New Climate Justice grants to support Alaska native communities facing sea level rise

Two new grants to support Alaska Native communities in developing strategies to adapt to climate change were announced today by the Alaska Institute for Justice (AIJ), the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC), and the Climate Justice Resilience Fund (CJRF). AIJ received a $752,000 grant from CJRF and a $55,000 grant from UUSC to work with 15 communities along the Alaska coast. The funds will support AIJ’s efforts to develop community-based adaptive strategies that protect the health and well-being of Alaska Native communities experiencing the impacts of climate-induced environmental change. This funding announcement coincides in timing with the last meeting of the Arctic Council during the US Chairmanship, scheduled to occur in Fairbanks, Alaska on May 11.  During the two-year U.S. chairmanship of the Arctic Council, the council prioritized climate change, its impacts on the environment and projects to help Arctic residents respond and adapt.   The funding awarded by CJRF and UUSC will continue this important work.

As the Arctic disproportionately bears the consequences of a rapidly changing climate, Alaska Native communities are facing an urgent need to relocate due to erosion and sea level rise.  CJRF Director, Heather McGray, sees the social justice opportunity to “help indigenous people build a movement, amplify their voices, and build resilience for their communities.” Launched in September 2016 by the Oak Foundation, the CJRF supports people on the “front lines” of climate change to assert their rights and develop community-led climate solutions.  The grant to AIJ represents the CJRF’s first-ever grant in the Arctic region, and its first multi-year grant.  The CJRF is a project of the New Venture Fund, a 501(c)(3) public charity. The New Venture Fund (NVF) hosts and incubates a wide range of conservation, education, global health, and other charitable projects. 

UUSC recognizes the grave danger that climate change poses for the world’s most vulnerable populations. Their funding promotes environmental justice and protects human rights, with a specific focus on protecting the rights of people that are forcibly displaced by climate change in the South Pacific and in Alaska. Salote Soqo, UUSC’s Senior Program Leader for Environmental Justice & Climate Action emphasizes the urgency of this crisis, “These are indigenous communities and what they are experiencing is directly impinging on their basic human rights and their values as indigenous people. Governments must urgently respond to this crisis to protect the rights and dignities of their communities.” UUSC provides grants to grassroots partner organizations to strategically organize and build the capacities of affected communities to advocate for rights-based solutions and protection. In addition to providing flexible financial support, UUSC contributes various forms of innovative collaboration and technical assistance to our partner organizations.

Robin Bronen, senior research scientist at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks and co-founder and executive director of AIJ, stated, “This funding will have a monumental impact on our efforts to help Alaska Native communities as we face one of the biggest humanitarian challenges of the 21stst century.”  With Arctic communities at the forefront of global environmental change, AIJ’s efforts will be critical to the development of long term adaptation strategies for affected communities. “Our groundbreaking research to work with Alaska Native communities and design and implement a community-led relocation process that protects their livelihoods and health may provide a template for other communities faced with this extraordinarily difficult decision.” 

For more information, please contact:  Robin Bronen – 907-441-5917 or Salote Soqo – 617-301-4364