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Arctic Council Meeting Could Heat Up Over Climate Change

14 Mai 2017

"We are going to make the right decision for the United States", said Tillerson.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in the meeting the Trump administration is now reviewing important policies, including the approaches to address climate change.

Uncertainty over how President Trump's proposed climate policy changes may affect the work of the Arctic Council has hung over the meeting in Fairbanks. Sustainable development is at the core of the Arctic Council mandate, and Finland proposes to explore how the Agenda 2030 framework can be used in Arctic cooperation. "We'd heard ... that there would likely be a significant USA effort to redline or even remove entirely the Paris and climate language", said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the talks.

Top diplomats from the US, Russia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden will meet in Fairbanks in the far-northern US state of Alaska as the US hands over the group's rotating presidency to Finland.

"We'd heard. that there would likely be a significant USA effort to redline or even remove entirely the Paris and climate language", said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The two-year American chairmanship of the Arctic Forum began under Tillerson's predecessor, John Kerry, a passionate advocate of environmental causes and of the global Paris deal.

Not only that, but numerous Trump administration's early policy decisions prioritised economic growth over environmental protection, and Mr Tillerson continues to insist that American climate policy remains under review.

FOREIGN MINISTER MARGOT WALLSTROM: Perhaps our planet would say, I've been your best friend since the Industrial Revolution.

Tillerson at the close of the meeting turned the gavel to Timo Soini, minister of foreign affairs for Finland, which will take over chairmanship until 2019.

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Li also stressed the significance of the Port of Piraeus project, as a flagship project for the China-Greece cooperation. Erdogan is in China to attend the Belt and Road Forum that will officially begin in the capital Beijing on Sunday.

(AP Photo/Mark Thiessen). U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, laughs as he talks to people before the welcoming ceremony to kick off Arctic Council events in Fairbanks, Alaska, on Wednesday, May 10, 2017.

"The council members approved, with little fuss, an agreement on scientific cooperation in the region", The Times reported.

Several speakers on Thursday noted the peace the Arctic has enjoyed relative to other parts of the world, though participants have also expressed concerns that security could be threatened by Russia's assertive pursuit of oil and gas development in the region. "That has remained a very cooperative body". Even the frozen tundra, a critical natural storage tank for carbon emissions, is no longer so frozen.

During his confirmation hearing, Tillerson said he had concluded as a scientist and engineer that "the risk of climate change does exist" and that "action should be taken".

The document also recommends close and coordinated global monitoring of the Arctic's changing climate, a priority that will be enhanced by a legally binding agreement that would ease Arctic research.

The Paris Agreement entered into force on November 4, 2016 and has been signed by 197 countries, of which 135 have now formally ratified it, which represent more than 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

In her comments, the Canadian representative thanked the United States and said that, despite hard negotiations, the council "came to a really good place with [its] statement".

Adding pressure on Trump, scientists from the United States and other Arctic nations issued a report ahead of the meeting warning that the warming could lead to trillions of dollars worth of damage to buildings, roads and other infrastructure this century.