Country
© Elisabeth Kruger / WWF

WWF Arctic Council Scorecard

USA

The USA has a mixed performance across the thematic areas and is currently experiencing increased uncertainty brought on by a change in administration that has prioritized industrial development over environmental protections throughout the country.

While the USA continues to perform well in the area of monitoring Arctic sea ice, permafrost and other ecological conditions, there are many instances where the government is trying to reverse existing environmental and management standards. Since 2017 the USA has attempted to jump-start fossil fuel exploration in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. In addition, though USA law requires impact assessments prior to drilling, the current administration has pushed forth an Executive Order that calls for a review and update of exemptions to this process, which could ultimately undermine the effectiveness of such assessments. This Order also speeds up the process, hindering theinclusion of Indigenous and local communities in these decisions.

N.B. The researchers ensured that any experts commenting on data collected for the USA were made aware of their anonymity. Nevertheless, some experts declined to participate stating risks of political reprisals against scientists under the current administration. Furthermore, input from experts and government agencies was compromised to some extent by the government shutdown in early January 2019. As a result, there was very limited expert input into, and reflection on, the data collected for the USA.

Ratings

Overall

Findings

See full criteria.

GOOD PERFORMANCE

  • The USA promotes sustainable fishing practices in the Arctic to avoid significant adverse impact to the seabed and to reduce by-catch, supported within the Fishery Management Plan for Fish Resources of the Arctic Management Area (Crit. 1.2.1-2).
  • Monitoring, observation and assessment of sea ice, permafrost and other elements susceptible to climate change have been ongoing for many years; and projections made using various forms of scientific and local knowledge (Crit. 4.2.1-2).
  • Good efforts have been made to identify marine areas of heightened cultural significance as well as areas of heightened ecological significance that are sensitive to oil spills (Crit. 2.1.1, 2.1.3).
  • The USA has successfully established shipping routes and Areas to Be Avoided to enhance maritime safety and protect marine areas with ecological importance and subsistence values in the Aleutian Islands, Bering Sea and Bering Strait. While the measures are voluntary, they exemplify precautionary management given that the International Maritime Organization recognizes the designations and mariners mostly adhere to the guidance. (Crit. 6.1.3).

AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT

  • The USA has high standards and requirements for contingency planning and oil spill response as specified in the Oil Pollution Act of 1990; however, gaps remain in the full implementation of these standards. Furthermore, the current administration has attempted to decrease safety and accountability standards for offshore drilling in USA waters (Crit. 5.1.1).
  • The USA has a National Strategy for the Arctic Region, as well as an accompanying implementation plan and reports; however, there is not yet any mention of biodiversity-related objectives nor are resilience and adaptation of biodiversity to climate change (Crit. 1.1.1-2).
  • Arctic Indigenous Peoples have had limited involvement in the management and sustainable use of protected areas despite federal obligations to consider their needs; recent changes in administration have made such participation even more challenging (2.3.3).
  • Alaska’s marine waters have multiple management areas, though none are strictly protected, and few have biodiversity conservation as their primary objective (Crit. 2.3.1, 5.3.1).
  • In 2014, a Climate Action Plan to Reduce Methane Emissions was released; however, the current political administration has actively sought to repeal and roll back such efforts (Crit. 4.1.3-4).

Detailed ratings

D Biodiversity

  • Mainstreaming Biodiversity and its Resilience
  • 0/6
  • Sustainable Management of Living Resources and Habitats
  • 2/4
  • Monitoring Biodiversity
  • 1/4
  • Overall Rating
  • 3/14

All ratings for Biodiversity

C Conservation areas

  • Identification of Conservation Areas
  • 4/6
  • Protecting Areas of Ecological Importance
  • 1/4
  • Mechanisms to Safeguard Connectivity
  • 2/4
  • Overall Rating
  • 7/14

All ratings for Conservation areas

A Ecosystem-based Management

  • Environmental Impact Assessments, Strategic Environmental Assessments and Risk Assessments
  • 8/8
  • Assessment of Combined Effects of Multiple Stressors
  • 0/2
  • Arctic State Cooperation in Advancing Implementation of EBM
  • 2/2
  • Overall Rating
  • 10/12

All ratings for Ecosystem-based Management

C Black Carbon and Methane

  • Short-lived Climate Forcers: Black Carbon and Methane Emissions
  • 4/10
  • Climate Change Adaptation
  • 4/6
  • Climate Change Observation
  • 2/2
  • Overall Rating
  • 10/18

All ratings for Black Carbon and Methane

B Oil Spills

  • National Action for Preparedness and Response
  • 1/2
  • Oil Spill Monitoring
  • 3/4
  • Oil Spill Prevention
  • 7/8
  • Overall Rating
  • 11/14

All ratings for Oil Spills

D Shipping

  • Protection from various shipping risks
  • 3/6
  • Actions to reduce air emissions from shipping
  • 1/8
  • Arctic Marine Traffic System
  • 0/2
  • Overall Rating
  • 4/16

All ratings for Shipping
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