Table of Contents

Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples

Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples

The Search for Legal Remedies

Edited by Randall S. Abate and Elizabeth Ann Kronk

Indigenous peoples occupy a unique niche within the climate justice movement, as many indigenous communities live subsistence lifestyles that are severely disrupted by the effects of climate change. Additionally, in many parts of the world, domestic law is applied differently to indigenous peoples than it is to their non-indigenous peers, further complicating the quest for legal remedies. The contributors to this book bring a range of expert legal perspectives to this complex discussion, offering both a comprehensive explanation of climate change-related problems faced by indigenous communities and a breakdown of various real world attempts to devise workable legal solutions. Regions covered include North and South America (Brazil, Canada, the US and the Arctic), the Pacific Islands (Fiji, Tuvalu and the Federated States of Micronesia), Australia and New Zealand, Asia (China and Nepal) and Africa (Kenya).

Chapter 4: Introduction to indigenous sovereignty under international and domestic law

Eugenia Charles-Newton and Elizabeth Ann Kronk

Subjects: environment, climate change, environmental law, law - academic, environmental law, human rights, law and development, politics and public policy, human rights


An examination of potential legal remedies available to indigenous communities is incomplete without a discussion of sovereignty. Whether an indigenous community possesses aspects of sovereignty is crucial to a determination of what legal options may be available to that community in its efforts to address climate change. Modern public international law and domestic law may treat indigenous sovereignty differently. This chapter, therefore, examines indigenous sovereignty and rights as recognized by public international law and then domestic law. The chapter begins by exploring the concept of sovereignty generally. Because an exploration of the sovereignty possessed by every indigenous community throughout the world would be difficult, the chapter then explores the sovereignty possessed by American Indian tribes as an example of how indigenous sovereignty has been treated under the domestic law of the United States of America. Ultimately, the chapter concludes that, while most indigenous communities no longer possess sovereignty akin to that possessed by nation states, indigenous sovereignty is still an important element to any legal claim brought by indigenous communities in response to climate change.

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