At a meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska, March 15-17, the Arctic Council gathered Senior Arctic Officials (SAOs) from the eight Arctic States, and the six Permanent Participant organizations representing indigenous peoples of the Arctic, to address ongoing efforts on a range of topics of high importance for the Arctic.
Much of the discussion focused on the Council’s work on climate change and resilience, including its expert group on black carbon and methane, multiple projects aimed at building resilience to climate change in Arctic communities, the “One Health” initiative, and placing the Council’s overall work on climate change in the context of the COP21 climate agreement reached in Paris last December.
The meeting also addressed the Council’s work on oil and gas in the Arctic, surveying its multiple efforts to prevent oil pollution in the Arctic marine environment, reviewing its initiatives to reduce black carbon and methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, and looking at progress on the development of an Arctic Offshore Regulators’ Forum.
The Council discussed economic issues in the region and links with the Arctic Economic Council, and acknowledged the continued importance of engaging with Arctic communities, particularly in ensuring the incorporation of traditional and local knowledge.
Ambassador David Balton, Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials, expressed satisfaction with the Arctic Council meeting, which benefited from interaction with other gatherings in Fairbanks this week, particularly the Arctic Science Summit Week. “We are approaching the half-way point of the U.S. Chairmanship, which presents a good chance for the Arctic Council to think seriously about its future directions. The Council needs to consider how it can continue to evolve to meet the new challenges of the Arctic, particularly in light of the Paris Agreement on climate change. We took some steps in that direction this week.”
The Arctic Council’s six Working Groups also reported progress on specific elements of their work, including:
Development of a Circumpolar Local Environmental Observer (CLEO) network
Release of a new report on the Arctic freshwater system in a changing climate
Cross-cutting efforts aimed at preventing the introduction of invasive alien species
Strengthening the region’s search and rescue (SAR) capacity
Efforts to support a pan-Arctic network of marine protected areas (MPAs)
Building capacity and promoting community-based Arctic leadership on renewable energy microgrids
Established in 1996, the Arctic Council is made up of the eight Arctic States (Canada, the Kingdom of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden, and the United States) with six organizations representing Arctic indigenous peoples (the Arctic Athabaskan Council, the Aleut International Association, the Gwich’In Council International, the Inuit Circumpolar Council, the Saami Council and RAIPON – the Russian Association of Indigenous People of the North) taking part as Permanent Participants. Learn more about the Council and its work at www.arctic-council.org/about-us.
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