Inuit leaders demand action at climate-change conference

Inuit leaders are calling on Canada's three northern territories to be more vocal about the need to address climate change, as the United Nations conference comes up in Copenhagen next month.

Inuit leaders are calling on Canada's three northern territories to be more vocal about the need to address climate change, as the United Nations conference comes up in Copenhagen next month.

Canada will be among 193 nations represented at the UN's 15th Conference of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, to be held Dec. 7-18 in Copenhagen.

The 193 countries have ratified the United Nations Framework Climate Change Convention.

Nunavut Premier Eva Aariak and Northwest Territories Premier Floyd Roland, as well as Yukon deputy premier and Environment Minister Elaine Taylor, will be among representatives from across Canada at the Copenhagen conference.

"Of all the peoples in the world, knowing just how negatively impacted we have been by globalization, we should be in the lead as to how we are going to create balanced sustainability in our own Arctic," Inuit environmental activist Sheila Watt-Cloutier told CBC News.

Watt-Cloutier said lowering greenhouse gas emissions and slowing climate change is a human rights issue, so it's critical for countries like Canada to make a commitment to that effect in Copenhagen.

The Inuit Circumpolar Council, which represents about 160,000 Inuit from Canada, Russia, Greenland and the U.S., is also calling on northern and international leaders to take strong action in Copenhagen.

"I can't think that they're doing enough," said Duane Smith, president of the Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada.

"They should be more visible and proactive in regards to trying to come up with alternative energy sources, ensuring that our negative impacts on the environment, right at the community level as well, are minimized to the greatest extent possible."

The council has listed six commitments it wants from global leaders, including deeper cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, an international fund dedicated to climate change adaptation, and support for green energy technology.

The council says that setting up a climate change adaptation fund, which would be financed by G20 nations, would require an immediate investment of $20 billion US, going up to $100 billion US by 2020.

"We think that too much time is being wasted in discussions and downplaying the need and the urgency to address climate change issues," he said, adding that Inuit are experiencing the effects of climate change first-hand.

Smith said the Inuit Circumpolar Council will have several representatives in Copenhagen, and they will have kiosks and displays as well as a side event to raise awareness of Arctic indigenous peoples.