Thursday May 23, 2019

Arctic Countries Meet to Discuss Policies on How to Deal with Global Warming

The Arctic Council is made up of the United States, Canada, Russia, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Iceland, with the region's indigenous populations also represented

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arctic nation, global warming
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo makes his way to board a flight from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, as he heads for Rovaniemi, Finland to attend the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting, May 5, 2019. VOA

Top diplomats from the United States, Russia and other nations which border the Arctic meet in Finland on Monday to discuss policies governing the polar region, as tensions grow over how to deal with global warming and access to mineral wealth.

Countries have been scrambling to claim territory or, like China, boost their presence in the region as thawing ice raises the possibility of exploiting much of the world’s remaining undiscovered reserves of oil and gas, plus huge deposits of minerals such as zinc, iron and rare earth metals.

With time-saving Arctic shipping routes also opening up, the Pentagon warned on May 2 of the risk of Chinese submarines in the Arctic.  That followed a sharp statement by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – who will give a speech at the Arctic Council meeting in Rovaniemi, Finland on May 6 – rejecting a role for China in shaping Arctic policy.

“The U.S. has realized that they cannot leave the Russians and Chinese to carve up the Arctic as they see fit,” said Niklas Granholm, deputy director of studies at Sweden’s Defense Research Agency.

arctic nations, global warming
That could have a profound effect on the world’s weather as well as on wildlife and indigenous populations in the polar region. Wikimedia

The Arctic Council is made up of the United States, Canada, Russia, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Iceland, with the region’s indigenous populations also represented. China has had observer status at the Council since 2013, and has been increasingly active in the region, outlining a plan for a “Polar Silk Road” last year.

Russia has reopened military bases closed after the Cold War and is modernizing its powerful Northern Fleet. In response, the U.S. has reconstituted its Second Fleet, whose area of responsibility will include the North Pole.

The Arctic Council’s remit excludes military matters, but participants have already clashed, with the Washington Post reporting that the U.S. had refused to sign off on a final declaration, disagreeing with the wording on climate change.

Melting the Ice

“There are different tones with which different countries want to approach climate change,” Finland’s Arctic Ambassador Aleksi Harkonen said. “It’s not about whether climate change can be mentioned or not. It will be there, in the final declaration.”

arctic countries, global warming
The Arctic Council is made up of the United States, Canada, Russia, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Iceland, with the region’s indigenous populations also represented. Wikimedia

Surface air temperatures in the Arctic are warming at twice the rate of the rest of the globe, and the ocean could be ice-free during the summer months within 25 years, according to some researchers. That could have a profound effect on the world’s weather as well as on wildlife and indigenous populations in the polar region.

President Donald Trump has frequently expressed skepticism about whether global warming is a result of human activity and has withdrawn the U.S. from the Paris climate accord. That agreement aimed to limit a rise in average global temperatures to “well below” 2C (3.6F) above pre-industrial times by 2100.

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Another flashpoint in Finland could be the meeting between Pompeo and his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who will discuss the political crisis in Venezuela. Russia has accused the United States of trying to engineer a coup against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, one of its closest allies in Latin America.

U.S. national security adviser John Bolton told Russia to stop interfering in what he called America’s “hemisphere.” India, South Korea, Singapore, Italy and Japan have observer status at the Arctic Council in addition to China. (VOA)

Next Story

EU Countries Consume Earth’s Resources Faster than they can be Renewed: Report

Some 100 Greenpeace activists and students from several European countries marched through Sibiu carrying a huge banner saying "Broken Climate Broken Future"

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France's President Emmanuel Macron, right, and President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker speak during the informal meeting of European Union leaders in Sibiu, Romania, May 9, 2019. VOA

The European Union’s 28 countries consume the Earth’s resources faster than they can be renewed and none of them has sustainable consumption policies, a report released Thursday said, as EU leaders met to discuss priorities for the next five years.

“All EU countries are living beyond the means of our planet. The EU and its citizens are currently using twice more than the EU ecosystems can renew,” the report by the World Wide Fund (WWF) and Global Footprint Network said. It was issued as leaders met in the Romanian city of Sibiu to set the course for the bloc after Britain’s planned departure from the EU.

Climate change key priority

French President Emmanuel Macron said before the summit that climate change was among his key priorities and it was included in the bloc’s 10 “commitments” for the future until 2024, agreed by all the 27 leaders meeting in Sibiu.

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The European Union’s 28 countries consume the Earth’s resources faster than they can be renewed and none of them has sustainable consumption policies. Pixabay

But the bloc is divided on how to achieve any ambitious climate goals and it remains far from clear how the Sibiu declaration would be implemented. Some 100 Greenpeace activists and students from several European countries marched through Sibiu carrying a huge banner saying “Broken Climate Broken Future.”

“We cannot talk about a prosperous future without a healthy climate,” Greenpeace climate activist Alin Tanase told Reuters. Views on concrete action to be taken to combat climate change differ between EU countries, influenced greatly by their dominant industries, such as carmakers in Germany or the coal industry in Poland.

Tusk sensitive to climate change

The chairman of the summit, President of the European Council Donald Tusk, said there was no future for politicians who were not sensitive to climate change and environment protection issues.

“The young generation is much more united on this than the member states. The truth is that nothing has changed when it comes to this divide and different opinions about this. What is new is this very fresh and energetic pressure,” he told a news conference after the summit.

climate change, earth's resources
Some 100 Greenpeace activists and students from several European countries marched through Sibiu carrying a huge banner saying “Broken Climate Broken Future.” VOA

Climate protection and sustainable development is also an important topic in the election campaign for the May 23-26 European Parliament elections, which will influence the leadership of European institutions and their programs.

The European Commission has been pushing for the EU to become climate neutral by 2050 through reducing carbon emissions that will otherwise boost the Earth’s average temperatures with devastating consequences.

“The EU uses up almost 20 percent of the Earth’s bio-capacity although it comprises only 7 percent of the world population,” the WWF report said. “In other words, 2.8 planets would be needed if everyone consumed at the rate of the average EU resident,” it said.

climate change, earth's resources
FILE – Climate change demonstrators hold banners in front of the Winston Churchill Statue during a protest near Parliament in London, April 12, 2019. VOA

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Luxembourg smallest but fastest

It said the EU’s smallest and richest country, Luxembourg, was also the one which used up renewable resources the fastest last year. Just 46 days into the year, it had consumed its full share of the Earth’s resources, it said.

The EU’s poorest nation, Romania, took the longest to arrive at that point, on July 12th. But that was still earlier than the world’s average of Aug. 1, called Earth overshoot day. (VOA)