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Arctic Council meeting of Environment Ministers ends with talks about future cooperation

22 October 2018
The Arctic Environment Ministers’ meeting held in Rovaniemi 11-12 October ended with discussions about cooperation in addressing climate change, protecting biodiversity and preventing pollution in the Arctic region. The two-day meeting brought together ministers and high-level representatives from the eight Arctic Council States and from six Permanent Participants representing the indigenous peoples of the Arctic. The Observer countries and organizations of the Arctic Council had also been invited.

Many participants noted with grave concern the rapid ongoing changes in the Arctic confirmed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on Global Warming. The IPCC acknowledges that the Arctic is warming two to three times faster than the global average. Many countries presented their national actions, including plans to speed up the reductions of the greenhouse gas and black carbon emissions as well as reducing emissions through innovation. Observer states were invited to strengthen their actions to reduce black carbon emissions. The need to increase cooperation on adaptation in order to strengthen the resilience in changing climate was discussed.

Participants welcomed the Agreement to prevent unregulated commercial fishing on the High Seas of the Central Arctic Ocean signed on 3 October in Greenland. Measures and mainstreaming mechanisms are needed to strengthen ecosystem resilience in changing conditions. These actions require ecosystem-based approaches to management, conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, incl the development of a network of marine protected areas (MPAs), as well as the reduction of marine plastic litter, in cooperation with indigenous peoples. It was noted that international cooperation is needed to address long-range pollution that ends up in the Arctic region, including new emerging contaminants. The need to strengthen and sustain Arctic monitoring and observations, and use the best available scientific and Indigenous knowledge was discussed.

“On behalf of Finland’s Chairmanship, I wish to thank the Member States, Permanent Participants and Working Groups of the Arctic Council for their valuable inputs in preparing for this meeting and what we have now achieved”, said the Minister of the Environment, Energy and Housing, Mr. Kimmo Tiilikainen. Finland also announced its support for international and regional collaboration on reducing black carbon emissions.

This was the first meeting of the Arctic Council Environment Ministers in five years. The outcome, a Chair’s Summary of the meeting will be shared with the Arctic Council Ministerial meeting to be held in May 2019 and contribute to future environmental cooperation of the Arctic Council.

The environmentally sustainable meetings concept, developed by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and WWF Finland, was key in the meeting arrangements. All the preparations between eight Arctic states, six Permanent Participants, six Working Groups, and the EGBCM Expert Group were arranged by teleconferences and e-mail correspondence. This meant no flights for the planning of the meetings before the AEMM. There were no traditional diplomatic gifts exchanged between the Ministers and Heads of Delegations. Instead, they were given a bird nesting box to be signed and later to be taken to the Arctic nesting area in Finnish state-owned multiple-use forests by students.