Speech at the Arctic Council 9th Ministerial meeting, Iqaluit, Canada, 24.4.2015

Minister Aglukkaq, Dear Arctic Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Environmental concerns have been at the core of our cooperation since our first meeting in Rovaniemi in 1991, where we agreed on the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy. And when the Arctic Council was established we decided that cooperation would focus in particular on sustainable development and environmental protection and, listening today at oud lunch to the concerns of the indigenous peoples representatives it could not be otherwise.


In pursuing these goals the Council has published many high-level scientific reports providing a sound basis for political decision-making and we have successfully concluded negotiations on two legally binding international agreements. We have reached agreement on the Action on Enhanced Black Carbon and Methane Emissions Reductions and on the Framework Plan for Cooperation on Prevention of Oil Pollution.


The Framework for a Pan-Arctic Network of Marine Protected Areas should help us to develop such a network without delay. I also welcome the publication of the second Arctic Human Development Report and the work done on monitoring biodiversity in the Arctic region.


We welcome the establishment of the Arctic Economic Council which will encourage the business communities in our countries to contribute to circumpolar cooperation.


I would also like to acknowledge the Canadian chairmanship for its efforts to raise awareness of the traditional ways of life of the indigenous peoples of the Arctic.


Ladies and Gentlemen,


This year will be crucial for the future of the Arctic. A global, legally binding climate agreement is to be concluded in Paris in December with the aim of limit the rise of global temperature to two percent Celsius. But even so, the changes have already taken place which will entail huge changes and challenges for the Arctic. Natural habitats and living conditions change profoundly. New opportunities will open in transport, trade and communications, linking the Arctic with the rest of the world. This entails new economic opportunities but also carries increasing environmental risks.


We all must work even harder for environmental protection and sustainable development. Plans to exploit natural resources should be guided by environmental impact assessments and the use of best available technology and practices.


The launch of the Arctic Adaptation Exchange Portal is a good example of the practical steps that we can take.


Ladies and Gentlemen,


Two years ago we invited a great number of new observers, but this year we simply decided to postpone any decision concerning observer issues. A review of the contribution of observers is necessary. We should recognize that what started as regional cooperation in the Arctic is becoming globally attractive.


An unfortunate situation has evolved around the observer status of the European Union. As an interim solution, the Union will continue as an ad hoc observer. We hope that the obstacles to the EU’s full observer status will be removed as soon as possible.


Ladies and Gentlemen,


The question whether and to what extent the strained international situation will affect Arctic cooperation can be answered in a positive tone and quoting our Declaration saying that we are committed to maintaining peace, stability and constructive cooperation in the Arctic.


It is in no-one’s interest to let problems elsewhere to impact negatively on Arctic cooperation and the Arctic environment.


Finally, I would like to thank Canada for its leadership during the past two years. I would like to welcome the United States to the chair and commend its chairmanship program with well thought-out priorities, and in addressing the impacts of climate change. You will have our full support.