COP 28 “transitional, but not transformative” says Int’l Inuit org

Participants attend day thirteen of the UNFCCC COP28 Climate Conference on December 13, 2023 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Fadel Dawod/Getty Images)

The agreement by nations to phase out fossil fuels was a promising step at COP28, but for Arctic Indigenous Peoples already living with drastic environmental change, it wasn’t enough, the organization representing Inuit internationally said.

“It’s a positive movement forward, but it’s not yet transformational,”  Lisa Koperqualuk, the vice-chair of Inuit Circumpolar Council, told Eye on the Arctic in a phone interview. 

“The Arctic is changing so much and we’re arriving at tipping points from which there will be no point of return.”

The main result out of COP 28 in Dubai was the call by countries to wean themselves off fossil fuels over the next 25 years.

“Transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade, so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science,” the countries, known as the parties, said in the final document known as the Global Stocktake.

Arctic communities need urgent action

But while the text talks of the need for “urgent action” to adhere to the Paris Climate Agreement target of minimizing global temperature increase to 1.5 C , the lack of specifics remains a concern for Inuit experiencing the drastic effects of environmental transformation first hand.

“When I was a child [in Nunavik], people could be out on the ice in snowmobiles by the end of October, or in November for sure,” Koperqualuk said. “But this year, it’s December, and many people still can’t go out.”

A sled dog waits near a qamutik at a hunting camp near Clyde River, Nunavut. Travelling by sledge and by dog team are becoming precarious in many regions as the climate warms and ice conditions become unpredictable. (Eilis Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)

While this affects travel safety and food security in the Arctic, it also has ripple effects throughout every aspect of Inuit culture.

“It affects our livelihood, culture, community health and language,” Koperqualuk said.

“There’s the stress, and trauma of people who’ve gone through ice, or the families of those who have died. And as adults go out less, there is less chances to  transmit knowledge about ice conditions and all the language around that and the weather. It is suffering a loss. It directly affects our community well-being.”

“We are at a human rights tipping point as well”

ICC Chair Sara Olsvig said that for Inuit, the environmental change is at a critical juncture. 

“We are not only at a climate change tipping point,” Olsvig said in a statement on Thursday.

“The lack of recognition of the severe impact of climate change on the rights of Indigenous Peoples means we are at a human rights tipping point as well. We need to be at the table in all negotiating processes, not just on climate change but in any other international processes that affect us.”

The ICC delegation at COP28. (Courtesy ICC)

ICC said COP28 has made some progress with the inclusion of language in the Global Stocktake about the importance of considering Indigenous rights  as well as highlighting the importance of Indigenous knowledge.

The Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform, recently put into action, is another example of amplifying Indigenous voices, ICC said. 

Established under the Paris Accord, the platform was set up so Indigenous peoples could share their insights on climate change, along with strategies for mitigation and adaptation. 

“It is vital that Indigenous Peoples are part of the discussions and are able to bring our solutions to the table,” Olsvig said.

However, I would like to echo our sisters and brothers in the Small Island Developing States and agree that the results in Dubai are transitional but not transformative. We still have a long way to go — and we haven’t got a lot of time.”

ICC represents the approximately 180,000 Inuit in Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Chukotka, Russia.

COP 28 ran from Nov. 30 to Dec 12.

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)

Related stories from around the North: 

Antarctica : British research ship crosses paths with world’s largest iceberg, The Associated Press

Arctic : Arctic Permafrost Atlas offers insights into the North’s changing landscape, Eye on the Arctic

Canada: Warming North pushing earth into “uncharted territory”: Arctic Report Card, Eye on the Arctic

Greenland : Blog: Don’t be fooled – we can and we must limit temperature rise to 1.5°C, Irene Quaile

Norway : Assessment looks at dust in Arctic and its impacts on Svalbard, Eye on the Arctic

RussiaMelting permafrost may release industrial pollutants at Arctic sites: study, Eye on the Arctic

United StatesBursting ice dam in Alaska highlights risks of glacial flooding around the globe, The Associated Press

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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