Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples
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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).
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Chapter 5: Climate change and indigenous peoples: comparative models of sovereignty

The Search for Legal Remedies

Rebecca Tsosie


Sovereignty has an integral relationship to the issue of climate change. The environmental laws and development policies of global nation-states have created the current crisis, and these sovereigns also have the capacity to mitigate the high level of greenhouse gas emissions or facilitate appropriate adaptation policies to deal with future climate events. Within the United States, federally recognized tribal governments possess sovereignty and the ability to develop laws governing their lands, resources and members according to their own norms. However, tribal sovereignty within the United States is, to some extent, limited by tribes’ status as ‘domestic, dependent nations’. In that sense, tribal environmental authority tracks the scope of sovereignty and self-determination that has emerged from federal Indian law and policy.

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