Just eight nations border the Arctic Ocean, but the whole world shares a responsibility to protect, respect and nurture the region. Secretary of State John Kerry said that “One Arctic” is the guiding theme as the United States chairs the Arctic Council for the next two years.
At a council meeting April 24 in Iqaluit, Nunavut territory, Canada, Kerry said the U.S. chairmanship of the Arctic Council will be devoted to these goals:
Addressing the Arctic impacts of climate change.
Promoting ocean safety, security and stewardship.
Improving economic and living conditions for Arctic communities by making improvements in social and economic sectors.
“It means assessing the region’s telecommunications infrastructure, which is absolutely essential to regional connectivity, health care delivery, scientific observation, navigation, emergency response and more,” Kerry said.
The consequences of climate change are global, but they are especially intense for indigenous Arctic peoples. Their lives and livelihoods could change radically as the environment changes.
The United States takes the helm of the 20-year-old Arctic Council following Canada’s two-year term. Kerry said the United States will remain dedicated to prior Arctic Council initiatives that represent the consensus-driven commitments of the eight nations.
The Framework for Action on Enhanced Black Carbon and Methane Emissions aims to increase international cooperation on reducing those dangerous pollutants.
Under the Global Ocean Acidification Observer Network, the United States will advocate for better understanding acidification, another byproduct of excessive carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere.
The United States will pursue a pan-Arctic network of marine protected areas. More navigable channels are opening in the Arctic as climate change thaws waters previously frozen. Broader protections for these waters and their wildlife are needed to “safeguard areas that are particularly significant both culturally and ecologically,” Kerry said.