The climate change treaty finalized in Paris is “historic,” said Okalik Eegeesiak, Chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) “but we recognize the compromise in the text.” Eegeesiak led the circumpolar Inuit delegation to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change COP 21 talks in Paris and worked hard with all delegates to advocate on behalf of Inuit.
“These negotiations were tremendously difficult but in the end we made progress,” she said. “However the real test will be the commitments of states to recognize the rights of Indigenous Peoples, address climate change action and affect real change in Arctic communities”. “Canada showed leadership and support for Arctic issues at these talks.” Eegeesiak followed, “We will work with Canada, Greenland, Alaska and Chukotka to meet and exceed the commitments, support indigenous communities and make certain the Arctic remains cold.”
The recognition of the rights of Indigenous Peoples was an important issue and the fact that it is in the Paris Accord is the result of significant effort by global Indigenous Peoples at the talks. “We sought such assurance in the core of the Agreement, which is legally binding. In the end the language was included in both the preamble to the Decision Document and the Agreement and acknowledges the unique and differentiated the rights of Indigenous Peoples. We are disappointed that this language is not in the operative text of the Agreement. It is essential that the rights of Indigenous Peoples be recognized, protected and respected within the broader human rights framework in the Agreement,” stated Eegeesiak.
ICC also advocated for financing of climate adaptation and mitigation projects and the recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ knowledge. The Paris Accord states, “Parties acknowledge that adaptation action should follow… and guided by the best available science and, as appropriate, traditional knowledge, knowledge of indigenous peoples….”
ICC made numerous interventions on the issue of the need to stabilize global temperature increases to 1.5°C as opposed to the more globally accepted 2.0°C. The final text states that nations commit to “…holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C.”
“Inuit voices were heard in the negotiation rooms, heard in the halls, in the plenary, in the side event rooms, in the streets of Paris. Inuit voices were heard in a broad coalition of Indigenous Peoples who supported each other and pushed for the inclusion of the rights of Indigenous Peoples, the value of Indigenous Peoples’ knowledge, the need for adaptation and mitigation actions and the need to work towards 1.5°C.”
“Progress was made, but there is more work to do to safeguard the Arctic environment and Inuit culture” Eegeesiak said. “Inuit will need to be vigilant to support international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas levels are reduced, that funding is available for Arctic climate adaptation projects and that Inuit are part of the climate change solution.”
To view the COP 21 ICC Climate Change position paper see http://www.inuitcircumpolar.com/uploads/3/0/5/4/30542564/icc_position_unfccc_cop_21_final.pdf