At the Arctic Council’s upcoming meeting of Senior Arctic Officials (SAOs) in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories (NWT), Canada, delegations from the Arctic Council’s states and Permanent Participant organizations (which represent indigenous peoples of the Arctic) will take a comprehensive look at the ongoing work of the Arctic Council...

At the Arctic Council’s upcoming meeting of Senior Arctic Officials (SAOs) in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories (NWT), Canada, delegations from the Arctic Council’s states and Permanent Participant organizations (which represent indigenous peoples of the Arctic) will take a comprehensive look at the ongoing work of the Arctic Council being undertaken by the Council’s four Task Forces and six working groups, including progress on the eleven priority initiatives of the Canadian Chairmanship.

[Click here for a backgrounder on the Arctic Council]

On the margins of the SAO meeting, there will be an outreach event in the community of Dettah, NWT.  At this event, there will be a discussion between Arctic Council representatives and community members on climate change adaptation at both at the circumpolar and local levels, followed by a community feast. 

The Canadian Arctic Council Chairmanship theme is Development for the People of the North, with a focus on responsible resource development, safe Arctic shipping, and sustainable circumpolar communities.  One initiative related to sustainable circumpolar communities involves promoting the importance of traditional ways of life in the North, which seeks to highlight the unique, innovative and successful ways in which Arctic residents are helping to ensure that their traditional ways of life remain a sustainable choice.  This complements the Sustainable Development Working Group’s (SDWG) efforts to enable the effective inclusion of traditional and local knowledge into all Arctic Council projects and activities.

The reduction of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) is an important component of the issues up for discussion at the Yellowknife meeting. The Task Force for Action on Black Carbon and Methane is working to develop consensus on appropriate efforts to reduce emissions of these two SLCPs to achieve both health and climate change benefits, while the ACAP working group will present a draft report on black carbon emissions from residential wood combustion in the Arctic, and the AMAP working group will present its own work on this critical topic.

Actions to respond to a changing Arctic is also a key theme of the work to be discussed in Yellowknife, highlighted by such initiatives as the project “Adaptation Actions for a Changing Arctic”, led by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP), and SDWG’s work to develop an information portal that will assist Northerners, decision-makers, and researchers as they manage and adapt to the impacts of climate change.  Other working groups are addressing this challenge as well, including EPPR with its consideration of a Circumpolar Marine Environment Risk Assessment and PAME with its Arctic Marine Tourism Project, which works to analyze and promote sustainable tourism across the circumpolar Arctic. On the subject of Arctic shipping, delegates will have the opportunity to hear from the International Maritime Organization‘s Secretary General, Koji Sekimizu, on ongoing work towards the development of a mandatory Polar Code.

In Yellowknife, the CAFF working group will outline a six-year implementation plan to address the recommendations in its landmark Arctic Biodiversity Assessment, which explores the consequences of climate change and other factors that affect Arctic species and their habitats.  CAFF will also provide details of its upcoming Arctic Biodiversity Congress to be held in Norway in December, 2014.

Topics being addressed by other Arctic Council Task Forces include Arctic marine oil pollution prevention, scientific cooperation in the circumpolar Arctic, and the establishment of a circumpolar business forum – the Arctic Economic Council.

Finally, SAOs will consider administrative and other matters, including the first annual report of the newly-established standing Arctic Council Secretariat in Tromsø, Norway and Arctic Council Secretariat’s implementation plan for the Communication Strategy for the Arctic Council. 

Photo: Bob Wilson, 2013