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Tillerson Signs Arctic Climate Change Declaration

13 May 2017

In his remarks at the opening of the Ministerial meeting, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said: "The Arctic Council, which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, has proven to be an indispensable forum in which we can pursue cooperation".

Under the Obama administration, the USA urged Arctic Council members to participate in the Paris agreement, but now, President Trump has indicated the US may pull out of the commitment to reduce global greenhouse gasses.

"The biggest thing we are really pushing is to make sure that (during) any negotiations in this meeting, the USA essentially doesn't bully the other Arctic nations or pressure them into taking out language around keeping the Paris agreement", Liakos said.

No formal discussions were set in Alaska on key issues such as climate change, development and drilling.

Soini made clear Finland intends to keep the focus on climate change, saying it is the driving force behind unprecedented changes in the Arctic region, with the melting of sea ice and the thawing of the Arctic permafrost.

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Moving forward, Finland has vowed to keep fueling the fight against climate change and hopes the US will choose to keep its commitment.

"We came here to Fairbanks believing that the declaration language was agreed", Rene Soderman, the senior Arctic official for Finland, said, noting that the USA objected to some language, but that the overall council prevailed in its efforts.

"We are fortunate to have a Secretary of State who is familiar with Alaska and knows just how close we are to neighboring countries that are building up their military presence in our waters and skies", Governor Walker said.

Two broad frameworks, Soini said, should be taken into account in all Arctic Council activities: Climate change, especially the Paris Climate Agreement, and sustainable development goals that the United Nations adopted two years ago.

Trump has repeatedly questioned climate science, calling climate change a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese and vowing during his campaign to "cancel" the Paris agreement.

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" In order to promote health and well-being in the Arctic we must balance environmental protection with economic stability,"said Canada's Bill Erasmus, global chair for the Arctic Athabaskan Council, which has members in Canada and Alaska". The agreement on Arctic science signed all Council members signed Thursday was spearheaded jointly by the USA and Russian Federation. "So if the United States is not going to provide consensus on the climate action that's needed, their hands are tied".

Tillerson came around to the agreement after hours of debate following a dinner the council members ate together on Wednesday night, Denmark's Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen told Reuters. Even the frozen tundra, a critical natural storage tank for carbon emissions, is no longer so frozen. She warned the costs are coming due, with scientists estimating the cumulative costs of climate change in the Arctic at $90 trillion by the end of this century.

The acceptance of the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gases (such as methane and carbon dioxide) and pollutants (like black carbon and aerosols) appears significant. "We welcome cooperation in the telecommunications field between the Arctic Council members and propose that the activities of the Arctic Economic Council be stepped up", Lavrov added.

Temperatures have been rising faster in the Arctic than elsewhere, revealing the acute threat to the region and leading to fears about a wider knock-on effect around the globe.

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