Center for American Progress

RELEASE: CAP Calls on Secretary Kerry to Establish Climate Change as Theme of 2015–17 Arctic Council Agenda, Adopt Black Carbon-Reduction Goals
Press Release

RELEASE: CAP Calls on Secretary Kerry to Establish Climate Change as Theme of 2015–17 Arctic Council Agenda, Adopt Black Carbon-Reduction Goals

Washington, D.C. — A new report released today by the Center for American Progress calls on U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to use his 2015-2017 chair of the Arctic Council to establish climate change as the overarching theme of the upcoming Arctic Council agenda, and urges the Arctic nations to adopt black carbon emission-reduction goals to reduce Arctic and global warming.

The Arctic is warming at a rate twice as fast as the rest of the world, in part because of the harsh effects of black carbon emissions on snow and ice. Black carbon is hundreds to thousands of times more potent than carbon pollution. Although the eight Arctic Council member nations—Canada; Denmark, including Greenland and the Faroe Islands; Finland; Iceland; Norway; Russia; Sweden; and the United States—have made significant headway in passing policies and regulations to reduce black carbon emissions, these cuts may be undermined by black carbon emissions growth in other sectors, and additional reductions are achievable. Upcoming U.S. leadership of the Arctic Council provides a critical opportunity to reduce black carbon and improve the climate and health of the world.

“The United States – which is on track to cut black carbon emissions in half by 2030 – is well-positioned to lead ambitious efforts to address a rapidly warming Arctic​ and safeguard communities worldwide,” said Rebecca Lefton, Senior Policy Analyst at CAP. “Targeting black carbon emissions is an important first step to slowing a rapidly melting Arctic, and will deliver real environmental, economic, and development benefits around the globe.”

“Sixty percent of the heat-trapping black carbon emissions in the world come from Arctic Council and observer nations,” said Cathleen Kelly, Senior Fellow at CAP. “If we have any hope of slowing Arctic and global warming, it is imperative that the council move decisively to cut black carbon emissions. Secretary Kerry should commit now to making those cuts and putting climate change at the core of the U.S. Arctic Council agenda.”

The consequences of a warming Arctic for human security and global economic stability make it imperative that climate change is the focus of the U.S. agenda for the Arctic Council 2015–17 chair. As such, CAP is calling on Secretary Kerry to work with members of the Arctic Council to achieve the following goals:

  • Establish climate change as the overarching theme of the 2015–17 Arctic Council agenda
  • Secure strong commitments from all Arctic Council nations in 2015 to set national goals and a regionwide target to limit black carbon pollution

Additionally, CAP recommends Secretary Kerry and Arctic Council members encourage accelerated action from observer nations and drive action to reduce black carbon on a global scale through the following:

  • Commitments from Arctic Council observer nations—including China, India, Japan, South Korea, Germany, and the United Kingdom, among others—to adopt ambitious voluntary national targets and undertake new initiatives to reduce black carbon emissions
  • The launch of a global ice preservation and security initiative to slow dangerous levels of warming in the Arctic and other frozen surface regions of the Earth. This initiative should aim to protect critical sources of fresh water, reduce sea-level rise, and minimize the risk of conflict tied to water scarcity, food-price spikes, and migration triggered by drought and other extreme weather, among other climate security threats.

While the U.S. term does not begin until April 2015, incoming country chairs traditionally make their term themes known well in advance to allow time to build support for their priorities and advance their agenda. As such, CAP recommends an opportune moment for a U.S. Arctic Council theme announcement is the September 2014 U.N. Climate Summit in New York City, led by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Read the report: Saving the Arctic: The Urgent Need to Cut Black Carbon Emissions and Slow Climate Change by Rebecca Lefton and Cathleen Kelly

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For more information or to speak to an expert, contact Chelsea Kiene at [email protected] or 202.478.5328.