Published: Fri, May 12, 2017
USA | By Kelli Rowe

Trump's climate stance looms over Arctic meeting


I think there was probably a missed opportunity in communicating to the US that the country is an Arctic nation.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry holds the gavel handed to him by then-Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq, the Canadian environment minister and minister responsible for the Arctic Council, at the end of the April 2015 Arctic Council ministerial gathering in Iqaluit.

To highlight the value of using traditional knowledge in the work of the Arctic Council, and to discuss how traditional knowledge should best be incorporated into scientific efforts, the Indigenous Peoples' Secretariat has organized a May 10 event.

The brief encourages the Arctic Council to consider increasing the involvement of sub-national governments, like Alaska, in the Council's work.

Tillerson spoke Thursday in Fairbanks, Alaska, at a meeting of the Arctic Council, made up of the eight Arctic nations and indigenous groups.

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Campaigning a year ago, Trump vowed to pull out of the 196-nation accord, which campaigners, scientists and most governments see as a minimum step to slow unsafe warming.

But given that all three countries have wide and overlapping interests in the vast, melting and resource-rich Arctic region, it is in everybody's interest to co-operate and advance a co-operative agenda on those challenges, the official added.

Secretary of state Rex Tillerson will be asked to clarify the USA stance on climate change when he meets with foreign ministers of the Arctic Council in Fairbanks, Alaska, on Thursday.

Can Washington mend ties with Russian Federation, represented in Fairbanks by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and will Trump honor the U.S. pledges in the 2017 Paris climate change accord? Trump has also advocated opening more of the Arctic to energy extraction. US Deputy Assistant Secretary David Balton noted talking to Kommersant that, in spite of disagreements on other issues, the United States believes cooperation with Russian Federation in the Arctic region has been productive. "We are going to make the right decision for the United States", he said.

Earlier, Spicer had said the decision would come ahead of that meeting, and Trump had said last week that he expected the announcement very soon.

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However, a 95-page report, written in Finnish and entitled "Finland's chairmanship in the Arctic Council (2017-2019) in the age of change and uncertainty", released in March, revealed unease about Russia's military intentions in the Arctic.

Balton said the USA remained committed to the Arctic Council's ongoing work to combat the challenges presented by climate change, notwithstanding the unanswered question about whether Trump will pull the US out of the Paris climate change accord.

According to the office of the Prime Minister, Finland plans to emphasise environmental protection, connectivity, meteorology and education during its term at the helm, with the Paris Agreement to combat climate change front and centre.

No formal discussions were set on key issues such as climate change, development and drilling.

The council adopted a document noting the need for global action to reduce long-lived greenhouse gases and short-lived climate pollutants.

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"We are unsure what the Trump administration thinks about the Arctic region in general, about the Arctic Council in particular and about its role", said Victoria Herrmann, president of The Arctic Institute, a Washington, D.C. -based group that provides research to shape Arctic policy.

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