Arctic Foreign Ministers Must Address Climate Crisis | WWF

Arctic Foreign Ministers Must Address Climate Crisis

Posted on 11 May 2017    
Melting iceberg on coast Qaanaaq, Greenland.
© WWF / Staffan Widstrand/
Foreign Ministers meeting today in Fairbanks, Alaska, must take the opportunity to respond to an increasingly urgent climate crisis in the Arctic. The Arctic Council has just released a report that says even if countries meet their Paris Climate Agreement commitments, the Arctic will become a warmer, wetter, and decidedly different place. The eight Arctic states were responsible for more than 20% of global carbon dioxide emissions in 2015.

“WWF understands that Arctic states have decided that their work to limit climate change will be done mostly through the UN process,” say Alexander Shestakov, Director of WWF’s Arctic Programme, “but now while ministers are gathered they have an opportunity to agree on how to minimize damage to the Arctic and its peoples. They should take this opportunity to tell the world that they will take ambitious collective action through the UN process, and that they will add to this the necessary adaptation and resilience-building actions they can take in the Arctic.”

Adaptation and resilience-building actions should include building on what the Council has already done to develop networks of Arctic specially-managed areas and identify important areas for Arctic wildlife that cross national borders. Because wildlife does not conveniently stay in the specially managed areas set aside for it, there must also be better harmonization of rules for industrial activities in the Arctic. 

Many of the Arctic’s peoples are closely tied to the health of the Arctic environment, so what benefits wildlife will also likely benefit them, but they also need some additional actions from the Council, such as access to sustainable and affordable renewable energy, and help in identifying and implementing effective adaptation actions. 

As climate change, will stress Arctic wildlife and peoples, the Ministers should also direct the Council to do more to eliminate or limit additional stressors from industry. This includes an agreement to put in place adequate oil spill response capacity, limiting emissions of soot from shipping traffic and from gas flaring, stopping use of heavy fuel oil in Arctic shipping, establishing principles for sustainable investment, and fully incorporating biodiversity goals into development plans.

Finally, Ministers should frame their agreement as a concrete long-term programme of work with measurable outcomes, and commit their respective countries to taking action on what they agree today. 

More on WWF’s position on the Ministerial statement
Melting iceberg on coast Qaanaaq, Greenland.
© WWF / Staffan Widstrand/ Enlarge

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