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Tribal leaders asked to support climate legislation

WASHINGTON – A group of tribal, advocacy, environmental and legal organizations is requesting that tribes support climate legislation, especially given current incentives proposed in Congress.

Leaders from the allied organizations, the National Wildlife Federation, the National Congress of American Indians, the Native American Rights Fund, and the National Tribal Environmental Council made the case Nov. 4 at a meeting of tribal leaders in Washington.

They pointed to a current bill being considered in the Senate – S. 1733 – as an important starting point to get tribes involved in the arena. It contains several provisions that would provide financial and other benefits in exchange for tribal green energy development.

Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., was at the event, and believes the legislation would help many tribes if partisan politics is kept at bay.

“I’m working hard to make sure Native tribes not only have a seat at the table, but also get their fair share of the benefits and economic opportunities we expect from a clean energy revolution.”

He said current legislation does not meet all requests tribal leaders have made, but he believes it’s a positive start.

NCAI Executive Director Jacqueline Johnson Pata said it is the wish of many tribal governments to become full partners in the clean energy revolution, and in efforts to address the impacts of climate change.

She said financial benefits from tribal involvement in the green energy industry could one day rival those from gaming.

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“Renewable energy is one of the most significant economic development opportunities available to tribes during these difficult economic times, particularly tribes in remote areas, many of which have never experienced meaningful economic opportunities,” Johnson Pata said.

“This potential must be tapped.”

She noted that much wind and solar energy is located in reservation areas, according to government studies.

Jerry Pardilla, NTEC executive director, said the negative impact of manmade climate change is having adverse and disproportionate impacts on tribal communities across the nation.

He added that it is important for the Obama administration and Congress to include Indian tribes and their leaders in the development of policies and strategies to reverse these impacts.

“Tribes have a lot to offer in the way of ecological knowledge and cultural teaching which can provide insight for a sustainable future, one which should also embrace energy efficiency and renewable energy development,” Padilla said.

He urged tribal leaders to ask Congress to include more tribal provisions in current legislation.

“Moving forward, it is my sincere hope that climate change will be a critical issue for which an ongoing dialogue can take place between the nation’s tribes and the Obama administration.”

John Echohawk, NARF executive director, later noted that indigenous people have contributed very little to the global carbon footprint, yet they are suffering disproportionately from the effects of climate change.