Rex Tillerson signed the Fairbanks Declaration alongside seven other foreign ministers - including Canada, Russia and Norway - at the meeting of the Arctic Council, which meets every two years to discuss climate change and other challenges facing the region.
Signing on to the Arctic Council declaration is, in some ways, a remarkable example of the State Department's contradictory position in the Trump administration.
The Arctic Council takes a keen interest in climate change, and it's waiting to see how the Trump administration will handle the issue - and whether the US will withdraw from the global Paris climate accord.
"We are taking time to understand your concerns", Tillerson told the members of the council, which in addition to the U.S.is comprised of Canada, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, and Russian Federation.
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican, said climate change was the first thing she looked for when given a copy of the declaration.
The accomplishments of the Council during the U.S. Chairmanship (2015-2017) include projects like the Circumpolar Local Environmental Observer Network, Marine Protected Areas Network Toolbox: Area-based conservation measures and ecological connectivity, and a series of health-related projects aimed at improving the health and mental wellness of indigenous and Arctic communities.
"I think we really need to speak to people like Tillerson to say that this is the kind of action that's needed", Chapin said.
Canada, the US and its six Arctic Council partners adopted the nine-page "Fairbanks Declaration 2017, " which noted that the Arctic is warming at more than twice the rate of the global average.
The Fairbanks meeting of the Council came after the White House said this week that Trump will not decide on climate change policy until after a trip to Europe later this month. "We are going to work to make the right decision for the United States".
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Residents are also urged to report unusual numbers of mosquitoes or day-biting mosquitoes to the local vector control agency. WNV can cause a deadly infection in humans, and the elderly are particularly susceptible.
The declaration further recognizes "the need for global action to reduce both long-lived greenhouse gases and short-lived climate pollutants".
Later in the statement, the parties commit a whole section to addressing the impacts of climate change, laying out eleven steps forward.
Trump has labeled climate change a hoax, defying widening global support for the Paris Agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
The council signed an Agreement on Enhancing International Arctic Scientific Cooperation.
Tillerson, who within the administration has argued for staying in the agreement, told the council the Trump administration will not rush to make a decision.
A 2008 U.S. Geological Survey study found that "theArctic accounts for about 13 percent of the undiscovered oil, 30 percent of the undiscovered natural gas, and 20 percent of the undiscovered natural gas liquids in the world". "I know that that took some effort to get there, so thank you very much".
"We urge the Arctic states to continue to work towards more meaningful engagement with the Permanent Participants and to continue to build upon this partnership, evolve and move the bench-mark up", stated Eegeesiak.
In his confirmation hearing earlier this year, he told senators he supports United States participation in the Paris Agreement, saying, "I think we're better served by being at that table than leaving that table".
WALDHOLZ: Michael Sfraga of the Wilson Center says if the USA exits Paris, it may undermine its influence in a region that's becoming more important as sea ice retreats and shipping routes open.
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