US climate change refusal sinks Arctic declaration - delegates

2019-05-09 08:20
Participants have taken their seats to attend the 11th Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic Council in Rovaniemi, Finland. (Mandel Ngan, Pool, AFP)

Participants have taken their seats to attend the 11th Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic Council in Rovaniemi, Finland. (Mandel Ngan, Pool, AFP)

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Members of the Arctic Council meeting in Finland's far north on Tuesday failed to issue their traditional final declaration due to a US refusal to mention climate change, delegates said.

At the start of the 11th ministerial meeting, chair Finnish Foreign Minister Timo Soini announced a change to the planned agenda, saying the final joint declaration would be replaced by ministerial statements. He provided no explanation.

Several sources said it was because member states were unable to reach an agreement, with the United States alone refusing to mention climate change in the final text.

This is the first time the Arctic Council, which held its first meeting in 1996, failed to present a final declaration at the end of one of its ministerial meetings, which are held every two years.

"The hang up here right now is America making it hard to make a final agreement," Sally Swetzof of the Aleut International Association, one of six organisations representing the Arctic's indigenous peoples, told AFP.

The Arctic Council groups Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States, and their cooperation is usually frictionless.

But in a speech in Rovaniemi on the eve of the council meeting, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took on China, which holds observer status, and Russia, slamming their "aggressive behaviour" in the Arctic.

And notably, he did not mention "climate change" once, even though, according to scientists, global warming is progressing twice as fast in the Arctic as in the rest of the world.

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