“… [at the Arctic Council Ministerial] I’ll reaffirm America’s commitment to meeting our climate goals and encourage other Arctic nations to do the same.”
– Secretary Antony J. Blinken, April 19, 2021
Secretary Blinken will lead the U.S. delegation to the 12th Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic Council May 19-20, in Reykjavik, Iceland. The United States will join the seven other Arctic States and six Permanent Participants at this biennial gathering to ensure the region remains free of conflict and to strengthen cooperation on issues such as addressing the climate crisis. The Secretary will also take the opportunity to meet bilaterally with other countries and groups represented at the meeting. The Ministerial marks the conclusion of Iceland’s two-year Arctic Council Chairmanship.
The Arctic Council’s Vital Role in Regional Governance
- Established by the Ottawa Declaration in 1996, the Arctic Council is the premier multilateral forum for the Arctic States to discuss matters of regional governance, together with indigenous peoples of the region.
- The Council is comprised of the eight Arctic states (the United States, Canada, the Kingdom of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, and Sweden) and six Permanent Participants (Aleut International Association, Arctic Athabaskan Council, Gwich’in Council International, Inuit Circumpolar Council, Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, and Saami Council).
- The Arctic Council operates based on consensus, echoing the peaceful and cooperative nature of the region. By mandate, the Council does not address military security. There has been no military conflict in the Arctic since the end of World War II.
- Traditionally, the Council is chaired for two years by the foreign minister of the country holding the chairmanship. The day-to-day work is executed by eight Senior Arctic Officials (SAO) and six Permanent Participant representatives, with input from working groups, expert groups, and task forces. After this year’s Ministerial, Russia will assume the chairmanship from Iceland.
- This year, delegates will focus on finalizing initiatives undertaken during the Icelandic Chairmanship with four priority areas under the umbrella theme of “Together Towards a Sustainable Arctic”: the Arctic marine environment, climate and green energy solutions, people and communities of the Arctic, and a stronger Arctic Council.
- The United States values our strong international cooperation through the Council, which has helped keep the region peaceful while increasing environmental protection, addressing the causes and impacts of the climate crisis, promoting sustainable economic development, encouraging scientific research, and supporting indigenous peoples throughout the region. The entire Arctic region benefits from the cooperation the Arctic Council facilitates.
The Arctic Council’s Vital Role in Maintaining Global Climate Security
- The Arctic is warming at more than three times the average global pace. This is causing widespread adverse impacts on communities, ranging from shoreline erosion to damage of buildings and disruption of sanitation due to permafrost melt.
- This warming is also causing rapid loss of Arctic sea ice which, in turn, is decreasing reflection of solar radiation as dark seas replace white snow and ice, absorbing more of the sun’s warmth. This intense regional warming is also raising the risk of substantial releases of naturally occurring methane deposits that further exacerbate climate change.
- Arctic countries emit substantial methane and black carbon from oil and gas operations and other sources in the region, and there are highly cost-effective strategies available to reduce these emissions. Addressing Arctic black carbon sources is a critical priority since it exacerbates loss of sea ice when it deposits on snow and ice and absorbs sunlight.
- The Arctic Council and its technical advisory bodies play a crucial role in:
- Highlighting these impacts to catalyze global climate action to mitigate climate change.
- Spurring member states to reduce emissions of methane and black carbon from sources in the region.
- Encouraging member states to cooperate to enhance the climate resilience of Arctic communities that are heavily impacted by accelerated climate change in the region.
The Arctic Must Remain Free of Conflict
- The United States envisions the Arctic region as one that is free of conflict, where nations act responsibly, and where economic development and investment takes place in a sustainable, secure, and transparent manner that also respects the environment, the climate, and the interests and cultures of indigenous peoples.
- In the Arctic, as elsewhere, we uphold international rules, standards, and institutions, revitalize our alliances, and demonstrate benefits to the American people.
- We see the need for a comprehensive approach to the Arctic region, giving attention to a full range of U.S. interests including environmental protection, scientific cooperation, safety, security, sustainable development, the reduction of greenhouse gas pollution, and the needs of indigenous and local communities.
- There is strong governance in the Arctic, based on international law, for the management of marine resources, including the natural resources of the continental shelf, and to address national jurisdictions. Arctic states have abided by these rules.
- The Arctic has long been a peaceful region and we will continue to work diligently to keep it so.
- Cooperation in and through the Arctic Council allows us to collectively address and overcome the challenges in the region – environmental, social, economic, and political – by identifying areas in which we can make demonstrable progress and demonstrating unity of purpose through our words and actions.
- The United States is committed to providing Arctic inhabitants, including Arctic indigenous communities, a greater voice in matters affecting their future, including through the Council.