On 7 December 2005, an NGO consisting of the Inuit people of Alaska, Canada Greenland and Russia, the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (“ICC”), filed a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (“IACHR”). The petition led by Sheila Watt-Cloutier, the elected chair of the ICC, claimed that the United States’ acts and omissions on climate policy had violated the Inuit’s human rights. The ICC petitioned the IACHR as they are one of only two American bodies within the Organization of American States with jurisdiction over the OAS Inter-American Human Rights System.
The ICC submitted that as one of the world’s largest producers of carbon emissions per capita, the United States’ failure to implement climate change polices violated the Inuits’ rights under the American Declaration of Rights and Duties of Man. The violated rights included, for example, the right to the benefits of their culture, the right to use and enjoy their personal property and lands they have traditionally used and occupied and the right to the preservation of health. Their petition highlighted the scientific studies finding that global warming affects weather patterns, thins the ice and hence impedes the Intuits’ ability to live off their polar environment.
The IACHR dismissed the petition in November the following year on the basis that the petition failed to establish ‘whether the alleged facts would tend to characterize a violation of rights protected by the American Declaration.’ The Petition has nonetheless been praised as one of the first climate change cases linking global warming with the violation of human rights.