WWF calls on Senior Arctic Officials to advance work on a whole-ocean approach to conservation

2 December 2021

Governance Pan-Arctic

Stockholm Sweden – The SAO Chair, Nikolay Korchunov welcomed delegates to the first plenary meeting of the Senior Arctic Officials (SAOs) during the Russian Chairmanship (2021-2023). The meeting held on 1-2 December was organized successfully as both in person meeting in Salekhard, Russia and online.

WWF welcomes the Chairmanship’s emphasis on Indigenous and regional cooperation and youth engagement, which were vividly discussed by participants. We also welcome that Russia wants to extend marine cooperation in the Arctic, in which it plans to build on WWF’s new tool ArcNet - An Arctic Ocean Network of Priority Areas for Conservation. ArcNet is a map that shows the vision for a network of priority areas that governments and communities need to conserve throughout the Arctic Ocean. ArcNet is also a concrete proposal and tool for marine planning and management, based on comprehensive, rigorous scientific analysis by international experts and discussions with key stakeholders.

We are advocating for a whole-ocean approach to conservation in the Arctic, as all current and emerging challenges are connected in the Arctic Ocean and all hands on deck are needed to face them. A solid governance framework for environmental management in the Central Arctic Ocean is missing today, and WWF calls on the Council to advance work on such a framework during the current Russian chairmanship with political steering from the Senior Arctic Officials.

Victoria Elias, Conservation Director, WWF Russia, and Chair of WWF Arctic Programme Steering Committee said:

“Developing a network of marine protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures (OECM), using the ArcNet scientific approach, is a very important part of our work in the Arctic, and an effective way to address pressures of changing climate and advancing economic development in the Arctic Ocean. As the ocean does not respect country borders, coordinated action of countries, various sectors and joint stewardship in the Arctic is essential.”

A significant part of the meeting was devoted to cooperation of the Arctic Council with businesses. While the well-being of people living in the Arctic needs to be associated with economic development, it will matter in which direction this development goes and how vigorously it respects the environmental thresholds and the rights of Indigenous peoples. “Protecting the Arctic marine environment against the threats of rapid economic exploitation is not a given - it needs to be properly put in place as a precautionary mechanism”, says Peter Winsor, Director of the WWF Arctic Programme.

Black carbon and methane targets for the Arctic were also discussed and should be adopted at the end of the Russian chairmanship in 2023. These are important not only because these pollutants accelerate global climate change, but also, as in the case of black carbon, dangerously affects air quality in the Arctic.

Peter Winsor, Director of the WWF Arctic Programme, said:

“Last week we finally saw a positive move from the International Maritime Organization, whose resolution urges countries and shipping companies to stop using the dirtiest fuels in the Arctic; shifting to cleaner alternatives can drastically reduce black carbon emissions. We expect Arctic Council members and observer countries to lead this transition. Political leadership is also needed from the Arctic Council to adopt ambitious new targets for cuts in black carbon and methane emissions - currently methane emissions in the Arctic are increasing, which is very concerning.”

For more information:
Andrea Norgren | Sr. Manager Communications, Arctic Programme | andrea.norgren@wwf.se