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Arctic Council presents united front as Finland takes over from US

Arctic Council presents united front as Finland takes over from US

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says it is significant that the United States joined its Arctic Council partners in signing a declaration that supports the Paris accord on climate change.

But he says the US will not rush to make a decision on climate change policy.

U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan will be present at the 10th Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in Fairbanks, to commemorate the achievements of the U.S. Chairmanship of the Arctic Council, during the transfer of the leadership role to Finland.

The Fairbanks proclamation says that "the Arctic is warming at more than twice the rate of the global average, resulting in widespread social, environmental, and economic impacts", and notes "the pressing and increasing need for mitigation and adaptation actions and to strengthen resilience".

On the campaign trail, he said he would "cancel" United States participation in the accord.

The Trump administration has indicated it will decide whether to remain in the Paris agreement within weeks.

In another agreement reached Thursday, the eight countries agreed to facilitate access by scientists and their equipment and materials to identified Arctic areas and research facilities.

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Mr Tillerson, the former chief executive of Exxon Mobil, told the meeting that the administration was reviewing how it would approach climate change.

"We've got a lot to do tomorrow", Tillerson warned guests at a dinner on the eve of the forum late Wednesday.

Moving forward, Finland has vowed to keep fueling the fight against climate change and hopes the US will choose to keep its commitment.

"We'd heard. that there would likely be a significant USA effort to redline or even remove entirely the Paris and climate language", the source said.

His administration has aggressively begun trying to dismantle numerous climate policies created under the Obama administration, including federal rules to phase out coal-fired power plants, increase restrictions on vehicle emissions and limit methane leaks from natural gas production.

Trump has repeatedly questioned climate science, calling climate change a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese and vowing during his campaign to "cancel" the Paris agreement.

Tillerson's words and actions averted a scenario that many observers feared might emerge from the Arctic Council meeting - the USA announcing its withdrawal from Paris.

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A strengthened emphasis on climate change.

"You should know we are taking the time to understand your concerns".

But foreign policy staff arriving in Fairbanks early this week said they have not yet signed off on the wording of the ministerial statement proposed by the White House in advance of the meeting.

The council comprises the five Nordic countries plus the United States, Canada and Russian Federation.

If the United States, by most measures the world's second-biggest polluter, were to pull out or reduce its goals, efforts to reduce the global temperature increase might fail.

"Secretary of State Tillerson should take the message from the Arctic to the White House to persuade the administration of the urgency of policy to slow the warming of the Arctic".

This limits Tillerson's room to maneuver as he tries to find a way to express solidarity with fellow Arctic nations, without knowing where Trump will finally come down on the issue. "And of course messaging to the administration in this country, I believe, that the other seven have recognized the importance of the Paris agreement".

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"However, the US will end its leadership of the Arctic Council without an official statement by the current administration about its national Arctic policy stance, without a plan to engage with the region after the Chairmanship returns to Europe for the next 12 years, and, unfortunately, without an Arctic Special Representative", said Hermann.


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