Arctic Council Allies Urge US to Remain Committed to Climate Change Pact

Posted May 17, 2017

A person in a polar bear costume holds a sign that says "Rexxon, hands off our motherland", as a group of demonstrators protest U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at Arctic Council Ministerial.

"In the United States, we are now reviewing several important policies, including how the Trump administration will approach the issue of climate change", Tillerson told heads of states from Arctic governments and tribal councils. But in opening remarks, he cautioned that the United States is reviewing several important policies, including how the Trump administration will approach the issue of climate change.

"We are appreciative that each of you has an important point of view", said Tillerson. "We'd heard ... that there would likely be a significant USA effort to redline or even remove entirely the Paris and climate language", said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the talks. "We're going to work to make the right decision for the United States", he said.

President Trump has repeatedly said he would "cancel" the Paris climate agreement and has denied that climate change is a real, existential problem.

Signing on to the Arctic Council declaration is, in some ways, a remarkable example of the State Department's contradictory position in the Trump administration.

The White House has postponed meetings on climate change twice in recent months, and Tillerson gave no hint this week about whether the United States would continue to abide by the terms of the accord.

In her comments, the Canadian representative thanked the United States and said that, despite hard negotiations, the council "came to a really good place with [its] statement".

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican, said climate change was the first thing she looked for when given a copy of the declaration. Commandant of the US Coast Guard, Admiral Paul Zukunft, said on May 3 that Washington is concerned about Russia's growing military presence in the Arctic region.

His administration has aggressively begun trying to dismantle numerous climate policies created under the Obama administration, including federal rules to phase out coal-fired power plants, increase restrictions on vehicle emissions and limit methane leaks from natural gas production.

In addition, the group notes "the entry into force of the Paris agreement on climate change" and reaffirms "need for global action to reduce both long-lived greenhouse gases and short-lived climate pollutants".

Pat Lambert, a retired University of Alaska math professor, attended the rally because he believes climate change is a serious problem.

Earlier in the week, a U.S. State Department official offered the same feel-good message.

The minister said Tillerson demonstrated a "strong and positive role in holding the chair in all eight Arctic countries in getting to a public declaration that we were all able to sign, which includes very clear recognition of the Paris agreement" as well as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

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The U.S. - Russian Federation initiative will make it easier to move equipment, samples and data across borders in the North and facilitate scientific collaboration and sharing.

Ticks and pests that once could not survive in these latitudes have multiplied, they say, and even relatively young adults recall much longer and deeper winter freezes in the past.

"Climate change has been an ongoing topic of interest for the Arctic Council for many chairmanships going back in time, and I foresee that it will continue to be one of the things the Arctic Council focuses on over the next few chairmanships", Balton said.