#GLACIER Conference and Global leadership in the Arctic

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alaskaAnchorage, Alaska: A two day Conference on Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience, or GLACIER which started Sunday (30 August) evening here with the Welcoming Reception, will highlight international and domestic priorities in the Arctic. The Department of State will host GLACIER in Anchorage, Alaska on 31 August.

glacier conference alaskaThe U.S. Department of State is hosting the Conference with foreign ministers and high-level leaders from the seven other Arctic nations as well as countries and intergovernmental bodies with strong interests in the Arctic, including Canada, China, Kingdom of Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, India, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the European Union.

President Obama is scheduled to address the GLACIER conference today.This unique conference will be the first time a sitting U.S. President and a Secretary of State will visit Alaska together, and the first time an international meeting of this scale is hosted in the State.

At the direction of the U.S. Arctic Executive Steering Committee, the Department of State is developing the agenda for GLACIER in close coordination with the White House, and Departments and Agencies of the United States Government with Arctic responsibilities.

This global leadership focus on the Arctic is intended to generate momentum and expedite progress in addressing some of the most pressing issues facing the region. This conference will bring together Foreign Ministers of Arctic nations and key non-Arctic states with scientists, policymakers, and stakeholders from Alaska and the Arctic. Representatives of Arctic indigenous peoples will be invited to attend and encouraged to participate. GLACIER will discuss individual and collective action to address climate change in the Arctic; raise the visibility of climate impacts in the Arctic as a harbinger for the world, and the Arctic’s unique role in global climate change; identify ways that Arctic innovators are responding to these critical challenges; and share opportunities to prepare and respond to other issues in the changing Arctic.

GLACIER will take place during the U.S. Chairmanship of the Arctic Council, but is not an Arctic Council sponsored event. GLACIER is also not directly related to the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (otherwise known as COP-21) taking place in late 2015. This conference will, however, help to focus attention on the challenges and opportunities that the Arctic Council intends to address and highlight how a region vulnerable to climate change is experiencing and responding to these impacts, helping to drive political will for ambitious action at COP-21.

The full-day event on Monday (31 Ausgut) will begin with an opening plenary session, after which attendees may participate in one of three tracks. Foreign Ministers will participate in sessions focused on changes in the Arctic and global implications of those changes, climate resilience and adaptation planning, and strengthening coordination on Arctic issues. Occurring in parallel will be panel discussions between international and domestic policymakers, scientists, NGOs, and industry representatives, as well as representatives of Arctic indigenous peoples and Alaskans. These sessions will address topics such as climate change in the Arctic and beyond, strengthening emergency response, preventing unregulated Arctic high seas fisheries, renewable energy, science cooperation, and household innovations that promote economic efficiency and community health. A plenary session will conclude the conference and a “Chair’s Summary” will capture the outcomes of this important event.

WHY THE ARCTIC MATTERS

The United States has been an Arctic nation, with important interests in the region, since the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867. The Arctic covers six percent of the Earth’s surface area (that’s 5.5 million square miles) and spans all 24 time zones. The Arctic environment is beautiful and dynamic. It supports nearly four million people — many indigenous — living in Arctic communities and relying on sea ice for travel and fishing.

The Arctic region is undergoing profound and rapid changes. The region is warming faster than anywhere else on the planet. Increased human activity is bringing additional stressors to the Arctic environment, with potentially serious consequences for Arctic communities and ecosystems. Sea ice and glaciers are in retreat. Melting ice has contributed to rising sea levels. Permafrost is thawing and coasts are eroding. Pollutants from within and outside the Arctic are contaminating the region.

Increasingly rapid changes in the Arctic are not only a concern for local communities but are affecting the entire planet. These challenges will require governments to increase engagement with their citizens and with each other to raise awareness of the impacts of Arctic climate change and to find solutions.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, accompanied by Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, U.S. Special Representative for the Arctic Admiral Robert Papp, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Dr. John P. Holdren, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, NSC Senior Advisor for Preparedness and Resilience Alice Hill, Deputy Chief of Staff Jen Stout, and Spokesperson John Kirby where here yesterday.

Kerry attended the Welcoming Reception followed by a dinner with foreign ministers attending the GLACIER conference on Sunday.

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