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Inuit Leader Sheila Watt-Cloutier Announces Intention to File a Human Rights Claim

As the largest source of greenhouse gases, U.S. must take action to reduce global warming
December 15, 2004
Buenos Aires, Argentina —

Ms. Sheila Watt-Cloutier, elected chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC), announced tonight that the ICC will soon petition the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, seeking a declaration that emissions of greenhouse gases that are destroying the Inuit way of life are a violation of human rights.

Ms. Watt-Cloutier made the announcement at a CIEL-sponsored event at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, in Buenos Aires. Klaus Toepfer, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), shared the panel with Ms. Watt-Cloutier. Mr. Toepfer praised Ms. Watt-Cloutier for having, "ably articulated the concerns of your people in the face of the devastating effects of climate change and its relentless assault on Inuit traditional life."

Attorneys from Earthjustice and CIEL are working with the Inuit Circumpolar Conference to file the petition. Donald Goldberg, a senior attorney from CIEL who moderated the panel said, "Climate change is a human rights concern on an unprecedented scale. It poses an immediate danger for Inuit and other Arctic inhabitants, but millions of people in mountain areas, low-lying island and coastal regions, and other vulnerable parts of the world will soon face similar threats."

"Protecting human rights is the most fundamental responsibility of governments," said Martin Wagner, International Program managing attorney for Earthjustice. "Climate change is threatening the health, culture, and livelihoods of the Inuit. It is the responsibility of the United States, as the largest source of greenhouse gases, to take immediate action to protect the rights of the Inuit and others around the world."

The Arctic is warming much more rapidly than previously known, at nearly twice the rate as the rest of the globe, according to the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA), a four-year scientific study conducted by an international team of 300 scientists under the direction of a high-level intergovernmental forum including the United States. Increasing greenhouse gases from human activities are projected to make the Arctic warmer still, according to this unprecedented report.

These changes will have major global impacts, such as contributing to global sea-level rise and intensifying global warming, according to the ACIA final report, which is available online.

Contacts

Martin Wagner, Earthjustice, (510) 550-6700
Donald Goldberg, CIEL, 54-11 4382-5050
Daniel B. Magraw, CIEL, (202) 785-8700

About Earthjustice

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