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USA remains committed to arctic climate change research

20 Mai 2017

Under the deal, signed by Washington under former president Barack Obama, more than 190 countries set themselves goals to minimize carbon emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change.

Rather than continuing to appeal for US support for climate change and sustainable development initiatives at the ministerial level, it may prove more effective to engage subnational actors on these important issues in the years to come.

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

The Arctic Council, formed in 1996 to co-ordinate global efforts for sustainable development in the Arctic territories, does not typically discuss military or security issues. The ministers stressed to Tillerson the business benefits, as well as the advantages to the environment and Arctic natives, and of taking action on the climate, Samuelsen said. "We are not going to rush to make a decision", he said.

In another agreement reached Thursday, the eight countries agreed to facilitate access by scientists and their equipment and materials to identified Arctic areas and research facilities. Heads of state of all eight Arctic member nations articulated their visions for the Council moving forward.

But given that all three countries have wide and overlapping interests in the vast, melting and resource-rich Arctic region, it is in everybody's interest to co-operate and advance a co-operative agenda on those challenges, the official added.

Balton, a career diplomat who has served as the chairman of the council's senior Arctic official, has been careful to downplay any conflicts between the Trump administration's Arctic policies and those of past presidents. "This place is handsome, and this place is delicate, and what already is happening in the Arctic will affect the rest of the Earth. And that is science".

Harri Mäki-Reinikka, secretary general of Finland's Arctic advisory board, stressed that climate change affected everything.

Governor Walker and Secretary Tillerson also discussed the University of Alaska Fairbanks being more of a "University of the Arctic" given its 20 years of involvement in Arctic issues.

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"The US will remain engaged in the work the Arctic Council does on climate change throughout", David Balton, the State Department's assistant secretary for oceans and worldwide environmental and scientific affairs, told reporters in a teleconference ahead of the meeting. High-level officials from the. The council reworked the wording and convinced the U.S.to accept the changes.

The U.S. will be handing over its two-year chairmanship of the council to Finland at Thursday's meeting.

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary David Balton tried to square the circle this week in a call with reporters.

But those issues will provide a backdrop as the chairmanship of the council passes from the U.S.to Finland. Already, Russia has announced it will begin shipping natural gas from an Arctic port in Siberia later this year, using special icebreaking tankers, and the Russian military recently completed a base on Franz Josef Land in the northern Barents Sea.

After the Oval Office meeting, the White House said Trump made clear the need for Russian Federation to "rein in" Assad, Iran and its proxies. "It will also bring the world's attention to the strong and generous people who live in the Arctic, whose culture and way of life is a priority in any discussion on the future of the Arctic".

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

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".

A few hundred people chanted slogans and made speeches to protest the presence of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Fairbanks, Alaska, on Wednesday, May 10, 2017.