The head of the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) has condemned the United States for blocking any reference to climate change at the end of a conference on the Arctic Tuesday.
“Refusing to allow the words climate change into the declaration is a moral failure,” said Dalee Sambo Dorough, International chair of the ICC.
“This is the first time the Arctic Council has failed to issue a declaration at the end of a two-year chairmanship, and it’s a serious blow to the future of what is supposed to be a consensus based body.”
The ICC represents 165,000 Inuit in Greenland, Canada, Alaska and Chukotka, Russia.
“Inuit are feeling the effects of climate change everyday,” said Sambo Dorough. “While the US Government concerns itself with semantics, playing games with words, our people are witnessing the adverse impacts of climate change.
“What about us and our reality?”
According to the ICC, a declaration was supposed to be issued at the end of the Rovaniemi conference which also marks the end of Finland’s two-year chairmanship of the regional organisation.
The ICC said in a statement that the U.S., “consistently opposed use of any language that would point to the need for action on climate change, which is already affecting Inuit and other Indigenous communities across the Arctic.”
Rather than issuing a declaration, the parties, including Canada’s Global Affairs Minister Christia Freeland, agreed to release a joint statement that avoided mentioning any of the, “threats and challenges faced in the Arctic.”
“A majority of us regarded climate change as a fundamental challenge facing the Arctic,” said Sambo Dorough.
Freeland said the response from the U.S. was no surprise.
“Canada feels as, I think, many members of the Arctic Council that it’s a disappointment that we weren’t able to reach a shared communique that we all agreed with.
“We have to move on with other countries around the world and all the other countries around the world who want to cooperate with us on climate change. And, of course, we need to move on with our relationship with the United States, our neighbour and our ally, and a country with which we work on a huge number of fronts, including specific concrete work on the environment.”
The impasse comes on the heels of a dire report about nature and wildlife that was issued by the United Nations on Monday.
According to the report, nature is in more trouble now than at any other time in human history, with extinction looming over 1 million species of plants and animals, scientists said Monday in the United Nations’ first comprehensive report on biodiversity.
Species loss is accelerating to a rate tens or hundreds of times faster than in the past, the report said. More than half a million species on land “have insufficient habitat for long-term survival” and are likely to go extinct, many within decades, unless their habitats are restored. The oceans are not any better off.
“Humanity unwittingly is attempting to throttle the living planet and humanity’s own future,” said George Mason University biologist Thomas Lovejoy, who has been called the godfather of biodiversity for his research. He was not part of the report.
“The biological diversity of this planet has been really hammered, and this is really our last chance to address all of that,” Lovejoy said.
Conservation scientists from around the world convened in Paris to issue the report, which exceeded 1,000 pages. The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) included more than 450 researchers who used 15,000 scientific and government reports. The report’s summary had to be approved by representatives of all 109 nations.
Some nations hit harder by the losses, like small island countries, wanted more in the report. Others, such as the United States, were cautious in the language they sought, but they agreed “we’re in trouble,” said Rebecca Shaw, chief scientist for the World Wildlife Fund, who observed the final negotiations.
“This is the strongest call we’ve seen for reversing the trends on the loss of nature,” Shaw said.
The findings are not just about saving plants and animals, but about preserving a world that’s becoming harder for humans to live in, said Robert Watson, a former top NASA and British scientist who headed the report.
“We are indeed threatening the potential food security, water security, human health and social fabric” of humanity, Watson told The Associated Press. He said the poor in less developed countries bear the greatest burden.
At least 680 species with backbones have already gone extinct since 1600. The report said 559 domesticated breeds of mammals used for food have disappeared. More than 40% of the world’s amphibian species, more than one-third of the marine mammals and nearly one-third of sharks and fish are threatened with extinction.
The report relies heavily on research by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, or IUCN, which is composed of biologists who maintain a list of threatened species.
-with files from the Canadian Press