© Elisabeth Kruger / WWF-US

Arctic Council unites on climate change threat, fails to commit to a net zero vision of the Arctic

20 May 2021

Governance Arctic Climate Change Pan-Arctic Wildlife Communities

Ottawa, Canada – Despite simmering geopolitical tensions, all Arctic states and Indigenous Peoples’ representatives acknowledged today the enormous threat of climate change to the region’s nature and people. In the Arctic Council’s Ministerial Declaration, Foreign Ministers also called upon member and observer states to scale up their commitments to the Paris Agreement goal of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees.

This is a far cry from two years ago when the Council failed to issue a Declaration because of a disagreement about including the term “climate change” within the text. However, there is concern that the lure of oil and gas and other forms of resource development in the Arctic will derail a successful fight against the climate crisis.

Jan Dusik, sustainability and governance lead for WWF Arctic Programme said:

“We are encouraged that Arctic states are once again acknowledging the climate crisis is a real and present danger. Their commitments to renewable energy development in Arctic communities and a 25-30 per cent reduction of black carbon emissions by 2025 are all positive steps. But the temptation of tapping into fossil fuel reserves and their failure to provide a concrete vision for how they will work together to achieve a carbon neutral Arctic are very concerning.”

Arctic states also endorsed new science that shows the region is warming three times faster than the rest of the planet. In the years leading up to 2030, it is extremely important that the global community take urgent and decisive steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, implement the global Sustainable Development Goals and enact effective conservation of marine, coastal and terrestrial biodiversity. Over the next two years, the Russian chairship can implement these global commitments in the Arctic as the Council executes their first-ever strategic plan.

Dr Peter Winsor, director of WWF Arctic Programme said:

“WWF is very pleased to see the Arctic Council finally adopt a 10-year strategic plan. We believe that such a plan will improve the transparency and accountability of the Arctic Council and provide more stability and continuity. We look forward to the Arctic Council's effective implementation of the plan and regular monitoring of their progress.”

The Ministerial Declaration calls for action to promote an ecosystems-based approach in the management of the region’s vulnerable biodiversity. Last week, WWF released the ArcNet Guide, a proposed network of marine conservation areas. The network prioritizes marine life. ArcNet is a framework for Arctic states as they progress in applying an ecosystems-based approach to marine management.

During the past two years of the Icelandic chairship, Senior Arctic Officials convened with scientists to discuss how best to manage the Arctic’s marine resources. WWF is encouraged to see that Ministers support the continuation of the SAO Marine Mechanism. We look forward to clear guidance by the Russian chairship on how they will ensure coherent implementation of ecosystems-based management in the Central Arctic Ocean.

Overall, WWF is pleased that in this 25th anniversary year of the Arctic Council, many of our recommendations to Ministers were echoed in their Declaration today. You can read more about our recommendations to Ministers on our website.

For further information

Leanne Clare | Sr. Manager Communications, Arctic Programme | lclare@wwfcanada.org