Arctic Council meeting in Rovaniemi focused on biodiversity

Arctic Council meeting in Rovaniemi focused on biodiversity

The Arctic Council convened in Rovaniemi from 31 October to 2 November. This was the third meeting during Finland Arctic Chairmanship.

The main themes on the meeting agenda were Arctic biodiversity, preparation for the Ministerial Meeting to be held in May 2019, and the Arctic Council's black carbon work. The meeting was attended by representatives of the eight Arctic States and the six Arctic indigenous organisations, together with observes from both Europe and Asia, and international organisations.

Photo: Arctic Council Secretariat
Photo: Arctic Council Secretariat

The Senior Arctic Officials' meeting discussed Arctic biodiversity.  The impacts of climate change on the living environment, acidification of the Arctic Ocean, cross-border pollution, and increasing human-induced effects deteriorate the Arctic biodiversity. Preserving Arctic biodiversity requires broad-based cooperation at both local and regional levels. Actions that can help preserve biological diversity include reducing the accumulation of marine litter in the ocean and protecting the routes of migratory birds.

The Arctic Council's observer countries and Arctic organisations took part in the discussion and reported on their own measures to protect natural diversity.

: The Arctic Council comprises eight countries and six indigenous organisations.
The Arctic Council comprises eight countries and six indigenous organisations. Photo: René Söderman

Black carbon work

The Senior Arctic Officials meeting was also informed of the progress made in the work on black carbon. Approximately one third of the Arctic warming is caused by black carbon emissions from the Arctic States. Restricting gas- and oil-flaring and modernising electricity and heat generation plants can reduce black carbon emissions and slow down Arctic warming.

Both the Arctic Council and the Nordic Council of Ministers will organise a side event at the UN Climate Change Conference to be held in December 2018 in Katowice. Black carbon questions will be on top of the agenda there. Finland will invest EUR 2 million in the reduction of black carbon emission, for example through the World Bank.

The meeting was held in the Agora Hall of the Faculty of Art and Design of the University of Lapland.
The meeting was held in the Agora Hall of the Faculty of Art and Design of the University of Lapland. Photo: René Söderman

Towards the Arctic Ministerial Meeting in Rovaniemi

The Senior Arctic Officials continued the preparation of the Arctic Council's long-term strategy and endorsed the Council's updated Communications Strategy. The Strategy aims to support the Council's activities and create a positive picture of Arctic cooperation.

The meeting also looked at the Working Groups' preliminary reports and recommendations, which will be submitted for discussion at the Ministerial Meeting. Finland will hand over the Arctic Chairmanship to Iceland at the Ministerial Meeting, which will be organised in Rovaniemi in May 2019. Iceland presented the draft programme of its Chairmanship, which emphasises sustainable development, marine questions, sustainable energy solutions, and people's wellbeing.

Ambassador Aleksi Härkönen chaired the meeting together with Tuuli Ojala, Senior Specialist, and Niina Vaaja, Director of the Secretariat.
Ambassador Aleksi Härkönen chaired the meeting together with Tuuli Ojala (right), Senior Specialist, and Niina Vaaja (left), Director of the Secretariat. Photo: René Söderman

The Arctic Economic Council told about its activities, which focus on responsible economic growth and the promotion of free trade in the Arctic region. The Arctic Economic Council has been a close partner of discussion and cooperation for the Finnish Chairmanship.

Finland's Arctic Ambassador Aleksi Härkönen chaired the meetings of the Senior Arctic Officials. Senior Arctic Official René Söderman led Finland’s delegation, which included representatives from  the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

The Sustainable Development Working Group of the Arctic Council (SDWG) held its own meeting on 29–30 November.

A Christmas gnome guided delegates to do some physical exercises during breaks.

Students simulated the meeting

The University of Lapland organised a Model Arctic Council event, in which students from 30 different universities from around the world simulated an Arctic ministerial meeting. During the week, students held discussions and published their own ministerial declaration.

René Söderman
Senior Adviser for Arctic Affairs