Ulrik Westman chaired the Arctic Council Working Group ACAP during the U.S. Chairmanship (2015-2017), and has stayed on as the group’s Chair for the Finnish Chairmanship (2017-2019). In the interview below, read some of his thoughts as he looks back to ACAP’s past two years, and ahead to its bright future.
1. What were some highlights of your first two years with ACAP? What accomplishments are you most proud of thus far?
Most importantly, it has been a pleasure to work with all the colleagues within the Arctic community on reducing pollutants. I think we have come far in improving the way we operate within ACAP by reducing the number of Expert Groups while, at the same time, delivering even more projects around the circumpolar Arctic. The Project Support Instrument is now up and running and operating at scale, which is a great achievement in the spirit of true multilateral environmental cooperation. I'm proud of many of our projects but for the sake of space in this article I'll mention just a few such as the wind-diesel project at the Tundra Collective in the Murmansk Region. In that project, old, inefficient diesel generators were replaced with new, integrated wind-diesel generators. This is bringing health, environmental, and economic benefits to the community. I also appreciate the black carbon case studies platform, which is hosted on the ACAP web page. The platform is adding additional case studies to provide a “one-stop shop” for broad sharing of information on black carbon reduction activities in the Arctic. The community-based black carbon and public health assessment project has also been initiated recently. The project seeks to assess local sources of black carbon emissions in several villages in Alaska, the northern Nordic countries, and Russia. It characterizes risks to public health and explores mitigation options. The project has initiated a desktop study, air monitoring, and proof-of-concept for the demonstration project. And lastly, the expansion of the Circumpolar Local Environmental Observer Network (CLEO) has progressed at a rapid pace and I'm looking forward to advancing the developments further over the next two years.
2. What are you most looking forward to in the two years ahead, during the Finnish Chairmanship?
Pursuing improved environmental performance and reducing contaminants in the Arctic requires endurance. Some of our projects have been active for over a decade, and I believe we will have to spend several decades just to take care of existing contaminants from industrial activities in the Arctic region. A top priority is also to ensure that current and future industrial activities don't add new pollutants to the Arctic. Unfortunately, that's a rather difficult task to undertake. However, the Finnish Chairmanship puts a high premium on environmental protection, pollution prevention, and adaptation to climate change, which is promising for the work of ACAP. Exploring common solutions is exactly what we need to enable the implementation of Agenda 2030, the Paris agreement, and global environmental conventions. I'm looking forward to starting the implementation of all the ACAP projects that are currently in the pipeline, and I'll take this opportunity to mention a few. As one example, we have a project on mitigation of black carbon and methane emissions from flaring in the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation. The project aims to create a basis for concrete mitigation measures at the operations in the Yamalo-Nenets-Pechora Sea region and Khanty-Mansiysk, respectively, as well as improved policies through better knowledge of emission sources, abatement costs, and mitigation technologies. I'm also looking forward to initiating the project on the phase-out of fluorinated greenhouse gases and ozone-depleting substances at fish and seafood processing enterprises of the Murmansk Oblast, the project on demonstration of environmentally sound destruction of obsolete pesticides, and the project on demonstration of management and destruction of 250 tons of PCB in transformers. And hopefully, within the next two years, we will develop new projects on dioxins, mercury, and chemicals of emerging concern to the Arctic environment.
Resources and references (Click any link below)
Arctic Council backgrounder
Finnish Chairmanship information
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The Arctic Council Working Groups: ACAP, AMAP, CAFF, EPPR, PAME and SDWG.