As we work to further strengthen the Arctic Council as the premier intergovernmental forum for addressing Arctic challenges, we’re also going to strive to expand awareness of the links between this region and everywhere else – and we do mean everywhere. – John Kerry, US Secretary of State
Iqalit, Canada: On assuming the chairmanship of the Arctic Council by the US on Friday, the US Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. chairmanship will focus on addressing the issue of climate, the impacts of climate change, promoting ocean safety, security, and stewardship and on improving economic and living conditions for Arctic communities.
Addressing the Arctic Council Ministerial at the Legislative Assembly of Nanavut Iqalit in Canada, Kerry said the theme of our chairmanship is “One Arctic,” One Arctic, is a phrase long used by the Inuit Circumpolar Council, which embodies the belief that the entire world – not only the Arctic, not only the eight here plus, but the entire world shares a responsibility to protect, to respect, to nurture, and to promote the region.
Defining the road map for next two years, Kerry observed: “as we work to further strengthen the Arctic Council as the premier intergovernmental forum for addressing Arctic challenges, we’re also going to strive to expand awareness of the links between this region and everywhere else – and we do mean everywhere.”
Arctic glaciers in the Greenland ice sheet are shrinking substantially and driving global sea level rise. And this in turn threatens to unleash flooding and storm surges, causing immeasurable harm not only to Arctic communities, but to urban and rural settlements along the coasts of every ocean
The observer states know well that all countries have a reason to care about the future of the Arctic, kerry said adding it’s a critical part of the global climate system, literally ensuring a stable, livable environment from Barrow, Alaska, to Beijing, China, and the fact is it is rapidly changing. “How we as Arctic states, and indeed as a global community, respond to those changes over the coming months and years can literally make all the difference”, he emphasised.
Drawing attention to the great emergency, Kerry talked of climate change as one of the biggest challenges and said the Arctic is warming faster than any other region on Earth. Temperatures are increasing at more than twice the rate of the global average. And what these rising temperatures mean is that the resilience of our communities and our ecosystems, the ability of future generations to be able to adapt and live and prosper in the Arctic the way people have for thousands of years is tragically but actually in jeopardy.
Drawing a picture of the climate linked crisis, Kerry said Arctic glaciers in the Greenland ice sheet are shrinking substantially and driving global sea level rise. And this in turn threatens to unleash flooding and storm surges, causing immeasurable harm not only to Arctic communities, but to urban and rural settlements along the coasts of every ocean. over the last three decades, both the increase in temperatures and the corresponding decrease in sea ice observed in the Arctic are unprecedented in at least the 1,500 years that we can measure. In the American Arctic summer, sea ice could very well disappear almost entirely by mid-century, which would alter marine ecosystems and increase the vulnerability of communities in the Arctic – in the system as a consequence of coastal erosion. And as permafrost thaws at alarming rate, one is witnessing more and more wildfires, collapsing infrastructures, and the potential release of vast amounts of greenhouse gasses that only speed up the warming, because methane, is 20 times more potent in the damage it does than CO2.
Kerry went on to underscrore: This is not a future challenge. This is happening right now. collectively, Arctic Council members in observer states contribute more than 60 percent of black carbon pollution, kerry said asserting if we want to know where the problem begins, all we have to do is look in the mirror. During its chairmanship and particularly in the run-up to COP 21 in December in Paris , Kerry said, the United States intends to press for the full implementation of the Framework for Action on Enhanced Black Carbon and Methane Emissions. And that includes the compilation of national black carbon and methane emission inventories, national reporting on domestic mitigation efforts, and greater international cooperation on reducing these dangerous pollutants.
Carbon dioxide does not just drive climate change. It also gets absorbed by the ocean, although we saw the first regurgitation by the ocean of CO2 in the Antarctic this past year, so we don’t know what the limits of that absorption are, which is another challenge for all on Earth. But to the degree that it does get absorbed by the ocean, it winds up threatening marine ecosystems on which we all depend. And the cold temperatures of the Arctic Ocean make it particularly vulnerable to acidification, Kerry pointed out as he went on to state that ocean acidification is often an overlooked impact of climate change. A lot of people don’t even focus on it.
Improving the lives of the Arctic indigenous peoples means expanding access to clean, affordable, and renewable energy technologies that will provide local communities with alternatives to the costly and dirty diesel-based electricity that too many are forced to rely on today, said Kerry.