“I am pleased that six new countries and the EU have been granted observer status in the Arctic Council. This confirms the Arctic Council’s key position as an international forum for discussing Arctic issues,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide, who is taking part in the Kiruna Ministerial Meeting.
The six countries that have now been granted permanent observer status in the Arctic Council are India, Italy, Japan, China, Singapore and South Korea. A decision has been made in principle that the EU will also be granted observer status, but that this will not happen until certain outstanding issues between the EU and Canada are resolved.
“I believe a solution will soon be found to the issue of the EU’s observer status, since European Commission President Barroso has already written to the Prime Minister of Canada outlining a possible solution,” Mr Eide said.
The recommendations from three new reports that provide cutting-edge knowledge on climate change and the environment in the Arctic region were also approved at the Ministerial Meeting. The report on short-lived drivers of climate change shows that emissions of soot (black carbon) and methane account for 30–40 % of anthropogenic climate change worldwide. In the Arctic, the effect of soot deposits on ice and snow can be four times as great as the effect of atmospheric warming. Reducing emissions in the Arctic region can therefore have a significant impact.
“The fact that the Arctic Council is obtaining new knowledge on climate change is clear confirmation of its leading role with regard to environmental issues in the Arctic. Reducing emissions of soot and methane is essential “first-aid treatment” for the environment in the High North. Nevertheless, reducing global CO2 emissions and thereby curbing global warming will remain just as important,” Mr Eide said.
At the Arctic Council’s Ministerial Meeting, a decision was also made to enter into an agreement on cooperation in the area of oil spill preparedness and response in the Arctic. The agreement will ensure that all member states coordinate their resources and efforts in the event of an accident occurring, and it will serve as a basis for achieving further progress in this area.
The Arctic Council now has a permanent secretariat in Tromsø. The Kiruna Ministerial Meeting was the last meeting of the Swedish Chairmanship. The Canadian Chairmanship of the Arctic Council has now begun.