24 May, 2017
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signed on Thursday a declaration acknowledging the threat posed by climate change to the Arctic and indicating the need for action to curb its impact on the region.
He is expected to decide whether the USA will leave the 2015 Paris Agreement, or stay in with reduced commitments, after a Group of Seven summit at the end of this month.
Soini said Finland wants to avoid "drifting into a collision course" with the U.S. During his 2016 campaign, Trump promised to pull out of the Paris accord and his administration has ordered cuts to funding for climate science and has slashed environmental regulations.
The Trump administration has indicated it will decide whether to remain in the Paris agreement within weeks.
"We recognize that global warming is the main driver of change in the Arctic", Soini said. The document also recommends close and coordinated global monitoring of the Arctic's changing climate, a priority that will be enhanced by a legally binding agreement that would ease Arctic research.
"We are unsure what the Trump administration thinks about the Arctic region in general, about the Arctic Council in particular and about its role", said Victoria Herrmann, president of The Arctic Institute, a Washington, D.C. -based group that provides research to shape Arctic policy.
Various indigenous organizations, including the Aleut International Association, Arctic Athabaskan Council, Gwich'In Council International, Inuit Circumpolar Council, Saami Council and the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON), represented by Vice President Vladimir Klimov, were also present at the meeting.
A presidential decision on the future of the USA participation in the Paris accord is expected "sometime over the next couple of weeks", the State Department's assistant secretary for oceans and worldwide environmental and scientific affairs, David Balton, told reporters before the meeting in Fairbanks began.
To the Arctic Council, her message was "let's have the courage to make it even better".
The Arctic Council's member states will work together on Arctic issues-including climate change-delegates insisted at the eight-nation Arctic Council ministerial gathering May 11 in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Following the meeting, Tillerson, the former chief executive of energy giant Exxon Mobil, will hand over the chairmanship of the council to Finland, which plans to stress the Paris pact as it leads the council over the next two years.
"We've been fishing thousands of years and we've been hunting for thousands of years in Alaska", he said, expressing concern that future generations will not be able to feed themselves.
The United States-an Arctic country because of the state of Alaska-is joined on the council by Canada, Russia, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. "We welcome cooperation in the telecommunications field between the Arctic Council members and propose that the activities of the Arctic Economic Council be stepped up", Lavrov added.
A local tribal leader also pressured Tillerson to act at a celebration of the council on Wednesday.
He cast the disputes over Paris in Trump's chaotic White House as a natural adjustment period while the new administration hammers out its own approach.
"We urge the Arctic states to continue to work towards more meaningful engagement with the Permanent Participants and to continue to build upon this partnership, evolve and move the bench-mark up", stated Eegeesiak.