Published: Sat, May 20, 2017
Science | By Hubert Green

Arctic nations meet as USA remains cool on Paris accord

Arctic nations meet as USA remains cool on Paris accord

"Certainly, the final declaration will have a lot of material about climate change in the Arctic", Balton said.

Adding pressure on the Trump administration, scientists from the United States and other Arctic nations issued a report ahead of the meeting that the impacts of warming in the region could lead to trillions of dollars worth of damage to buildings, roads and other infrastructure this century.

"Over the past two years, the members of the Council have come together to make great strides in laying the groundwork for sustainable development of the Arctic", the U.S. envoy noted. High-level officials from the world's eight Arctic nations, including Tillerson, will meet in Alaska amid concerns about the future of the sensitive region after President Trump called for more oil drilling and development.

Soini proposed that Finland could even hold an Arctic summit during its chairmanship, if participants could agree on an agenda "that is appropriate". The Arctic Council has a history of friendly cooperation, and observers say such a move would be a noted departure.

Rather than continuing to appeal for US support for climate change and sustainable development initiatives at the ministerial level, it may prove more effective to engage subnational actors on these important issues in the years to come.

While Tillerson has advocated for the USA to keep a seat at worldwide climate talks, he has also disputed the scientific consensus that global warming is mostly caused by human activity.

"U.S. Arctic policy has not changed very much, administration to administration, going all the way back to the early '90s", Balton told reporters.

"We're not going to rush to a decision".

"On certain issues we have different points of view", Freeland, a fierce critic of Russia's actions in Ukraine and Crimea, said in Russian, while looking directly at the Russian delegation.

Freeland said recently she'd be open to a bilateral meeting with Lavrov in Alaska. The arguments focused in part on the special status of indigenous organizations and encouraged a comparable position for northern sub-national actors like Alaska, Greenland, the Canadian territories, Nordic municipalities and Russia's republics.

"We should make sure that all human activity is sustainable, increasing opportunities to benefit the people who already live in the Arctic region, and certainly also the indigenous communities", he said.

Mr Aleksi Harkonen, Finland's senior Arctic official, said that during negotiations the United States had demanded there be no mention of the Paris agreement in the Fairbanks Declaration, as the final statement of the Arctic Council meeting will be known.

"This new administration has not yet begun that process", he noted.

The national inertia created by the Trump Administration when it comes to the Arctic's most pressing issues may prove an opportunity to rethink the framework within which the Arctic Council operates and ultimately lead to a more inclusive, efficient structure.

The U.S. highlighted three areas during its two-year chairmanship-improved living conditions and economies for those living in the Arctic, stewardship of the Arctic Ocean and climate change.

The Obama administration had emphasized climate change and scientific research during the two-year US chairmanship.

The focus will remain on climate change during Finland's two-year chairmanship.

U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan released the following statement in advance of traveling to Fairbanks to attend the 10 Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting, attended by foreign ministers of the eight Arctic nations, to celebrate the success of the U.S. Chairmanship of the Arctic Council and transfer the chairmanship to Finland.

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