Established in 1996, all eight Arctic States have held the Chair for the Arctic Council, with Sweden now completing the round.
Sweden Minister for Foreign Affairs Carl Bildt met Canada's Minister for the Arctic Council Leona Aglukkaq last week. Canada will serve as chair under Ms. Aglukkaq's leadership, for the period 2013–2015. The work of the Arctic Council to protect the environment from oil spills, and Canada's plans for its upcoming Chairmanship, were discussed at the meeting.
Ms. Aglukkaq is now visiting the member states to introduce herself as the person who will lead Canada's two-year chairmanship period. Tuesday it was the turn of Sweden and Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr. Carl Bildt.
"We have worked to become more visible globally with regard to climate change, and to draw attention to the fact that climate change is occurring twice as fast in the Arctic than in the rest of the world. Awareness of this is now much greater in the global debate. This must be translated into political action, which takes a little longer. But I think we have made progress, for example on the issue of black carbon in the Arctic." said Mr. Bildt.
"Our priorities focus on development for people in the north: responsible resource development, safe shipping and sustainable circumpolar communities. The final priorities will be finalised when consensus has been reached in the Arctic Council at the Ministerial Meeting in Kiruna in May," said Ms. Aglukkaq.
During its chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2011–2013, Sweden has worked to strengthen environmental protection during oil exploration in the Arctic. This has been achieved by developing safety standards based on best practice in the industry and negotiating an international agreement on cooperation in the event of oil spills. Sweden has also led efforts to establish the new permanent secretariat of the Arctic Council in Tromsø, Norway, which will open in May 2013, the Arctic Council website says.