The Arctic Council will meet virtually on May 20th for the 12th Arctic Council Ministerial hosted in Reykjavik. This meeting will mark the end of the Icelandic chairship and the start of the Russian chairship.
The human-induced climate crisis threatens both Arctic nature and people. 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 increase effective conservation of marine, coastal and terrestrial biodiversity. It is crucial that the Arctic Council, through effective governance, translates these global commitments into action.
As the longest-serving circumpolar environmental NGO at the Arctic Council, WWF strongly encourages Arctic states to take ambitious new steps to address the global climate emergency. After shying away from using the term climate change in the past years, the Arctic Council’s Ministerial Declaration must now reflect a clear determination to lead on reducing climate change.
WWF proposes the 2021 Arctic Council Ministerial Declaration include the following elements:
The climate crisis
- 1. The Arctic Council expresses its support for and acts to implement the Paris Climate Agreement to limit the global temperature increase to well below 2°C while pursuing efforts to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. It assumes leadership by establishing or joining a high-ambition coalition at the UNFCCC as a regional bloc and pledges to implement a regional low carbon transition in line with limiting temperatures well below 2°C. The Arctic Council encourages commitments from its members to contribute to meeting this target through their individual Nationally Determined Contributions.
- 2. Arctic Council member states commit to embedding responses to the emerging and anticipated consequences of climate change across policy and decision-making processes, to establish and strengthen their ability to provide ecological and societal resilience to the adverse impacts of climate change and reduce associated risks. Arctic states use scientific evidence, Indigenous Knowledge and local knowledge to strengthen adaptation and resilience to climate change, particularly in biodiversity conservation, ecosystem management, spatial planning, improving human livelihoods and infrastructure.
- 3. Arctic states enhance joint work to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions by shifting to a carbon neutral Arctic by 2050. As one contribution, they fulfill the 2017 Arctic Council Framework for Action on Enhanced Black Carbon and Methane Emissions Reductions and its target to reduce black carbon emissions by 25-33 per cent by 2025.
- 4. Arctic Council member states ensure that all Arctic economic development plans and projects are preceded by an appraisal of their environmental impacts (such as SEA, EIA) including those that may be transboundary and cumulative.
- 5. Arctic Council members utilize their COVID-19 pandemic recovery packages to fund sustainable development in the Arctic. Member states incentivize green technologies and infrastructure in their rescue and bailout packages and invest in sustainable jobs throughout the Arctic.
- 6. Arctic states decarbonize their economies by reconsidering plans to expand oil production, initiate the phase-out of fossil fuel use (in particular oil), and stimulate renewable energy projects that meet the Arctic’s energy needs. They introduce measures that stimulate new, greener economies and offer green job opportunities to people living in the Arctic that also support traditional lifestyles. Arctic states commit to remove subsidies for fossil fuel production and redirect them to support clean energy deployment and other sustainable solutions.
- 7. The Arctic Council develops during the Russian Chairship of the Council, a zero-emission strategy for Arctic shipping. This includes accelerating the phase out of HFO, deploying cleaner alternative fuels and creating low impact Arctic shipping corridors. Arctic countries fully implement the Polar Code and encourage its implementation by non-Arctic countries by supporting its extension to other vessels within the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The Arctic Council should support the Inuit Circumpolar Council application for consultative status at the IMO, as the Indigenous perspective is essential for ensuring a clean and responsible Arctic shipping.
Stewardship of the Arctic Ocean
- 8. Arctic states recognize the impacts of rapid climate change on the Arctic marine environment and commit to further monitoring, studying and anticipating its effects on marine ecosystems with a view to inform response actions.
- 9. The Arctic Council steps up cooperation to establish an Arctic Ocean network of protected and conserved areas. The Council develops and sustains programmes across its working groups to enhance, monitor and assess the conservation effectiveness of the emerging network. In addition, the Council facilitates collaborative government processes to establish measures for priority conservation areas that are situated fully or partly in Arctic Ocean areas beyond national jurisdiction.
- 10. Arctic states implement ecosystem-based management in Arctic Large Marine Ecosystems. Working individually or jointly as appropriate, establish relevant partnerships and institutions to carry out Integrated Ecosystem Assessments and respond to their recommendations.
- 11. Arctic states improve their national and local responses to oil pollution incidents in the Arctic with sufficient training and spill equipment, implementation of the MOSPA agreement and anticipating new oil spill risks, including those relating to progressing climate change.
- 12. Arctic states recognize Indigenous Peoples as equal partners in stewarding the region and managing its resources.
- 13. The Arctic Council empowers Arctic Indigenous youth to contribute to decision-making and governance in the Arctic by establishing meaningful permanent mechanisms through which Arctic Indigenous youth can build their capacity and skills.
- 14. The Arctic Council develops a Youth Engagement Strategy to inform programming throughout the Arctic Council. Current and previous Arctic Council experiences with youth engagement and external stakeholder perspectives should be considered.
- 15. Arctic states and Permanent Participants build on experience with COVID-19 impacts and responses to promote the One Health approach and enable the resilience of Arctic communities in the face of future risks.
- 16. The Arctic Council delivers a new Action Plan for Arctic Biodiversity that provides a framework for cooperation on biodiversity conservation. It aligns with the Convention on Biodiversity’s post-2020 framework and includes Arctic-specific indicators to enable the assessment of Arctic biodiversity conservation in the global context.
- 17. The Arctic Council identifies and develops additional region-specific area-based conservation measures that enhance the effectiveness of an Arctic Ocean network of protected and conserved areas. This requires improved inclusiveness of Arctic Peoples and responsiveness to climate-induced ocean changes.
- 18. The Arctic Council commits to further work to understand and manage underwater noise pollution as a key threat to noise-sensitive species and the Indigenous Peoples who depend on those species for their livelihoods and culture.
- 19. Arctic Council members agree to cooperate in the implementation of global agreements: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Paris Agreement.
- 20. The Arctic Council increases the competence of the SAO Marine Mechanism to take appropriate action to coordinate the implementation of ecosystem-based management in the Central Arctic Ocean. This also includes negotiations for the future Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) Agreement and the establishment of an Arctic Ocean network of protected and conserved areas.
- 21. The Arctic Council takes clear actions to ensure continuity of the SAO Marine Mechanism during the forthcoming Russian Chairship and beyond.
Members of WWF's Arctic Programme are available to the media to provide comments prior to and following the Ministerial meeting.
Leanne Clare | Sr. Manager Communications, Arctic Programme | firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Einar Gunnarsson: On behalf of WWF’s Arctic Programme, I congratulate the Icelandic Chairmanship on arranging the first-ever SAO Marine Mechanism webinar series. These webinars were an important priority of Iceland’s Chairmanship and in many ways a success. By the same token, I wish to express our concerns about the Mechanism’s substantive focus and continuity.
The Central Arctic Ocean is the world’s smallest ocean and is surrounded by Eurasia and North America. As sea ice declines dramatically, many governments are eager to take advantage of the shipping routes and natural resources available in this vulnerable region.