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Empowering indigenous people in climate action key to enhancing Arctic resilience

Climate change is rapidly transforming Arctic environments, with the rate of warming close to double compared to that of planetary mean projections. Arctic communities and indigenous peoples overall, are the responsible custodians of some of the most diverse and vulnerable ecosystems on the planet – a skill that is getting increasingly scarce and precious.

The already on-going change with the melting of permafrost, changes in sea ice conditions and weather extremes among other, pose an existential threat to ecosystems and human communities in the Arctic.

Northern Finland and other Nordic countries are the home to the Sámi people, the only indigenous peoples in the European Union. One of the major climate risks for indigenous people are the impacts of climate change to their traditional livelihoods. Reindeer herding, fishing and whaling are threatened, forcing arctic communities to actively look for ways to adapt to climate change.

As social and ecological systems are particularly strongly interlinked in the Arctic, holistic solutions utilizing the best research available, including indigenous knowledge, need to be developed and made use of. It is important for governments, indigenous peoples, local communities as well as the private sector to work collaboratively to build resilience in a manner that also addresses a number of other social and economic change factors.

In order to identify concrete means and share best practices and lessons learned for building climate resilience, the first Arctic Resilience Forum will be held in Rovaniemi, Finland, in September 2018.  In close collaboration with numerous arctic stakeholders, Gaia is supporting the Finnish government during its Chairmanship of the Arctic Council in preparing and facilitating this forum.

The event provides a forum to share best practices for strengthening the resilience of agriculture, tourism services, reindeer herding, among other. It will also highlight approaches and tools for improved disaster preparedness, more user-friendly and demand-driven weather services as well as more resilient infrastructure solutions. In addition, the forum will tackle issues related to education, awareness as well as resource mobilization – all key for enabling prompt and effective climate action in the arctic.

In order to strengthen the capacities of indigenous peoples and local communities for climate action, and also strengthening their voice in international climate negotiations, the Nordic governments hosted a 2-day event Informal Friendly States and Indigenous Peoples' representatives meeting in Helsinki in February 2018.

The event, moderated and facilitated by Gaia, gathered indigenous peoples' representatives from all regions of the world, government representatives from six different continents, and representatives from many relevant bodies of the United Nations. The meeting allowed to identify concrete options for the operationalization of a joint platform (the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform, LCIPP) and to build momentum for the upcoming UNFCCC climate negotiations in Bonn in May 2018.

While the Artic has received increasing international attention, obviously due to the unpresented advancement of climate change in the region, and for various economic and political reasons, it´s time to turn our eyes towards to the Artic and indigenous peoples as sources of inspiration and partners in addressing one of the main development challenges of the 21st century – in a manner that respects the planetary boundaries and cultural rights and diversity of all people.

For further information:

  • Anna Laine, Senior Consultant, anna.laine@gaia.fi, +358 50 513 1260
  • Mikko Halonen, Leading Consultant, mikko.halonen@gaia.fi, +358 40 700 2190