“I was honoured and delighted to welcome leading representatives of Inuit, Gwich’in and Saami peoples of the Arctic to Parliament, for what I believe is the first time in its thousand-year history. I was incredibly moved by their personal testimonies about how their lives are being impacted by the effects of climate change and development in the Arctic”.
Mr Gray was speaking after the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Polar Regions hosted a meeting in Parliament, which gave Okalik Eegeesiak (Chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council), Jannie Staffansson (who works for the Saami Council), and Sarah James (an elder of the Gwich’in Nation) a rare opportunity to speak directly to British parliamentarians about how they are adapting to changes in the Arctic. The speakers were brought to London by WWF UK.
The UK is the Arctic’s nearest neighbour and has a long history of political and economic ties to the region, but, like many other developed nations, it has also been a source of pollution that has affected life in the Arctic and contributed more broadly to global climate change (the effects of which are much more impactful in the far north). There are some 4 million people living in the Arctic, around 500,000 of whom belong to one of the region’s many indigenous groups.
Mr Gray added: “If the UK is to be a good neighbour, Parliament and Government needs to listen to voices from the Arctic and do what it can to support a more inclusive approach to development in the region. I hope that this will be reflected in the Government’s revisions to the Arctic Policy Framework next year”.