The delegates to the 12th general assembly of the Inuit Circumpolar Council say mechanisms must be in place to avoid or minimize environmental disasters.
Many delegates attending the conference in Inuvik last week say they want to focus on environmental protection in response to increased interest in resource development.
Makivik Corporation President Jobie Tukkiapik spoke on a panel about how to respond to environmental challenges.
He says aside from potential oil spills, the immediate threat in the Arctic is climate change.
"For example, one of our communities Salluit, is being particularly affected, melting permafrost and thermal erosion have caused land slides, deterioration of buildings and an abandonment of community expansion plans," he said.
James Etoolook, vice president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., says the effects of climate change are being felt throughout the North.
"Some of our communities are feeling the effects of global warming really fast. Some are warming slower. Our community is not really affected, but we know climate change is happening," Etoolook said.
Many delegates say they support the economic benefits of resource development, but worry because the North lacks proper infrastructure and would not be able to respond quickly to disasters, such as an oil spill.