THE IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON INDIGENOUS PEOPLES: ARTICLE: Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples: Comparative Models of Sovereignty* Skip over navigation
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Copyright (c) 2013 Tulane Environmental Law Journal
Tulane Environmental Law Journal

THE IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON INDIGENOUS PEOPLES: ARTICLE: Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples: Comparative Models of Sovereignty*

* This Article is a republication with minor editorial changes - and with permission from Edward Elgar Publishing - of the Author's chapter in Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples: The Search for Legal Remedies ch. 5 (Randall Abate & Elizabeth Kronk eds., 2013) and builds heavily on prior work by this author. Professor Tsosie is very grateful to Professors Abate and Kronk for their careful work on the original draft of this Article, as well as the volume which ensued and represents a truly outstanding compilation of work by distinguished colleagues in the field. Finally, Professor Tsosie thanks Katie Cordes and the other members of the Tulane Environmental Law Journal for their dedication and hard work in the editorial process.

Summer, 2013

Tulane Environmental Law Journal

26 Tul. Envtl. L.J. 239


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 have the capacity to mitigate the high level of greenhouse gas (GHG) 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. 1 However, tribal sovereignty within the United States is, to some extent, limited by tribes' status as "domestic dependent nations." 2 In that sense, tribal environmental authority tracks the scope of sovereignty and self-determination that has emerged from federal Indian law and policy. 3

With respect to the issue of climate change, the domestic sovereignty framework is inadequate to address the challenges confront-ing indigenous communities because tribal jurisdiction is largely circumscribed by boundaries of reservation and membership. International human rights law offers a more comprehensive framework of analysis for the principle of indigenous self-determination, because it governs the relationship of indigenous peoples with their traditional lands and resources and places responsibility on the nation-states to account for the impact of their policies upon indigenous peoples. 4 This Article highlights the need for federally recognized tribal governments in the United States to work effectively within the domains of tribal law, federal law, and international human rights law, as they craft appropriate strategies to deal with the impacts of climate change. ...
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