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Inuit Human Rights Petition Filed over Climate Change

Victory: Global warming radically affects Arctic peoples' lives, cultures
December 7, 2005
Washington, D.C. —

Earthjustice attorneys and the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), working with the Inuit Circumpolar Conference submitted a petition today to the Washington D.C.-based Inter-American Commission on Human Rights seeking relief from violations of the Inuit's human rights resulting from global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions from the United States. The Commission, which was created in 1959 by the Organization of American States, has a long and distinguished history of protecting human rights, particularly those of indigenous peoples.

Martin Wagner, the Earthjustice attorney handling the case, said of the filing, "The rights to retain one's culture, life, food, and health are fundamental in international law. Global warming violates these rights by melting the ice, snow and permafrost, changing the weather, and radically altering every aspect of the arctic environment on which Inuit lives and culture depend.

"The United States makes up only five percent of the world's population, but emits one-quarter of global greenhouse pollution. This petition calls on the United States to respect its human rights obligations and take effective action to immediately reduce its contribution to the Inuit's injuries," said Wagner.

CIEL Senior Attorney Donald Goldberg noted that the harm Inuit are experiencing today will soon be felt by people around the globe. "No country can protect itself from the damage that inevitably will result as the Earth undergoes changes never before experienced in human history," observed Mr. Goldberg. "The hurricanes of 2005 demonstrate beyond doubt that even the world's wealthiest nations are at grave risk."


BACKGROUND

The petition focuses on the United States of America because it is by far the largest emitter of greenhouse gases and refuses to join the international effort to reduce emissions. The petition asks the Commission to declare the United States in violation of rights affirmed in the 1948 American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and other instruments of international law.

In addition, the petition:

  • Requests that the Commission hold hearings in northern Canada and Alaska to investigate the harm caused to Inuit by global warming.
  • Urges the Commission to recommend that the United States adopt mandatory limits to its emissions of greenhouse gases and co-operate with the community of nations to "prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system," the objective of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
  • Asks the Commission to encourage the United States to work with Inuit to develop a plan to help them adapt to unavoidable impacts of climate change, and to take into account, in approving any major government action, the impact of US greenhouse gas emissions on the Arctic and Inuit.

Resources:

Contacts

Brian Smith, Earthjustice, (415) 320-9384

Martin Wagner, Earthjustice, (510) 550-6700

Donald Goldberg, CIEL (202) 390-3050

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