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Arctic Council advances environmental protection and sustainable development in Portland, Maine

6 October 2016
Senior officials from the Arctic Council’s eight member States and six indigenous Permanent Participant organizations (PPs) concluded their latest meeting in Portland, Maine on 6 October 2016.

Portland, Maine, U.S.A.
6 October 2016

Senior officials from the Arctic Council’s eight member States and six indigenous Permanent Participant organizations (PPs) concluded their latest meeting in Portland, Maine on 6 October 2016.

Delegates heard updates from the Council’s Working Groups, Task Forces, and others on a number of key initiatives, including black carbon and methane mitigation, Arctic resilience, and planning for Arctic events at the UNFCCC’s upcoming COP22 meeting in Marrakech. The group also undertook a wide-ranging discussion of the Council’s present and future work on climate change, and addressed several initiatives to strengthen the Council, including strengthening the capacity of the PPs.

The Senior Arctic Officials used this occasion to approve an updated strategic plan for Working Group ACAP and a new communications strategy for the Arctic Council. They also agreed in principle to undertake the development of a long-term strategic plan for the Council.

“This week’s meeting in Portland underscored the Council's cooperative spirit and the urgency of the tasks at hand. The effects of climate change are revealing themselves faster in the Arctic than anywhere else in the world, so the Council’s groundbreaking work to advance knowledge and prepare for the future is critical to helping Arctic communities build resilience in the face of these rapid changes,” said Ambassador David Balton, Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials.

The three currently active Task Forces of the Arctic Council presented updates on their work to advance cooperation on Arctic marine issues, enhance cross-border scientific cooperation, and survey the current state of telecommunications infrastructure in the Arctic.

The Arctic Council’s six Working Groups also reported progress on specific elements of their work, including:

- A suite of projects addressing short-lived climate pollutants, highlighting the importance of practical measures to reduce black carbon emissions and introduce options for renewable energy investments in the Russian Arctic

- An assessment of new chemicals (some used as replacements for banned substances) that are now being found in Arctic environments and biota, raising new concerns

- A report summarizing the status and trends in key biotic elements of the Arctic marine environment

- A recently-held exercise, led by the U.S. Coast Guard, supporting the 2011 Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution and Response in the Arctic, which provided an important opportunity to improve international cooperation and preparedness

- A project to develop an interactive, user-friendly tool to capture Arctic conditions and shipping-related activities, allowing for trend and risk analysis for the Arctic marine environment

- A project providing an updated overview of the Arctic economy (including subsistence activities), socio-economic conditions, and environmental issues that aims to improve the knowledge base for policy-making to support sustainable development

With just over six months remaining until the Arctic Council’s next Ministerial meeting, delegates to the meeting in Portland were able to get a first glimpse at the proposed Chairmanship program for Finland, which addresses the need for continued work on climate change and sustainable development.

Arctic Council delegates will meet next in Juneau, Alaska, on 8-9 March 2017.

Background facts

The Arctic Council focuses on issues of sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic.

This is the first Senior Arctic Officials’ meeting following the Arctic Council’s 20th anniversary.

The Council holds Senior Arctic Officials’ meetings roughly every six months, and Ministerial meetings roughly every two years. The next Ministerial meeting will take place in Fairbanks, Alaska on 11 May 2017.

The United States Chairmanship began in 2015, and will run through the Ministerial meeting in Fairbanks on 11 May 2017, at which point Finland will assume the Chairmanship of the Arctic Council.

During the United States Chairmanship, this is the only Senior Arctic Officials’ meeting that will take place outside of Alaska. Other locations include Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau.

The eight Arctic States are Canada, the Kingdom of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden, and the United States.

The six indigenous Permanent Participant organizations are the Aleut International Association, the Arctic Athabaskan Council, the Gwich’In Council International, the Inuit Circumpolar Council, the Saami Council, and RAIPON – the Russian Association of Indigenous People of the North.

The six Working Groups of the Arctic Council are:
- ACAP (Arctic Contaminants Action Program)
- AMAP (Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme)
- CAFF (Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna)
- EPPR (Emergency Prevention, Preparedness, and Response)
- PAME (Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment)
- SDWG (Sustainable Development Working Group)

The Arctic Council’s three current Task Forces are:
- Task Force on Arctic Marine Cooperation
- Task Force on Enhancing Scientific Cooperation in the Arctic
- Task Force on Telecommunications Infrastructure in the Arctic