Interview with ACAP Chair Inger Johanne Wiese

"ACAP’s work is focused on pollution and short-lived climate drivers. Pollution is a threat to the Arctic ecosystem and people living there."

Could you tell us something about your background and how you became Chair of ACAP?

I have an academic background in political science as well as in economics and have worked in the Norwegian Ministry of Environment since 1992. There I have had many different positions. I have engaged in topics related to climate change and energy, Nordic issues, as well as polar issues. For a couple of years, I was an environmental counselor at the Norwegian embassy in Beijing, and I have also worked in the European Commission in the marine unit of the Environment Directorate-General. I began participating in the work of ACAP three and a half years ago and after some time, I was asked to take over the position as Chair after Ulrik Westman from Sweden.

What is ACAP’s work focused on?

ACAP’s work is focused on pollution and short-lived climate drivers. Pollution is a threat to the Arctic ecosystem and people living there. We know that toxic substances bioaccumulate in the food chain, such as mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). Research on mercury for instance shows if pregnant women eat fish and fat-based food harvested from lakes and oceans, they may transmit the toxic substances to their unborn infants and cause serious health effects. We also know that black carbon is a major challenge in the Arctic. The soot deposits on the ice and contributes to more rapid melting. It is therefore important to work both on pollutants and short-lived climate drivers.

What are some of the ACAP projects we should keep an eye on over the next two years?

One project I would like to highlight is a black carbon project, which we conduct together with Russian companies such as Gazprom Neft and BerezkaGas. This project is developing very well. It focusses on reducing flaring in the Russian petroleum industry, which we know contributes to 80% of Russia’s black carbon emissions in the Arctic area.

How is ACAP engaging with Arctic inhabitants and Arctic Council Observers?

We have started to work on waste, and we know that a lot of small communities in the Arctic have challenges regarding efficient waste management. We would like to increase the sharing of best practices, showcase some pilot projects and engage with indigenous peoples. We aim for a more efficient waste management system on land, which will contribute to reducing the amount of marine litter as well.

We also would like to engage the observers in ACAP. We know that many observer countries have substantial knowledge in the areas we are working on, and we certainly would like them to come on board and to work with us on concrete projects to reduce pollution and black carbon emissions.