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INTERVIEW: Co-chairs of the Task Force for Action on Black Carbon and Methane

12 June 2014
At the fourth meeting of the Arctic Council’s Task Force for Action on Black Carbon and Methane, the co-chairs of the task force emphasized the added value of the Task Force to existing initiatives dealing with black carbon and methane, as well as the collaborative nature of the Arctic Council states, Permanent Participants and Working Groups.

The Arctic Council’s Task Force for Action on Black Carbon and Methane held its fourth meeting on 21-22 May in Helsinki, Finland. The task force was established at the Kiruna Ministerial meeting in May of 2013, with the mandate to “develop arrangements on actions to achieve enhanced black carbon and methane emission reductions in the Arctic”. It is co-chaired by Canada, represented by France Jacovella, and Sweden, represented by Jon Kahn. At the meeting, the two co-chairs shared their thoughts on several different issues related to the task force’s work, as well as the rewards of co-chairing the task force.

There are many ongoing national and international initiatives dealing with black carbon and methane issues. What is the added value of this task force?

Jacovella: We fully recognize the value and importance of the many existing national and international initiatives dealing with black carbon and methane issues. However, the work of this Arctic Council Task Force is particularly relevant when you consider that black carbon plays a unique role in Arctic climate warming. The Task Force benefits from the valuable knowledge and experience provided by the Permanent Participants and all Arctic states, who understand first-hand the important challenges associated with black carbon and methane, and who work collaboratively to achieve enhanced emissions reduction.

Kahn: The effects of global warming are appearing much faster in the Arctic. This is due not least to the effects of short-lived climate pollutants like black carbon and methane. It is therefore of great value that the Arctic States are taking on special responsibility for these issues, first by undertaking national and collective actions to decrease these emissions, and second by reaching out to the rest of the world. There is clear added value in this.

When this Task Force is done with its work, what kinds of changes do you hope it will have accomplished for the Arctic environment and Arctic inhabitants?

Jacovella: The work of the Task Force is progressing very well. It is our hope that it will contribute by helping to slow near-term warming of the Arctic climate and by improving the health of Arctic inhabitants, many of whom are affected by emissions of black carbon.

Kahn: I believe the task force is helping to establish the preconditions for increased awareness of what black carbon and methane mean for the Arctic and, indeed, for the globe. The task force is also helping to support direct action aimed at limiting the effects of rapid climate change.

How does this task force’s work illustrate the ability of the Arctic Council states, Permanent Participants and Working Groups to work together to tackle important issues?

Jacovella: The Arctic Council is a unique forum in which to address Arctic challenges and opportunities. The various parts of the Arctic Council – Arctic states, Permanent Participants, and working groups – all contribute their particular efforts to address identified issues. This task force is a great demonstration of that kind of collaboration in working together, including using scientific and monitoring assessment from the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme, project expertise from the Arctic Contaminants Action Program, and findings and knowledge from previous task forces.

Kahn: We have seen a lot of good will and ambition from all Arctic states over this issue; I feel that is a very promising indicator for the future. This issue is a central one for all countries, and we need to work collaboratively to deal with it.

What do you find most rewarding about your role as one of the co-chairs of this task force?

Jacovella: It is a privilege to co-chair such important work. It is truly rewarding to realize that you are part of a collective effort that can lead to a real difference in the lives of people living in the Arctic, and that has the potential as well to contribute positively to global efforts to address climate change.

Kahn: I find it most rewarding to see the constructive atmosphere in these talks and the willingness to share experiences and knowledge. The professionalism shown by states and, in fact, by all participants is inspiring. Everybody wants to achieve a good result for delivery to the SAOs and ministers next year. We seem to be moving towards concrete ideas for how this process can go on, including reporting, knowledge-sharing, action plans and concrete action.