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Protecting Human Rights by Reducing Black Carbon Emissions to Slow Arctic Warming

The Athabaskans rely on an intact Arctic ecosystem for their survival.

The Athabaskans rely on an intact Arctic ecosystem for their survival.

Photo courtesy of the Athabaskan Arctic Council

What’s at Stake

Earthjustice is working on behalf of the Arctic’s Athabaskan people to reduce black carbon emissions, a major cause of Arctic warming.


For millennia, the Arctic has been the earth’s air conditioning—it cools warm air from the equator and in the process establishes wind and weather patterns. But black carbon pollution threatens this essential cooling system.

Black carbon, which is emitted by diesel engines, gas flaring, biomass burning and other industrial practices, can travel great distances from its emission source and settle onto white Arctic snow and ice. The black color absorbs sunlight and accelerates melting.

The Arctic is warming more than twice as fast as the rest of the planet. Reducing black carbon emissions could substantially slow Arctic warming and melting. It would also protect the homeland of Athabaskan people, who rely on an intact Arctic ecosystem for their survival. Earthjustice is representing the Arctic Athabaskan Council before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to reduce black carbon pollution, slow Arctic warming and protect Athabaskans’ homeland.

Case ID


Case Updates

May 1, 2013 | In the News: Environment News Service

Petition to human rights commission says Canada must reduce soot emissions

The Arctic Athabaskan Council has filed a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights declaring that Canada’s failure to adequately regulate black carbon emissions is infringing on the rights of indigenous people. Black carbon releases fine particulate matter, or soot, into the atmosphere that absorbs heat and accelerates Arctic warming. The ensuing climate changes significantly hinder indigenous lifestyles, and the petition requests a review and report with recommendations for regulation to the Canadian government.