Arctic experts optimistic about Paris climate conference, COP21
'We emit a very small amount of greenhouse gas emissions and we're the most affected,' says Nunavut premier
Arctic experts say they expect the upcoming Paris climate summit to achieve more than previous climate talks and put indigenous issues at the forefront.
The United Nations 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) opens in two weeks in Paris, and many anticipate that these talks will be a positive step in addressing climate change on a global scale.
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"This is hopefully going to be the positive way in which the world is coming to address the greenhouse gas emission," said Sheila Watt-Cloutier, an award-winning leader for her work on climate change in the Arctic.
"I suspect that the governments around the world have already done a lot of the leg work, so I think we're going into a meeting where many positive things are already set," she said.
Watt-Cloutier is not attending the summit in any official capacity but will be in Paris during the talks to give a human face to climate change.
"We have to think of climate change not just as the ice depletion, or the challenge to wildlife in the Arctic, but the people who live there," she said.
Human barometer of climate change
"We're still considered the human barometer of climate change and I don't think that will ever change," said Okalik Eegeesiak, the chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, which has observer status at the summit.
Eegeesiak hopes the summit will provide a space for Inuit to give input on how to monitor and address climate change.
"We're also looking for local participation in terms of sustainable funding so that we can help monitor what is happening in our communities," said Eegeesiak.
Nunavut's premier, Peter Taptuna, is attending the talks as part of the Canadian delegation. He says he wants northern communities to get help adapting to the changing climate.
"We're of the opinion that we emit a very small amount of greenhouse gas emissions and we're the most affected," said Taptuna.
Aile Javo, president of the Saami Council, which represents indigenous groups in Norway, Finland, Sweden and Russia, says thinner ice is making it more dangerous for animals and people.
"Reindeer herders report that it's more difficult to read the nature," said Javo.
She said even alternatives to fossil fuels, such as hydro power dams and windmill parks, can create issues for indigenous groups in the Arctic, including reindeer herders.
With a new prime minister at the helm, groups like the Saami Council are looking to Canada to take a lead.
"I hope that they will be a so-called yes country, not a no country," said Javo.