Iceland is about to become the chair of the Arctic Council for the next two years. While Iceland will lead the Council’s work, all eight Arctic states and six Arctic Indigenous Peoples’ organizations will have input to the council’s priorities over this period.
For the past two years, Finland has held the chairmanship. During that time, the impacts of climate change in a rapidly changing Arctic and their effects around the globe have been dramatic. World leaders have struggled to put forward concrete plans to meet the targets set in Paris to hold the increase in the global average temperature to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Arctic states should be leading the way, but many are failing in their ability to even act as responsible stewards at home in the Arctic, let alone the rest of the planet.
The next two years are extremely important for the global community’s ability to take important steps forward in the protection of biodiversity, the urgent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and responsible, sustainable development for the entire planet. Arctic states need to ensure that the commitments they make at international fora like the Arctic Council become concrete actions at the national and regional level. The Arctic Council’s programme over the next two years must provide a clear path forward on how to achieve those actions.
As the longest serving circumpolar environmental NGO with observer status at the Arctic Council, WWF believes Arctic Council member states must take bold new steps to meet the climate and development challenges of a rapidly changing Arctic.
WWF proposes that the 2019 Rovaniemi Ministerial Declaration include the following recommendations:
Address impacts of climate change
- 1. Arctic states understand the urgency of climate change and will continue to work together to mitigate the impacts in the Arctic, including developing and implementing climate mitigation actions to shift to a carbon neutral, resilient Arctic.
- 2. The Arctic Council will adopt and adhere to the commitments in the Paris Climate Agreement to limit global temperature increase to 1.5 °C.
- 3. Arctic states will use Indigenous and other local knowledge to develop short and long-term climate change projections and planning for the Arctic.
- 4. Arctic states will reduce black carbon and methane emissions, and fully implement recommendations by the Arctic Council´s Expert Group on Black Carbon and Methane.
Improve Arctic Ocean safety, security and stewardship
- 5. The Arctic Council acknowledges the impacts of underwater noise on Arctic biodiversity and Indigenous and coastal communities. The Arctic Council will address these impacts through a precautionary approach, new research and cooperation.
- 6. The Arctic Council will conduct a desktop study on marine litter and microplastics in the Arctic and develop a regional action plan to reduce the impact of plastics in the Arctic.
- 7. Arctic states will reduce air emissions from shipping by implementing a ban on heavy fuel oil use in all Arctic waters.
- 8. PAME’s Best Practices Shipping Forum should be used as a model to demonstrate how to effectively implement Chapter 11 of the Polar Code.
- 9. Arctic states will improve their national systems and contingency plan (or plans) at the local level to include sufficient training and spill equipment to respond to oil pollution incidents in the Arctic.
- 10. The Arctic Council will support and promote the development of a Pan-Arctic Marine Protected Area network to ensure ecosystem health and resilience to meet the Aichi Target goal of 10% of coastal and marine areas to be protected by 2020.
Improve sustainable economic and living conditions
- 11. Arctic states recognize Indigenous Peoples as full partners in managing the region.
- 12. The Arctic Council supports and promotes the Sustainable Blue Economy and the application of the Sustainable Blue Economy Finance Principles.
- 13. The Arctic Council will establish permanent mechanisms through which Arctic Indigenous youth are empowered to contribute to sustainable economies and endorses the Arctic Youth Summit Statement for Ministers of February 25, 2019.
- 14. The Arctic Council will define sustainable tourism guidelines to ensure protection of the environment and economic benefits to local communities.
Implement Arctic Council decisions and recommendations
- 15. The Arctic Council endorses a long-term strategy which includes urgent action on climate change, the principles of ecosystem-based management, and the Sustainable Development Goals.
- 16. The Arctic Council will develop a transparent reporting mechanism that demonstrates the implementation of Arctic Council decisions and recommendations through regular assessments of agreed decisions and policies.
WWF Staff are attending the 2019 Arctic Council meeting. To arrange a media interview, please contact:
Leanne Clare | Sr. Manager Communications, Arctic Programme | firstname.lastname@example.org
The 2019 Arctic Council Conservation Scorecard examines the concrete actions Arctic states are taking to fulfil their responsibilities as the primary stewards of the region.
Industrial pressures in the Arctic will only increase due to climate change