Sunday

19th May 2019

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 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join 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.

Focus

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.

Agenda

EU prepares to vote on future leaders This WEEK

The political spotlight switches from Brussels to national capitals and regions this week as Europe gears up for the start of European Parliament elections on Thursday

News in Brief

  1. EU flies rainbow flag on anti-homophobia day
  2. EU to freeze money and visas of foreign cyber-attackers
  3. EU reassures US on arms sales
  4. Use euros over dollars in energy contracts, France says
  5. UK cross-party Brexit talks collapse
  6. Climate activists occupy German-Russian gas pipeline
  7. Farage got €515,000 of private perks
  8. French EU commissioner urges Italy not to overspend

Timmermans calls for left-wing coalition at debate

The centre-right's Manfred Weber got most of the heat at the EU Commission presidential candidates' final debate before the European elections, while Frans Timmermans reached out to a possible coalition partners - piling more pressure on Weber's EPP.

Magazine

All about the European Parliament elections 2019

EUobserver's new magazine is meant to help readers prepare for the European Parliament elections, no matter their level of knowledge. You can download and read the entire magazine now.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  3. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  8. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  9. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  10. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  11. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us