decades can be addressed.
The council includes Inupiat and Yup’ik representatives.
“For decades, we have witnessed the direct impacts of a changing climate in our homeland and have consistently advocated for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to prevent these changes from becoming a global norm,” said the position paper, released Monday in advance of the 28th Conference of Parties for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP 28. The conference got underway this week in Dubai.
The Inuit Circumpolar Council includes representatives in Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Russia. It is one of the six international Indigenous organizations that have decision-making power at the eight-nation Arctic Council. The Inuit Circumpolar Council has a COP 28 delegation, to include Alaska members.
One key issue highlighted in the position paper is the Loss and Damage Fund that was created at last year’s COP 27 held in Egypt. As it is structured now, the fund is focused on helping poorer nations in the global south address the impacts of climate change.
That leaves a big gap, said Inuit Circumpolar Chair Sara Olsvig of Greenland.
“Indigenous Knowledge is a systematic way of thinking that goes across biological, physical, cultural, and spiritual systems, and it provides insights different from conventional scientific knowledge regimes. Therefore, ICC is continuously advocating for the full and equal inclusion of Indigenous Knowledge in any development or decision-making related to the Arctic and Inuit homelands and lives,” Olsvig said by email.
There are past examples in which Indigenous knowledge has been successfully incorporated into international agreements and policy decisions, Olsvig said. Some are sweeping agreements, like the 2015 Paris Agreement, which includes a program for Indigenous information exchanges. Some are more regionally focused, like the Central Arctic Ocean fisheries agreement, “where Indigenous Knowledge is an integral part of the scientific regime, and where Inuit from Alaska, Canada and Greenland also participate,” Olsvig said. That agreement, which came into effect in 2021, puts a moratorium on any commercial fishing in the international waters of the Arctic Ocean.