Ocean Currents

Protecting the Arctic’s Legacy


When Secretary of State John Kerry recently appointed Admiral Robert Papp, the former head of the U.S. Coast Guard, as a Special Representative for the Arctic, the Obama Administration signaled that they are taking the upcoming 2015-2017 U.S. Chair of the Arctic Council very seriously.  Considering the multitude of threats to the Arctic—from climate change to oil drilling to increased shipping—it could not have happened soon enough.  As the United States begins to represent the Arctic on the international stage, Ocean Conservancy has been working with the Obama Administration to ensure that the U.S. adopts a visionary agenda that prioritizes international cooperation, wildlife protection, and aggressively addresses the causes of climate change.

The Arctic Council, which consists of the countries that border the Arctic (Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Denmark/Greenland, Canada, Russia, and the U.S.) and organizations representing the indigenous peoples of the Arctic, was founded in 1996 to protect the remote and relatively pristine Arctic environment.  Since then, the Arctic Council has taken action and produced several reports that provide a road map to saving what is now one of the most rapidly changing ecosystems on the planet.  With temperatures rising at twice the rate of the rest of the planet and sea ice disappearing at an alarming rate, the Arctic region is in need of urgent and visionary protections.

Ocean Conservancy has partnered with government officials, indigenous peoples, non-governmental organizations, scientists, Arctic communities, and other stakeholders in order to provide the Obama Administration with a list of recommended priorities.   These recommendations are also informed by a detailed review of Arctic Council assessments and reports from the last 20 years. These priorities include protecting habitat, increasing coordination and management, and reducing carbon dioxide, black carbon, and other emissions.  Ocean Conservancy’s new Arctic Legacy report explains these recommendations in detail, assesses the current state of the Arctic, and gives background on measures that the U.S. can adopt domestically and encourage other Arctic nations to adopt.

Saving the Arctic is urgent and we are encouraged that the Obama Administration is putting time and energy into doing it right. Ocean Conservancy looks forward to working with the Arctic Council to ensure that the Arctic Ocean and all the wildlife and people who depend on it are protected.

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