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News Release: Arctic Council renews commitment to Arctic economic and social development and environmental protection

Ministers from eight Arctic states and leaders of Arctic Indigenous Peoples met today in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada...

Ministers from eight Arctic states and leaders of Arctic Indigenous Peoples met today in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada, marking the conclusion of Canada’s Arctic Council Chairmanship and the beginning of the United States’ Chairmanship.

At the meeting, Ministers signed the Iqaluit Declaration 2015, which highlights the accomplishments of the Arctic Council during Canada’s Chairmanship (2013-2015) and guides the work of the Council under the Chairmanship of the United States (2015-2017).

“It is with great pride that we signed the Iqaluit Declaration here in Canada’s North,” said the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Canada’s Minister and Chair for the Arctic Council. “Canada has put Northerners at the forefront of the Arctic Council’s agenda, and we will continue working to ensure that the Council’s work benefits the people who live there.”

The theme of Canada’s Chairmanship was “Development for the People of the North”, and during its Chairmanship the Council advanced economic and social development and environmental protection in the Arctic, implementing action-oriented projects and programs on issues such as mental wellness, traditional knowledge and oil pollution prevention to improve the lives of Arctic residents.

U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry, the new Chair of the Arctic Council, stated, “There’s only ‘one Arctic’ and all of us – the United States, other nations, indigenous peoples, and Arctic communities - must join together to ensure responsible stewardship of this incredible region.”

The theme of the U.S. Chairmanship is “One Arctic: Shared Opportunities, Challenges and Responsibilities”. During the U.S. Chairmanship, the Arctic Council program will focus on addressing the impacts of climate change; supporting Arctic Ocean safety, security and stewardship; and improving economic and living conditions in Arctic communities. The Council also established two new task forces: the Task Force on Arctic Marine Cooperation and the Task Force on Telecommunications Infrastructure in the Arctic.

A key achievement during Canada’s Chairmanship was the creation of the Arctic Economic Council (AEC), a new independent forum of business representatives to facilitate Arctic business-to-business activities, promote responsible economic development and provide a circumpolar business perspective to the work of the Arctic Council.

Other priority deliverables during Canada’s Chairmanship that were approved by Ministers in Iqaluit include:

  • A Framework Plan for Cooperation on Prevention of Oil Pollution from Petroleum and Maritime Activities in the Marine Areas of the Arctic;
  • A collection of work related to short-lived climate pollutants, including the Framework for Action on Enhanced Black Carbon and Methane Emissions Reductions, that will lead to local health, economic and climate benefits; a report recommending actions to reduce black carbon emissions from residential wood combustion in the Arctic; and two assessments on black carbon and tropospheric ozone and methane;
  • To improve mental wellness in Arctic communities, a report, entitled Sharing Hope, that identifies best practices and promising interventions;
  • Keeping Our Traditions Alive: Compendium of Best Practices in Promoting the Traditional Ways of Life of Arctic Indigenous Peoples, a collection of examples from across the region showcasing how traditional ways of life can continue to support healthy Arctic communities today and into the future;
  • Recommendations on how to better use traditional and local knowledge in the work of the Council to improve decision making and research;
  • A Guide to Oil Spill Response in Snow and Ice Conditions in the Arctic;
  • The Arctic Adaptation Exchange, an interactive website containing information that will help Arctic residents, researchers and decision-makers adapt to the effects of climate change;
  • Arctic Pollution Issues 2015: Summary for Policy-makers, which presents the conclusions and recommendations of three assessments on human health, trends in persistent organic pollutants and radioactivity in the Arctic;
  • Arctic Marine Tourism Project Best Practice Guidelines that promote the benefits that tourism can bring to the region while addressing risks associated with increased activity;
  • Arctic Marine Strategic Plan (2015-2025), which aims to provide a framework to protect Arctic marine and coastal ecosystems and to promote sustainable development in the region; and
  • Arctic biodiversity work, including an action plan to implement the 17 recommendations from the landmark Arctic Biodiversity Assessment, and a detailed work plan to protect migratory birds along key international flight paths.

Ministers also acknowledged the positive contributions of accredited Observers to the work of the Council. Ministers agreed to defer decisions on pending Observer applications and examine the roles and responsibilities of Observers within the Arctic Council.