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 17: Fiji: climate change, tradition and Vanua

Victoria Sutton

Extract

Fiji is the fourth largest nation of the twenty-two pacific island nations, and has two major islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, which together with its smaller islands total 18,272 square kilometers. The islands are mountainous and of volcanic origin, making up 87 per cent of the surface area. The islands have a diverse range of ecosystems, and the climate is in a zone classified with high rainfall, and often-severe tropical cyclones. Although 87 per cent of the surface is mountainous, 90 per cent of the population lives in coastal areas, both urban and rural, where the impacts of sea level rise and extreme weather events can be the most destructive. Fiji was the first nation to sign the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992, and is a member of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), a group of nations that share common threats such as sea-level rise and extreme weather event vulnerability and form a political alliance in climate negotiations. The Republic of Fiji Islands (hereinafter Fiji) has maintained one of the most institutionalized traditional legal systems among the Pacific Island nations, in that the cultural system of managing the environment, unlike other indigenous systems of environmental management in the South Pacific, has been adopted in the Fiji Environment Act as an enforceable system of environmental law in the dominant legal system in addition to the cultural pressure of compliance.

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