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The Impacts of Climate Change on the Inuit in Greenland and Nunavut and their International Legal Protection

Halldén, Anna Katarina (2009)
Department of Law
Abstract
Human induced climate change i.e. global warming caused largely by greenhouse gas emission will change the ecological balance of our planet and lead to dramatic societal problems. Working Group 1 Contribution to the Forth Assessment Report of the IPCC, Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis, 2007, p. 1-18 In the Arctic region, such changes are already occurring. The Inuit, an indigenous group of the far North are especially affected because of their reliance on the Arctic nature and living resources. Their future existence as a distinct cultural people depends upon their abilities to combat the adverse effects of climate change. Firstly, by using the opportunities warmer climate brings as a means to counter-attack the adverse... (More)
Human induced climate change i.e. global warming caused largely by greenhouse gas emission will change the ecological balance of our planet and lead to dramatic societal problems. Working Group 1 Contribution to the Forth Assessment Report of the IPCC, Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis, 2007, p. 1-18 In the Arctic region, such changes are already occurring. The Inuit, an indigenous group of the far North are especially affected because of their reliance on the Arctic nature and living resources. Their future existence as a distinct cultural people depends upon their abilities to combat the adverse effects of climate change. Firstly, by using the opportunities warmer climate brings as a means to counter-attack the adverse impacts. Secondly, by using national and international law to mitigate the possible harmful influences climate change might have on their lives. This thesis only focuses on the international legal avenues available to the Inuit, in addition of setting out the different opportunities as well as challenges caused by climate change. Since climate change is caused by most States of the world and affects all continents, it is natural to believe that the international community has created powerful international legal measures and mechanisms to combat the phenomena and its adverse consequences. However, this is not the case, instead the international legal regime is inadequate in dealing with the problems caused by these changes and the Inuit have as a result insufficient international legal protection against climate change. Legal standards under various treaties, declarations and general principles of international law have in principle the possibility to give the Inuit some sort of legal safeguard against current and future climate related problems. Environmental law and human rights law, including the legal protection of indigenous peoples provide various standards and measures that can be relevant to the Inuit's climate predicaments. International environmental law tackles the root of climate change and international human rights law tackles the consequences climate change has on the Inuit. Meanwhile, international human rights law provides rights to individuals, international environmental law creates States' obligations by treaties or the creation of customary international law. The Inuit can hence not enforce provisions set out in environmental treaties relevant to them, such as the Framework Convention on Climate Change, its Kyoto Protocol and the Convention on Biological Diversity, since the obligations and responsibilities provided for in these treaties are between State parties. Nevertheless, the sufficiency of international environmental law plays a vital part in how successful the Inuit will be in their battle against climate change. For example, an effective climate change regime i.e. the Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol will mitigate climate change, which will consequently reduce the negative impacts for the Inuit. An ineffective climate change regime will instead create further global warming and thus add greater adverse impacts on the Inuit's lives. This thesis will illustrate that although current climate change regime sets out clear reduction targets for greenhouse gas emission, it lacks the possibility to mitigate climate change in reality. The regime has to be amended to have some sort of importance to the Inuit struggle against climate change. This thesis will also demonstrate that the international human rights regime is not adequate in its legal protection either. Both global and regional human rights treaties provide appropriate standards and rights to the Inuit in practice but in reality, they are difficult to utilize. Firstly, if the impacts of climate change infringe on certain human rights of the Inuit, there might be a problem proving the causal link between the concerned States' actions or omissions and the violated human rights. Secondly, the Inuit have limited abilities to enforce their human rights through international legal proceedings. The enforcement of alleged human rights violation can only be accomplished through regional legal proceedings i.e. through legally binding decisions of the regional Courts of the Council of Europe and the Organization of American States. The global human rights regime does not offer the Inuit such opportunities. As an alternative, the two Committees of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights supervise and monitor the human rights set out in their provisions. The Inuit can currently bring individual petitions of alleged civil and political rights violations by States to the Human Rights Committee. In the case of economic, social and cultural rights the United Nations General Assemble have recently adopted a much-needed Optional Protocol, which in the future can make it possible for Inuit individuals to bring claims of economic, social and cultural rights' violations to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The new Optional Protocol is of particular importance to the Inuit because economic, social and cultural rights are the human rights, which are predominantly affected by climate change. This thesis will reveal the significance of the minimum core theory in relation to the future success of the Optional Protocol and it will propose several recommendations for the general improvement of the Inuit's international legal protection. The possibility of redress for infringements in relation to civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights are needed, the creation of a human right to clean environment and the strengthening of indigenous people's legal protection, are all suitable measures that can be taken to strengthen the international legal protection of the Inuit. Furthermore, the thesis will establish that the full realisation of the right to self-determination is a fundamental component in the survival of the Inuit in a warmer Arctic. (Less)
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author
Halldén, Anna Katarina
supervisor
organization
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
keywords
International Human Rights Law
language
English
id
1555339
date added to LUP
2010-03-08 15:23:25
date last changed
2010-03-08 15:23:25
@misc{1555339,
  abstract     = {Human induced climate change i.e. global warming caused largely by greenhouse gas emission will change the ecological balance of our planet and lead to dramatic societal problems. Working Group 1 Contribution to the Forth Assessment Report of the IPCC, Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis, 2007, p. 1-18 In the Arctic region, such changes are already occurring. The Inuit, an indigenous group of the far North are especially affected because of their reliance on the Arctic nature and living resources. Their future existence as a distinct cultural people depends upon their abilities to combat the adverse effects of climate change. Firstly, by using the opportunities warmer climate brings as a means to counter-attack the adverse impacts. Secondly, by using national and international law to mitigate the possible harmful influences climate change might have on their lives. This thesis only focuses on the international legal avenues available to the Inuit, in addition of setting out the different opportunities as well as challenges caused by climate change. Since climate change is caused by most States of the world and affects all continents, it is natural to believe that the international community has created powerful international legal measures and mechanisms to combat the phenomena and its adverse consequences. However, this is not the case, instead the international legal regime is inadequate in dealing with the problems caused by these changes and the Inuit have as a result insufficient international legal protection against climate change. Legal standards under various treaties, declarations and general principles of international law have in principle the possibility to give the Inuit some sort of legal safeguard against current and future climate related problems. Environmental law and human rights law, including the legal protection of indigenous peoples provide various standards and measures that can be relevant to the Inuit's climate predicaments. International environmental law tackles the root of climate change and international human rights law tackles the consequences climate change has on the Inuit. Meanwhile, international human rights law provides rights to individuals, international environmental law creates States' obligations by treaties or the creation of customary international law. The Inuit can hence not enforce provisions set out in environmental treaties relevant to them, such as the Framework Convention on Climate Change, its Kyoto Protocol and the Convention on Biological Diversity, since the obligations and responsibilities provided for in these treaties are between State parties. Nevertheless, the sufficiency of international environmental law plays a vital part in how successful the Inuit will be in their battle against climate change. For example, an effective climate change regime i.e. the Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol will mitigate climate change, which will consequently reduce the negative impacts for the Inuit. An ineffective climate change regime will instead create further global warming and thus add greater adverse impacts on the Inuit's lives. This thesis will illustrate that although current climate change regime sets out clear reduction targets for greenhouse gas emission, it lacks the possibility to mitigate climate change in reality. The regime has to be amended to have some sort of importance to the Inuit struggle against climate change. This thesis will also demonstrate that the international human rights regime is not adequate in its legal protection either. Both global and regional human rights treaties provide appropriate standards and rights to the Inuit in practice but in reality, they are difficult to utilize. Firstly, if the impacts of climate change infringe on certain human rights of the Inuit, there might be a problem proving the causal link between the concerned States' actions or omissions and the violated human rights. Secondly, the Inuit have limited abilities to enforce their human rights through international legal proceedings. The enforcement of alleged human rights violation can only be accomplished through regional legal proceedings i.e. through legally binding decisions of the regional Courts of the Council of Europe and the Organization of American States. The global human rights regime does not offer the Inuit such opportunities. As an alternative, the two Committees of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights supervise and monitor the human rights set out in their provisions. The Inuit can currently bring individual petitions of alleged civil and political rights violations by States to the Human Rights Committee. In the case of economic, social and cultural rights the United Nations General Assemble have recently adopted a much-needed Optional Protocol, which in the future can make it possible for Inuit individuals to bring claims of economic, social and cultural rights' violations to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The new Optional Protocol is of particular importance to the Inuit because economic, social and cultural rights are the human rights, which are predominantly affected by climate change. This thesis will reveal the significance of the minimum core theory in relation to the future success of the Optional Protocol and it will propose several recommendations for the general improvement of the Inuit's international legal protection. The possibility of redress for infringements in relation to civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights are needed, the creation of a human right to clean environment and the strengthening of indigenous people's legal protection, are all suitable measures that can be taken to strengthen the international legal protection of the Inuit. Furthermore, the thesis will establish that the full realisation of the right to self-determination is a fundamental component in the survival of the Inuit in a warmer Arctic.},
  author       = {Halldén, Anna Katarina},
  keyword      = {International Human Rights Law},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {The Impacts of Climate Change on the Inuit in Greenland and Nunavut and their International Legal Protection},
  year         = {2009},
}