Arctic People Seek Tropical Team on Global Warming

25 November 2004Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent

REYKJAVIK (Reuters) - Arctic peoples aim to team up with tropical islanders in a campaign against global warming, arguing that polar bears and palm-fringed beaches stand to suffer most.

The proposed alliance between some of the hottest and coldest parts of the globe would lobby industrial nations like the United States, which had refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, to cut emissions of heat-trapping gases.

"We are two of the world's most vulnerable areas," Sheila Watt-Cloutier, chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC), said of the low-lying islands -- at risk from rising sea levels -- and the Arctic -- where the ice is melting.

"Linking up makes a lot of sense," Watt-Cloutier, whose organization says it represents 155,000 people in Canada, Greenland, Alaska and Russia, told Reuters on Thursday.

The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet because of a build-up of gases from fossil fuels burned in cars, factories and power plants, according to a report by 250 scientists from 8 countries this month.

That could make the North Pole ice-free in summer by 2100, driving species like polar bears toward extinction and undermining indigenous hunting cultures, the report says.

In turn, a global thaw could push up sea levels by almost a meter (3 ft) by 2100, according to U.N. projections, threatening to sink low-lying Pacific island states like Tuvalu or the Marshall Islands or the Maldives in the Indian Ocean.

With their homes under threat, many indigenous peoples in the Arctic and islanders say the United States, the world's biggest polluter, bears much of the blame for global warming after Washington rejected caps on emissions under the 128-nation Kyoto protocol.


Watt-Cloutier said that she had talks with officials from Samoa and Vanuatu in the Pacific and Jamaica in the Caribbean and planned to widen contacts with other island states at a U.N. meeting in Buenos Aires next month.

"In terms of a communications strategy we can start working together, mobilizing ourselves at various U.N. forums or global negotiations sessions to turn up as a team," she said.

The Inuit plan to file a petition to a commission of the Organization of American States, hoping that it will brand global warming a human rights abuse by the United States.

And some Pacific island states have separately spoken of filing lawsuits against Washington for global warming.

Watt-Cloutier said the cooperation began at a U.N. meeting in Milan last year when Samoa agreed to mention the Arctic in a speech about vulnerable areas. "We try to find new ways to put ourselves on the map so that's how it started," she said.