by Christine Boyd / Globe and Mail –
TORONTO (December 11, 2003) — The world’s Inuit intend to launch a human-rights case against the United States, condemning its role in the global warming that they say threatens them with extinction.
Inuit Circumpolar Conference, which represents the 155,000 people who live within the Arctic Circle, argues that Washington has violated their rights by refusing to sign the Kyoto accord and resisting attempts to lower the country’s emissions of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide.
It intends to invite the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to observe first-hand how the Inuit way of life is being destroyed as the Far North, particularly the sea ice the Inuit use to hunt key parts of their diets, melts away.
“What is at stake here is the cultural survival of the Inuit as a people,” Sheila Watt-Cloutier, the group’s chairwoman, warned a United Nations meeting on climate change in Milan yesterday.
The conference was the first since Russia began flip-flopping over whether it would sign the 1997 accord. Under the protocol’s rules, it must be ratified by industrialized countries accounting for at least 55 percent of the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions, as of 1990, before it becomes binding.
So far, 120 countries accounting for 44 per cent of emissions have signed on, while the United States — which produces 36 per cent — loudly backed out two years ago, with President George W. Bush announcing he feared U.S. industry would be hurt if it met the treaty’s reduction goals. Kyoto will die if Russia, which produces 17 per cent of global emissions, does not sign.
Ms. Watt-Cloutier said her organization was not invoking the threat of the Washington-based commission, similar to the European court of human rights, in an “adversarial spirit.” The commission has no enforcement powers if it rules against the US government, but the Inuit hope the case will draw attention to their plight.