Mending the Arctic Council After Trump Administration’s Climate Denial

By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer

The Trump Administration wreaked havoc on the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental forum that brings together eight nations and six Arctic Indigenous organizations to discuss issues impacting the melting top of the globe. As InsideClimate News reports, the cooperation among members that had been in place since it was established in 1996, broke down under the Trump administration due to its contrarian climate denial demands and erratic actions, which was made absurdly clear by Secretary of State Pompeo when hosted a meeting of the Council in 2019.

Why this Matters: With the Arctic warming twice as fast as the rest of the globe, it’s especially imperative to have international collaboration on how to navigate the changing realities. Melting sea ice means that Arctic shipping lanes are increasingly open, creating more emissions. Ocean acidification threatens unique marine life that thrives in its cold waters. It’s important for the Arctic Council to end the debilitating climate denial of the Trump era on these issues that desperately need regional cooperation and action. The new administration will inherit relationships to mend as the Council continues producing scientific reports and creating binding agreements to take on climate change where its impact is being felt so severely.  

How Bad Did Things Get? Bad

  • U.S. negotiators followed Trump’s climate denial, to the point of not allowing the words “climate change” in joint documents. 
  • The administration had a blatant lack of comprehension and respect for Arctic culture.
  • Instead of approaching Arctic diplomacy as a cooperative effort, the administration treated it as “a zone of conflict and somewhere the U.S. should seek to expand their influence at the expense of diplomacy and cooperation,” Whit Sheard, the president of the Circumpolar Conservation Union told InsideClimate News.
  • For the first time since the Council’s origin, there was no Arctic Council declaration — a summary of the past two years of work and an indication of what’s to come — because the US didn’t sign the document. That came after the US State Department proposed changes to the declaration that minimized climate change. 

To Go Deeper: Read the full piece on InsideClimate News here for more on the Arctic Council’s work and diplomatic missteps over the past four years.

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