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Arctic States Statement for UNFCCC COP 19, November 20, 2013

20 November 2013

As the current Chair of the Arctic Council, Canada has the pleasure of making this statement on behalf of the Arctic Council States – Canada, Kingdom of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russian Federation, Sweden, and the United States of America – and the six Arctic Council indigenous permanent participant organizations.

The theme during Canada’s Chairmanship of the Arctic Council is “development for people of the North” – development that improves well-being and prosperity, and also values and supports traditional ways of life, culture, livelihoods, health, while protecting the environment.

Global emissions of greenhouse gases are resulting in rapid changes in the climate and physical environment of the Arctic with widespread effects for societies and ecosystems and repercussions around the world.

Since the late 1970s, Arctic inhabitants and scientists have observed rapid reductions in snow and ice cover. September 2012 marked the lowest sea ice extent ever recorded. Arctic inhabitants are highly sensitive to climate change, and are among the first to experience its impacts.

The IPCC recently concluded that over the last two decades, the Greenland ice sheet has been losing mass, that Arctic sea ice and snow cover in the northern hemisphere have continued to decrease, and that these developments are expected to continue during the 21st century as global mean temperature rises.

A changing climate has consequences for biodiversity, ecosystems, and human living conditions in the Arctic, posing distinct challenges related to adaptation and to the diverse resources that northern communities depend upon for their survival. Since its founding in 1996, the Arctic Council has played, and continues to play, a leadership role in highlighting the environmental, cultural and societal implications of climate change for Arctic inhabitants, with a particular emphasis on Indigenous Peoples.

Recent Arctic Council scientific assessments, including the Arctic Biodiversity Assessment that considered both western science and traditional knowledge, and the Arctic Ocean Acidification Assessment, both suggest that climate change is the most serious threat to Arctic biodiversity and ecosystems. The Arctic Council’s work has also highlighted the imperative of reducing short lived climate pollutants to slow near term warming and provide climate and health benefits to northerners.

Here are a few things that we have learned from the Arctic Council`s activities on climate.

Within the Arctic Council, we know that we can learn from each other, and cooperate to contribute to global solutions. This is why Arctic Council States remain firmly committed to work alongside other countries under the UNFCCC to reach – as a matter of urgency – an ambitious, inclusive, durable and flexible protocol, other legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention, applicable to all Parties by 2015 which will meet the long term goal aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions so as to hold the increase in global average temperature below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels.

To effectively address the impacts of climate change in the Arctic, it is clear that we must reduce carbon dioxide emissions, coupled with actions to reduce emissions of short lived climate pollutants, particularly black carbon, methane, and hydrofluorocarbons, which are contributing significantly to near-term impacts in the Arctic. This is why the Arctic States have mandated a dedicated, action-oriented task force to develop arrangements to achieve black carbon and methane reductions in the Arctic region. Ambitious action on these short lived climate pollutants could reduce Arctic warming by up to 0.7 degrees Celsius. Arctic States, Arctic Council observers, and other stakeholders are encouraged to contribute to these reductions.

Furthermore, through observations and experiences with changes in the Arctic, we recognize that we will need to do more to adapt and increase our resilience to climate change. Within the Arctic Council, we continue to undertake activities together to enhance our capacity in this regard, and to carry out scientific assessments and other projects, which advance our understanding and inform our actions.

Climate change effects in the Arctic not only impact Arctic nations, but are a major global concern, resulting in widespread effects on the global climate system and on societies and ecosystems around the world.

Earlier this year, the Arctic Council welcomed several new observer States. We are confident in their abilities, tools, knowledge, and desire to make major strides in the fight against climate change. We look forward to working with them, to make even greater progress on addressing climate change and its impacts.

Thank you.