Trump's climate stance casts shadow over Arctic meeting

Malcolm Fuller
May 12, 2017

With that, the chair of the Arctic Council passed to the USA until this week when Finland will assume the chair of the eight-nation circumpolar body. It demonstrates that despite changes in political administration, the U.S.is continuing to participate (in the Arctic Council) at high levels. There are now twelve non-Arctic observer nations.

Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office, Ministry of Manpower and Ministry of Foreign Affairs Sam Tan is in Fairbanks, Alaska, to attend the 10th Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting. "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".

Unlike former President Barack Obama, Trump has expressed doubts about whether human activity has a significant role in climate change, and is mulling whether to pull the United States out of the 2015 Paris Agreement to fight it.

Donald Trump pledged to renegotiate the accord during last year's USA election campaign, but has wavered on the issue since taking office.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the top foreign ministers from the world's seven other Arctic nations are due to arrive in Fairbanks today for tomorrow's Arctic Council ministerial meeting.

Tillerson is hosting the Arctic Council, where many delegates from some of the countries most affected by global warming were hoping for a renewed USA commitment to reduce emissions.

Russian Federation and the United States are at loggerheads over the wars in Syria and Ukraine and over Russia's alleged attempts to covertly back Trump's victory in the USA presidential race.

"Asian countries are particularly interested in the development of the Arctic region for the extraction of natural resources and also because climate change is already affecting Asia significantly", said Tero Vauraste of Arctia Oy, Finland's state-owned icebreaking company.

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The South Korean population has elected Democratic Party candidate Moon Jae-in as their president. The shutdown of the bridge "could come as early as May", the source added.

"I was really happy that they were willing to go out on a limb and make some concrete estimates of if we are able to keep the Paris Agreement in place", says Cheryl Rosa, Alaska Director with the U.S. Arctic Research Commission.

Still, Tillerson's signing of the document surprised a source close to the State Department. On the agenda are worldwide cooperation on Arctic science, security and economic development.

David Balton, a deputy assistant secretary of State, said other accomplishments included an agreement for scientific cooperation among Arctic nations, an assessment of improvements needed for better telecommunications, and implementation of a database of ships passing through the Arctic.

The worst-case scenario feared by some would be that Tillerson used this gathering to announce the US would withdraw from the Paris Agreement.

The United State chaired the council for the last two years and turned the chairmanship over to Finland on Thursday. Soini said Arctic resources and transportation routes may attract interest.

Lavrov will again be at Tillerson's side Thursday, as the pair present the council a jointly negotiated motion to ease access to Arctic waters to global climate scientists.

President Trump, however, has sidelined Arctic policy issues and largely ignored the Arctic Council climate priorities of his predecessor.

Protesters gathered in a city park nearby to denounce the presence of Tillerson, who is the former president of Exxon Mobil Corp.

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