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Arctic Council Simulation: Arctic States Take Action Against Climate Change Forcers

For the second time, Arctic Council unanimously adopts framework to reduce black carbon and methane.

(Virtual) Iqaluit, Canada. August 15, 2016

By Freja C. Eriksen

A unique Arctic Council Framework to reduce black carbon and methane emissions was - once again - adopted on April 24, 2015 at the Ministerial Meeting Simulation as part of this year's Arctic Summer College Program. The Arctic States unanimously agreed to enforce a framework that, although non-binding, should help mitigate climate change.

Senior Arctic Official of the USA, Meredith LeValley, stated,

"By slowing the warming of the Arctic in the near future we may help to maintain the integrity of this fragile ecosystem … The US believes that the Arctic Council could be an example of international agreement to reduce methane emissions and perhaps spark larger global reduction."

The USA is currently holding chairmanship of the Arctic Council and have proven devoted to tackling climate change and show global leadership through the Arctic Council. Represented at the meeting were also the Senior Arctic Officials of Norway, Denmark, Canada and Russia along with the Permanent Participant for the Saami Council.

The Arctic States have agreed on submitting reports in a year’s time, showing national black carbon and methane emissions and projections for future emissions, as recommended by the experts appointed to the Task Force on Black Carbon and Methane. Submitting these inventories of emissions will be supplemented by a catalogue of best practices and programs on mitigation from all the Arctic States. Expert in the Task Force, Tobias Neuhold, at the meeting highlighted the necessity and possible effectiveness of black carbon and methane reductions.

"Black carbon is a major contributor to global warming – arguably only second to carbon dioxide, he said."

It is estimated that only a tenth of the world’s black carbon is emitted by the Arctic States. However, about a third of black carbon’s warming effects in the Arctic can be attributed to emissions from the eight Arctic states themselves. Thus, a local effort to mitigate black carbon could have great effects. Methane, Neuhold explains, is also worth more attention.

"While methane doesn’t linger as long in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, it is initially far more devastating to the climate because of how it effectively it absorbs heat. The first two decades after it is released, methane is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide … So both types of emissions must be addressed if we want to effectively reduce the impact of climate change, Neuhold concluded."

All participating states showed enthusiasm for increasing cooperation within climate change mitigation and commencing this work more formally through the framework’s adaptation. Although some Arctic States undeniably contribute with higher emissions than others, it was agreed that this should not set back cooperation.

"The contributions from the Arctic States might be limited, but that doesn’t mean that the effort should be limited as well. The Arctic States are the ones that should be most concerned, said Senior Arctic Official from Denmark, Melina Kourantidou."

The Framework, Enhanced Black Carbon and Methane Emissions Reductions – An Arctic Council Framework for Action, does not set any targets for reductions. This is, however, part of the plan. In 2017, states will reconvene to discuss common targets for reductions.

 

This article is based on the Arctic Council Simulation performed by participants of the Arctic Summer College 2016 on August 15. Photo credit: Freja C. Eriksen, photo of two men in Ilulissat head out by boat in the evening.