A 'majority of nations' agree on Arctic climate; U.S. is again the exception
United States rejects joint statement over 'climate change' references
Indian Country Todaycomprehensive scientific study on the mass extinction of plants and animals caused by humans and climate change. Then Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo was in Rovaniemi, Finland, at the Arctic Council where he spoke about the challenges in the Arctic in largely economic and military terms. “This is America’s moment to stand up as an Arctic nation and for the Arctic’s future. Because far from the barren backcountry,” he said, “the Arctic is at the forefront of opportunity and abundance. It houses 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil, 30 percent of its undiscovered gas, and an abundance of uranium, rare earth minerals, gold, diamonds, and millions of square miles of untapped resources. Fisheries galore.” And the challenges of climate change? “Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new passageways and new opportunities for trade,” Pompeo said. “This could potentially slash the time it takes to travel between Asia and the West by as much as 20 days. Arctic sea lanes could come before – could come the 21s century Suez and Panama Canals.” Most of his speech was a warning against increasing Russian and Chinese activity in the region. The Trump administration’s position on the Arctic raises so many questions about Indigenous governance (and knowledge). How in the world can a government set a course to make money on a changing climate all the while avoiding a strategy to deal with its consequences?
Indeed: Normally the nations that make up the Arctic Council -- including six Indigenous permanent members representing the Aleut, Inuit, Athabaskan, Gwich’in, Sami, and Russian Indigenous Peoples of the North -- come up with a shared statement about the challenges of climate change. Not this year. The meeting ended with a joint statement that only called for a continued “commitment to maintain the Arctic as a region of peace, stability and constructive cooperation.” The United States refused to sign a ministerial statement because of wording that climate change was a "serious threat to the Arctic." It was the first time a declaration had been cancelled since the Arctic Council was formed in 1996. However the outgoing chairman of the council, Timo Soini, foreign minister of Finland, did take up the cause of climate change. He issued a statement that “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 UNFCCC COP24 in Katowice, including the Paris agreement ...” The sentence was kind. It should have said instead of “a majority” that all but the United States agreed on issues of climate change. Even in a direct interview with a Finnish newspaper, Pompeo would not use the words “climate change.” He said “we can call it whatever we like, but I shared some of the data in the speech. The United States is kicking it when it comes to getting its CO2 down. I mean, compare it to China, compare it to Russia, compare it, frankly, to many European nations, each of whom signed the Paris agreement.”
The #Arctic Council is a forum for #indigenous peoples to actively participate in decision-making and development in the Arctic region.— Arctic Council (@ArcticCouncil) May 7, 2019
Learn more about the Council's Permanent Participants: https://t.co/tyk5hOZU9Y pic.twitter.com/YTUCc7WW3K
The economic boom that the secretary wants will not happen without significant contributions from the Arctic’s Indigenous people and that will require free, prior, and informed consent. Yet in the oddest portion of the speech, Pompeo referred to Indigenous people by asking: “Do we want Arctic nations broadly, or Indigenous communities specifically, to go the way of former government in Sri Lanka or Malaysia, ensnared by debt and corruption?” What does that mean? We do not know. Indian Country Today will reach out to the State Department for a clarification. Mark Trahant is the editor of Indian Country Today. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Follow him on Twitter @TrahantReports. This story originally appeared on Indian Country Today on May 7, 2019.
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