Arctic Council and the Climate COP - what’s missing

Posted on 20 November 2013  | 
The Arctic Council’s joint statement to the climate negotiations taking place in Poland details well what climate change actions the Council is taking.

It notes the work toward reducing black carbon in the Arctic. This is a welcome activity - it would have been even more welcome if it had a goal of producing a concerted binding agreement on reducing soot pollution in the Arctic. The statement also highlights the Council’s work on planning for resilience in the Arctic. This too is welcome, but with Arctic temperature increases at double the global average, resilience has its limits.

On the less positive side, all the Arctic states with ocean territory (Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Russia, US, Norway) are continuing to actively encourage drilling for hydrocarbons in the Arctic offshore. The Council’s statement is silent on this score, despite the local impacts (no proven safe technology to drill in icy waters) and the global impacts (greenhouse gas emissions).

But what is truly lacking in the Council is evidence of concerted action by the Arctic states to take action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In the Kiruna declaration of Arctic Ministers in Sweden, Ministers agreed to “…confirm the commitment of all Arctic States to work together and with other countries under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to conclude a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force no later than 2015...” Apart from the collective statement under the Council, the Arctic states show little evidence of working as an effective block to influence a positive outcome for the climate talks.
As pointed out in the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, it is considered that if local warming over Greenland reaches 3 degrees C, the Ice Sheet may cross a threshold where melting will be accelerating and irreversible.
© Tonje Folkestad Enlarge

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