Indigenous Peoples in Europe and Their International Protection vis-à-vis the Threat of Climate Change

In: European Yearbook of Minority Issues Online
Alexandra TomaselliSenior Researcher at the Institute for Minority Rights of the European Academy of Bolzano, EURAC, Italy
Teaching Fellow in Law at the University of Graz,

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Indigenous peoples are among the most vulnerable sectors of society in the face of climate change because they generally have a profound and spiritual relationship with the(ir) land. Paradoxically, they are among those who have maintained and promoted a holistic management of the(ir) land and the environment, and have caused less climate change effects. The Inuit petition against the US at the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights has prompted the debate and an increased international attention on climate change effects and human (and indigenous) rights. However, the nexus between human rights and climate change raises several conceptual issues. Against this background, this article pursues a threefold goal. First, it aims to introduce the international debate, scholarly approaches, and conceptual and analytical questions that have arisen and still arise about the human rights-climate change nexus. Second, it tries to ascertain how the exploitation of non-renewable natural resources, such as fossil fuels (e.g. oil and gas), are contributing to climate change and how (some of) its adverse effects may—directly or indirectly—represent a threat for indigenous peoples and their rights in the Russian Federation and in Northern Europe (Denmark-Greenland, Finland, Norway, and Sweden). Third, it seeks to identify which indigenous international law instruments may offer (some) protection to these indigenous peoples against (few) climate change-related harms.

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