For more than two decades, member nations of the Arctic Council have generally found it easy to agree on plans to protect the delicate region.
That was before Donald Trump was elected. This year, as the New York Times reported, things were a little different.
Under pressure from the United States, the Arctic Council issued a short joint statement on Tuesday that excluded any mention of climate change.
It was the first time since its formation in 1996 that the council had been unable to issue a joint declaration spelling out its priorities. As an international organization made up of eight Arctic countries and representatives of indigenous groups in the region, its stated mission is cooperation on Arctic issues, particularly the protection of the region’s fragile environment.
According to diplomats involved in the negotiations, at issue was the United States’ insistence not to mention the latest science on climate change or the Paris Agreement aimed at averting its worst effects.
The Arctic Council’s outgoing chairman, Finnish Foreign Minister Timo Soini, said in a 10-page statement, “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.”
Left unsaid is who didn’t regard climate change as a fundamental challenge facing the Arctic.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke at the event, telling attendees, “Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new passageways and new opportunities for trade. 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 become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals.”
I guess this is what passes for Team Trump spin in 2019? We’re slowly boiling the planet, risking catastrophic conditions, but think of the trade opportunities!
Pompeo added, “Look, the facts speak for themselves: America is the world’s leader in caring for the environment.”
Trump’s secretary of state didn’t appear to be kidding. Whether the comments generated any laughter is unclear.