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Statement: A Renewed Commitment to Climate Action at the Arctic Council

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Ministerial
Socially distanced leaders at the 12th Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting, Iceland. © Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs/Gunnar Vigfússon

WASHINGTON D.C. – The following statement was issued by Whit Sheard, senior director of Ocean Conservancy shipping emissions work, at the conclusion of the 12th Arctic Council Ministerial meeting today: 

“Ocean Conservancy congratulates the intergovernmental forum on its first strategic plan that will shape the region over the next 10 years and welcomes the Reykjavík Declaration 2021, which once again recognizes the urgency of tackling climate change as one of the greatest threats facing the North.  

“The Arctic is now heating at three times the rate of the rest of the planet according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and a recent study suggests the Arctic Ocean could have an annual ice-free period within 15 years—with potentially devastating consequences for peoples, wildlife and habitats.  

“We thank the U.S. delegation led by Secretary of State Antony Blinken for the renewed commitment to climate action at the Arctic Council, which comes less than a month after the U.S. announced its nationally determined contributions pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by half by 2030.  

“In addition to urgently combatting climate change, the Ministerial Declaration recognizes the rights of and encourages cooperation with Indigenous people, encourages strict regulations for shipping through the Arctic, highlights the need to protect biodiversity through marine protected areas, Indigenous-led conservation and other measures, and adopts a Regional Action Plan to combat marine litter—all critical to the future of the Arctic.  

“As the Chair of the Arctic Council passes from Iceland to Russia, we look forward to a continued focus on developing a comprehensive governance system that protects the unique ecosystems of the Arctic, respects and meaningfully includes Indigenous people in all aspects of the decision-making process and management, and addresses the impacts of climate change in a rapidly changing environment.  

“Ocean Conservancy believes we all share a responsibility to the Arctic, its unique biodiversity and vibrant cultures. We remain committed to working cooperatively locally, regionally, and globally to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and protect this special place.” 

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Whit Sheard is available for interviews upon request. 

NOTES TO EDITOR:

  • Whit Sheard, senior director of Ocean Conservancy’s shipping emissions work, participates at the Arctic Council as Head of Delegation for the Circumpolar Conservation Union, an accredited Arctic Council Observer organization
  • Celebrating its 25thAnniversary this year, the Arctic Council serves as a critical intergovernmental forum in the circumpolar Arctic consisting of eight Arctic nations (Canada, Norway, Russia, the United States, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, and the Kingdom of Denmark, via Greenland and the Faroe Islands) and six indigenous peoples’ organizations (Inuit Circumpolar Council, Aleut International Association, Arctic Athabaskan Council, Gwich’in Council International, Saami Council, and the Russian Association of the Indigenous Peoples of the North.
  • The Council operates in two-year cycles, with each Arctic nation acting as the Chair and setting the agenda. Russia assumes the chair of the Arctic Council from 2021-2023.
  • Photos courtesy MFA Iceland

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