Climate and marine environment on the agenda for the Icelandic Chairmanship’s second Senior Arctic Officials meeting

15 November 2020
The virtual meeting will focus on climate and green energy solutions; marine environment issues; and human health; and initiate preparations for the Arctic Council Ministerial meeting in May 2021

On 17-19 November 2020, the Arctic Council will gather virtually for the penultimate Senior Arctic Officials’ (SAO) plenary meeting under the Chairmanship of Iceland (2019-2021). The thematic focus of the three-day agenda on climate and oceans reflects the priorities of the Icelandic Chairmanship program, Together Towards a Sustainable Arctic.

The SAO plenary meeting will engage representatives from the eight Arctic States, six Indigenous Permanent Participant organizations, six Working Groups and the Arctic Council Observers. Also on the agenda are four initiatives undertaken by the Council: enhanced marine stewardship, development of a regional action plan against marine litter, avenues for engaging youth and advancement of the Arctic Council’s work on Covid-19 in the Arctic. Meeting attendees will be briefed on the preliminary plan of the incoming 2021-2023 Russian Chairmanship, and will discuss the Council’s upcoming 25th anniversary in 2021.

“The Covid-19 pandemic altered our realities overnight, nevertheless the Council’s work has forged ahead to ensure that we meet the most pressing challenges facing the circumpolar Arctic,” said Ambassador Einar Gunnarsson, Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials. “I am proud of the Council’s ability to swiftly adapt to a changed world. The significant progress made to work plans despite difficult conditions is a testament to the strength and commitment of the Council. Such adaptability is very important, not least as we draw nearer to the end of the Icelandic Chairmanship term.”

Climate and green energy solutions

The Council’s Working Groups and Expert Group have continued to build on the solid scientific foundation on climate impacts in the Arctic, and together with the Icelandic Meteorological Office, will present progress on projects relating to climate impacts on Arctic marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems. An update report on Arctic climate change is being prepared for the May 2021 Ministerial meeting. The Council’s Expert Group on Black Carbon and Methane will provide an update on its work in identifying opportunities to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants. Working Group projects that promote the development and application of green energy solutions in Arctic communities will be presented and discussed.

Recent Arctic Council initiatives of emerging importance

The SAO plenary meeting will discuss initiatives of emerging importance, including steps to enhance Arctic marine stewardship through the recently established SAO Marine Mechanism (SMM). The discussions on future marine coordination in the Council follows the conclusion of the first edition of the SMM, a five-week webinar series with input from marine experts from the Arctic States, Permanent Participants, Working Groups and Observers. The Council will also discuss Covid-19 impacts in the Arctic and how projects could address current and future pandemics in the circumpolar North.

Incoming Russian Chairmanship and upcoming 25th anniversary

In advance of the Arctic Council Chairmanship transition from Iceland to the Russian Federation in May 2021, the Russian Federation will present an overview of their program and priorities for the 2021-2023 Chairmanship. Senior Arctic Officials and Permanent Participants will also discuss preparations for the upcoming Ministerial meeting in 2021, which marks the Council’s 25th anniversary.

Following the meeting on 19 November, Ambassador Gunnarsson will be available to virtually brief the press at 19:00 GMT. For media unable to attend at that time, a separate briefing may be organized upon request. Journalists wishing to join the virtual press conference are invited to register via the press briefing registration form or respond directly to media@arctic-council.org to receive call-in information.