Nunavut Demands Action at Cancun Climate Talks

Nunavut and Inuit leaders at this week’s UN climate change summit in Cancun, Mexico, have urged Canadian and world leaders to act quickly on climate change.

Delegates at the summit, which wraps up on Friday, have been debating new commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A new deal is needed to replace the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012.

Officials at the summit have included northern representatives who raised awareness of the dramatic impact climate change is having on the lives of Inuit and other northern peoples.

“It was advised to them that we are actually living this climate change as we speak, as we all know, in the North,” Daniel Shewchuk, Nunavut’s environment minister, told CBC News on Thursday.

“It’s action that needs to be taken right now.”

Kirt Ejesiak, the Iqaluit-based vice-president of the Inuit Circumpolar Council in Canada, said whatever promise Canada makes has to be a concrete commitment.

“We’re basically asking Canada, as well as the Arctic states, to step up to the plate and do what needs to be done to basically commit serious resources,” Ejesiak said.

Proposed goal attainable: Shewchuk

While Canada has faced criticism from environmental groups for not making climate change a high enough priority, Shewchuk said the Nunavut government supports the federal government’s proposed commitments.

“We do support the position, and their position is to lessen the greenhouse gas emissions by 17 per cent from 2005 levels to 2020,” Shewchuk said. “That is a target that we feel is attainable.”

The Inuit Circumpolar Council is calling on the Canadian government to include Inuit in climate change discussions.

As well, Ejesiak said Inuit must be included in any funding agreements established to help people adapt to the changing environment.

“We want to make sure that those issues are addressed and we are recipients of some of that adaptation funding,” he said.

“It will be a large sum of money that will be available for the global community, and we want the language reflected to make sure Inuit are included and not just regions.”

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