Sat, May 13, 2017 - Page 7 News List

US refuses to rush on climate change

‘REASONABLE’:The US, which chaired the Arctic Council meeting, emphasized the improvement of Arctic living conditions, Arctic Ocean stewardship and climate change


Arctic nations have renewed calls for the world to address climate warming, but US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the US will not rush to make a decision on its policies.

Tillerson spoke on Thursday in Fairbanks, Alaska, at a meeting of the Arctic Council, an advisory group made up of the eight Arctic nations and indigenous groups.

The council adopted a nine-page Fairbanks Declaration 2017 that said the Arctic is warming at more than twice the rate of the global average. It also noted the importance of reducing soot and methane emissions and said climate change is the most serious threat to Arctic biodiversity.

Tillerson signed the document, but said in his opening remarks that the US is reviewing several important policies, including how the US President Donald Trump administration would approach the issue of climate change.

“We are appreciative that each of you has an important point of view, and you should know that we are taking the time to understand your concerns,” Tillerson told other representatives on the council. “We’re not going to rush to make a decision. We’re going to work to make the right decision for the United States.”

The Arctic Council will continue to be an important platform as the Trump administration deliberates, he added.

Trump has said little about Arctic policy, but has taken steps to put US Arctic Ocean waters back in play for petroleum drilling.

The Arctic Council’s goals are sustainable development and environmental protection of the Arctic. It does not make policy or allocate resources, and its decisions must be unanimous. The US, an Arctic nation because of its state of Alaska, is joined on the council by Canada, Russia, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs Margot Wallstrom said she walked away from a private conversation with Tillerson hopeful of the US’ intent in the region.

“He said, well, you know, we ought to first establish our climate policy and then decide on the Paris Agreement and how it relates,” Wallstrom said. “And I think that sounds reasonable to do so.”

The worst-case scenario feared by some was that Tillerson would use this gathering to announce that the US would withdraw from the Paris Agreement.

“Then that did not happen, and I think that bodes well for the future,” Wallstrom said. “I believe that we will see a continued American engagement and commitment to the Arctic.”

The US, which has chaired the council for the past two years, highlighted three areas: improved living conditions and economies for those living in the Arctic, stewardship of the Arctic Ocean and climate change.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and Fisheries David Balton said other accomplishments included an agreement for scientific cooperation, an assessment of improvements needed for better telecommunications and implementation of a database of ships passing through the Arctic.

Tillerson at the close of the meeting turned the gavel to Timo Soini, Minister of Foreign Affairs for Finland, which is to take over chairmanship until 2019.

Soini said Arctic resources and transportation routes might attract interest.

“We should make sure that all human activity is sustainable, increasing opportunities to benefit the people who already live in the Arctic region and certainly also the indigenous communities,” he said, adding that two broad frameworks should be taken into account in all Arctic Council activities: climate change — especially the Paris Climate Agreement — and sustainable development goals that the UN adopted two years ago.

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