Arctic nations pledge to fight climate change as US begins chairmanship of Artic Council

On Friday (April 24) ministers from the 8 arctic states and leaders of Arctic Indigenous Peoples met in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada to mark the beginning of the new chairmanship of the Arctic Council by the United States.

At the meeting, ministers signed the Iqaluit Declaration 2015, highlighting accomplishments of the Arctic Council during Canada’s 2-year chairmanship from 2013-2015, and guiding the work of the Council for the next two years under the chairmanship of the US. While the theme of Canada’s leadership was “Development for the People of the North”, the US focus for 2015-2017 is “One Arctic: Shared Opportunities, Challenges and Responsibilities”.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, Chair of the Artic Council during the US Chairmanship, outlined the three focus areas of the program: (1) improving economic and living conditions for arctic communities, (2) arctic ocean safety, security, and stewardship, and (3) addressing the impacts of climate change.

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Arctic Council meeting in Iqaluit, Canada, April 24, 2015. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State on Flickr

As one of the main priorities is to address the impacts of climate change, discussions at this year’s meeting focused on how to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases, including methane and black carbon, emitted by burning wood and fuels in the Arctic. Despite the lack of concrete proposals, countries made a non-binding pledged to do more to reduce black carbon and methane emissions by the time the council meets again in Alaska in 2017.

Members of the Arctic Council include Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States, as well as several observer nations and organizations. The Council was created in 1996 as a diplomatic forum to foster cooperation in addressing issues that arise from increased activity in the arctic region.

(Image: Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of the Environment, Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency and Minister for the Arctic Council, hands over the gavel to John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State, who becomes ‎the Arctic Council’s new Chair. April 24, Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada. Photo credit: DFATD | MAECD on Flickr)