Wednesday

8th Jul 2020

Key Arctic ministerial hits US climate rock

  • Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov (left) with his US counterpart Mike Pompeo at the Artic meeting in Finland, which ended with US delegates unable to agree with the other seven Arctic states on wording and ambitions on climate change (Photo: Jouni Porsanger / Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland)

For the first time ever a meeting of the foreign ministers of the eight Arctic states, including US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and Russia's Sergei Lavrov, has ended without a joint declaration on common ambitions and direction for the work of the Arctic Council for the coming years.

The meeting ended here in Finland's Arctic region Tuesday (7 May) at lunchtime.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Instead, ministers sign a so-called joint ministerial statement to preserve a small measure of unity between the eight governments, including the US, Russia (Lavrov, above), Canada, Norway, Iceland and three EU member states: Sweden, Denmark and Finland (Photo: Jouni Porsanger / Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland)

After about two months of intense negotiations including last-minute efforts, US delegates were unable to agree with delegates from the other seven Arctic states on wording and ambitions on climate change.

The presence of the ministers themselves did not clear the obstacles.

Finnish foreign minister Timo Soini opened the event on Tuesday morning by cancelling the planned signing of a joint declaration.

Instead, the ministers sign a so-called joint ministerial statement to preserve a small measure of unity between the eight governments, including the US, Russia, Canada, Norway, Iceland and three EU member states: Sweden, Denmark and Finland.

A representatives of one of the Arctic indigenous peoples, Bill Erasmus, head of the Arctic Athabaskan Council, in his formal speech expressed the frustration of many delegates.

"We have some real concerns, climate change is real and our elders tell us we are in real in trouble," he said.

Sweden's foreign minister Margot Walstrom, a former EU commissioner, regretted that no formal consensus on a declaration was reached. She stressed that climate change is "happening as we speak".

"Our planet has done all she can do to keep Greenland and the permafrost in Siberia intact", she said. "Making observations is not the same as taking action," Wahlstrom said.

No mention of climate change

Pompeo, in his speech, confirmed the US's continued commitment to Arctic cooperation.

He stressed that the US is committed to cooperation on "environmental stewardship" in the Arctic, but he did not use the term "climate change" - choosing instead to warn against increased Chinese presence in the Arctic.

The EU's Arctic ambassador, Michele Coninsx from the EU's external action service, told EUobserver that the lack of a joint statement addressing climate change would not lead to any change in European approaches to Arctic cooperation.

"It will have no impact on our efforts, because we will continue to be a strong leader on climate change. Our engagement will continue in cooperation with everybody involved", she said.

Norway's foreign minister, Ine Soreide Eriksen, stressed the importance of climate change but did not mention the lack of consensus.

Instead she stressed how the eight Arctic governments still agree on new approaches to marine conservation and other joint priorities.

She interpreted the presence of all eight Arctic foreign ministers as a strong sign of continued support for Arctic Cooperation.

It is only the second time in the 23 years of the Arctic Council that all eight foreign ministers attend an Arctic Council meeting.

The majority view was expressed by a formal statement by the Finnish chairman of the meeting, foreign minister Soini: "A majority of us regarded climate change as a fundamental challenge facing the Arctic and acknowledged the urgent need to take mitigation and adaptation actions and to strengthen resilience, and welcomed the outcomes of the [UN climate talks] in Katowice, including the Paris agreement work programme," his statement read.

The weaker joint ministerial statement, only one page, signed by all ministers including US secretary of state Pompeo did not mention climate change.

Instead it recognised "the diversity of the societies, cultures and economies in the Arctic, reaffirming our commitment to the well-being of the inhabitants of the Arctic, to sustainable development and to the protection of the Arctic environment".

"It is a short statement, but it is an important statement, because it signals the will to work together," ambassador Coninsx said.

The statement alongside other formal instruments will ensure that the work of the Arctic Council, its scientific working groups and other subsidiaries can continue to work, even if no comprehensive political declaration was able to produce consensus between the governments.

US climate scepticism irks Arctic foreign ministers

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo meets Russia's Sergey Lavrov and other Arctic foreign ministers, amidst a row over climate change. Pompeo is also likely to warn against Chinese advances in the Arctic.

Use 25% of budget on climate change, urge EU states

A discussion document by eight EU countries is piling on the pressure for the EU to do more to fight climate change. But their demands are likely to meet German resistance as leaders gather in Romania to discuss Europe's future.

Feature

Russia makes big promises to Arctic peoples on expansion

The Arctic future conference kicked off with optimistic presentations by ministers and officials of the Russian government — but also a burst of scepticism from representatives of those actually living in Russia's Arctic and Far East regions.

News in Brief

  1. France and Germany warn Israel on annexation 'consequences'
  2. Shipping firms to face EU carbon regime
  3. EU to mediate between Greece, Cyprus, and Turkey
  4. EU to unveil arms-trafficking and drug proposals
  5. EU to discuss people-smuggling with African states
  6. 'Torture chamber' found in Dutch sea containers
  7. Commissioner backs under-attack Hungarian news site
  8. New French government tilts to right

Column

The opportunistic peace

This will be the most selfish act in recent economic history. It will burden future generations and by no means make the weakest member states better off.

Opinion

On toppling statues

The internationally-acclaimed author of King Leopold's Ghost, Adam Hochschild, writes on Belgium's problems with statues, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  3. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  5. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis

Latest News

  1. The opportunistic peace
  2. EU mulls new system to check illegal pushbacks of migrants
  3. EU forecasts deeper recession, amid recovery funds row
  4. Revealed: fossil-fuel lobbying behind EU hydrogen strategy
  5. Commission chief under fire for Croatia campaign video
  6. Parliament vaping booths 'too confidential' to discuss
  7. Belarus: Inside Lukashenko’s crackdown on independent voices
  8. The rationale behind US troop withdrawals from Germany

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us