Indigenousleaders seek assistance with climate

Posted: Wednesday, May 25, 2005

BRUSSELS, Belgium - Indigenous leaders from the Arctic regions of Canada, Russia, the United States, Finland and Scandinavia called on the European Union on Tuesday to do more to fight global warming and to consider giving aid to their people.

In their first visit to EU headquarters, three leaders representing the eight-nation Arctic Council met with officials at the European Commission and several EU lawmakers to push their campaign, warning their way of life was at risk.

Chief Gary Harrison, who represents the Athabascan people in Alaska and Canada said urgent action was needed from the 25-nation EU, the United States and Russia.

"Maybe we can put pressure on and maybe they can turn the corner" and help, Harrison said.

The Arctic region is home to about 4 million people, including more than 30 different indigenous groups.

Harrison said the group was planning a tour of American cities, including Washington and New York to promote their cause ahead of United Nations environment talks in Montreal later in the year.

Larisa Abrutina, vice president of the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, which represents 40 different indigenous peoples, said her people should be able to share from the wealth in oil drilling and similar projects in the North.

"We don't get a share in the wealth in the exploitation of resources," she said.

Olav Mathis Eura, who represents Saami people in Norway, Sweden and Finland argued that development of the North should only be done in a sustainable way.

"We need a kind of protection against this encroachment, we need protection of our traditional lands," he said.

A recent scientific study undertaken by the Arctic Council said the impact of global warming on the world's polar region was getting worse, warning that the annual average amount of sea ice around the North Pole had decreased around 8 percent in the past 30 years.

The council believes temperatures in the Arctic will increase 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit by 2080, further melting glaciers and lessening the zone of permafrost, opening up the risk flooding and erosion.

Also animals such as ring seals, walruses and polar bears are in danger, the council warned.

In visits to Copenhagen and Berlin last week, the council urged European nations to lower greenhouse gas emissions beyond what's required under the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

Created in 1996, the Arctic Council - which comprises Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States - is a regional partnership for sustainable development.

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