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SDWG meets in Alaska to discuss ongoing and upcoming projects

The Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG) met recently in Chena Hot Springs, Alaska.

The first meeting of the Arctic Council’s Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG) during the U.S. Chairmanship took place on October 1-2, 2015 in Chena Hot Springs, Alaska.

SDWG carries out projects and activities in the areas of: Arctic human health; Arctic socio-economic issues; adaptation to climate change; energy and Arctic communities; management of natural resources; and Arctic cultures and languages. SDWG’s current activities fall under one of the three thematic pillars of the U.S. Chairmanship – Improving Economic and Living Conditions for Arctic Communities.

The recently-appointed Chair of SDWG, Roberta Burns (USA), and the SDWG Executive Secretary, Bernard Funston (Canada), steered the delegates through a very busy day-and-a-half of discussions. After reviewing its Work Plan for 2015-2017, the group considered several project proposals in such areas as food security, fresh water, socioeconomic and health issues in the Arctic. Several status reports on current projects and activities were presented at the meeting, and illustrated once again the fact that SDWG initiatives “provide practical knowledge and contribute to building the capacity of indigenous peoples and Arctic communities to respond to the challenges, and benefit from the opportunities, in the Arctic region.”

The new project ideas presented at the meeting included solid waste handling in the Arctic, renewable energy microgrids and a remote energy training program, the latter two being especially relevant after the Arctic Energy Summit that had taken place in Fairbanks the same week.

The SDWG meeting participants paid special attention to the cross-cutting projects of other Arctic Council Working Groups and expressed great interest in contributing to their implementation.
On the second day of the meeting, the accredited Observers in attendance were invited to address the group. Representatives of South Korea, Germany, the Netherlands, NEFCO, IASSA and UArctic reported on their engagement in Arctic Council activities and gave an overview of their contributions to Arctic issues more generally. Other Observers in attendance included Poland, Association of World Reindeer Herders, and the Northern Forum.

The Working Group’s meeting took place at Chena Hot Springs, recognized for several renewable energy projects, as well as for its hot springs. It was a purposeful choice: the hosts wanted to give participants a glimpse into a self-sustaining Alaskan community. Between the sessions, delegates had an opportunity to visit a geothermal power plant providing heat and electricity for the resort, as well as geothermally-heated greenhouses producing fresh vegetables and lettuce for the resort’s restaurant on a year-round basis. The same source of energy helps to keep the resort’s Aurora Ice Museum 4 degrees Celsius inside all year round. The tour of the facilities, coupled with a brilliant display of northern lights, inspired the work of the group.

A selection of photos from the SDWG meeting:

These photos are available for use according to the creative commons license CC BY-NC-ND. Credit: Arctic Council Secretariat / Kseniia Iartceva

Download photos from Flickr here