Iceland’s Chairmanship 2019-2021

Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson

Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iceland

" Working closely with all partners, inside as well as outside the region, is of utmost importance for both prosperity and security in the Arctic region. The conflictual elements that may result from the opening-up of the Arctic make the Council’s contribution to sustainable development in the region increasingly relevant.

I truly believe that an active dialogue, based on state-of-the-art scientific research, conducted through dynamic collaboration between our countries and organizations, is the best way forward for a constructive development of the Arctic Council. "

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Together towards a sustainable Arctic

The Arctic marine environment

The Arctic marine environment

During its Chairmanship, Iceland will highlight plastic pollution in the Arctic marine environment, drawing on the findings of the first desktop study on marine litter in the Arctic. The Arctic Council will work on the development of a Regional Action Plan to reduce marine litter, including micro-plastics, along with other efforts to monitor and limit its impacts.

Innovative methods to improve the utilization of living marine resources may have considerable potential for driving sustainable economic growth in coastal communities. Iceland is leading the development of a project on the Blue Bioeconomy in the Arctic, exploring opportunities to increase the value of marine products.

Iceland will continue to promote safe and sustainable shipping in the Arctic. With increasing marine traffic and activities, it is essential to maintain close and effective cooperation among the Arctic States on search and rescue, as well as emergency prevention, preparedness and response. Circumpolar meteorological and oceanographic cooperation also serves to improve safety at sea and should be developed further, in collaboration with the World Meteorological Organization.

Climate and green energy solutions

Climate and green energy solutions

The importance of basing climate policies on solid scientific foundations cannot be overstated. The Arctic Council will continue observing and assessing climate impacts on Arctic marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems, and an update report on Arctic climate change will be prepared for the 2021 Ministerial meeting in Reykjavík.

Building on the work of the Expert Group on Black Carbon and Methane, efforts to identify opportunities to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants will continue. Progress in this area could help slow the current pace of change in the Arctic while work is underway to reduce longer-term impacts.

The development and application of practical green energy solutions in the Arctic region should be encouraged, enabling communities to reduce emissions and improve air quality. Projects that promote knowledge exchange and aim to support small and remote Arctic communities in transitioning to sustainable energy will continue running in 2019-2021.

People and communities of the Arctic

People and communities of the Arctic

Initiatives that aim to promote the wellbeing of the roughly four million people living in the region will remain central to the Arctic Council’s work. Northern communities are already facing challenges that result from the impacts of climate change, demonstrating the need for action to strengthen resilience and facilitate adaptation.

New economic opportunities, including in shipping and tourism, can contribute to growth and prosperity of Arctic communities, if they are carried out sustainably. Environmental protection and social inclusion must always go hand in hand with economic development.

Reliable and affordable telecommunications are essential for Arctic inhabitants in order to access services and participate in the digital economy. Iceland’s Chairmanship wishes to maintain a focus on improving connectivity, in close cooperation with the Arctic Economic Council, building on previous mapping of needs, gaps and solutions.

Gender equality is an important element for achieving sustainable development. Iceland will continue to lead a project that aims to promote dialogue on gender equality in the Arctic and strengthen a network of experts and stakeholders in the field.

Stronger Arctic Council

Stronger Arctic Council

Iceland’s Chairmanship will strive to enhance the constructive cooperation that has always been a key strength of the Arctic Council. Close consultations between the Member States and the Permanent Participants must continue, and further opportunities for mutually beneficial collaboration with Observers should be explored.

Iceland wishes to strengthen cooperation between the Arctic Council and the Arctic Economic Council, on the basis of a new Memorandum of Understanding, with the shared objective of promoting responsible economic development.

Icelandic Chairmanship News

  • Towards an international symposium on plastics in the Arctic

    In April 2020, the Icelandic government and the Nordic Council of Ministers will host an International Symposium on the Threat of Plastics to the Arctic and Sub-Arctic Marine Environment. The aim of the symposium is to gather the best available knowledge on plastics in the Arctic and to find solutions for tackling the issue. Registration is already possible and the call for abstracts will open on 1 July 2019.

  • Arctic Council Ministers meet, pass Chairmanship from Finland to Iceland, Arctic States conclude Arctic Council Ministerial meeting by signing a joint statement

    At the 11th Arctic Council Ministerial meeting in Rovaniemi, Finland, Ministers of the eight Arctic States, leaders from the six indigenous Permanent Participant organizations and the Chairs of the six Working Groups of the Arctic Council met to mark the passing of the Chairmanship from Finland to Iceland. In the Rovaniemi Joint Ministerial Statement, the Arctic States reaffirmed the Council’s commitment to maintain the Arctic as a region of peace, stability and constructive cooperation. Additionally, Finland’s Foreign Minister Timo Soini released a Chair’s statement, summarizing the Council’s achievements and giving guidance for the next two years. The International Maritime Organization was accredited as a new Observer.