News / Americas

US Calls Arctic Council Meeting 'Historic'

Ice covering the ocean surface at lower Baffin Island, area around Hudson Strait and the Labrador Sea (2008 file photo)
Ice covering the ocean surface at lower Baffin Island, area around Hudson Strait and the Labrador Sea (2008 file photo)

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to join fellow foreign ministers from the eight-nation Arctic Council on Thursday in Greenland's capital, Nuuk, for a meeting on polar region issues, including the receding Arctic ice cap.  The meeting follows the release of a council report that Arctic warming and the resulting rise in sea levels might be much greater than previous forecasts.

It will be the seventh ministerial-level meeting of the Arctic Council, made up of the countries surrounding the Arctic Ocean.

But Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg says the Greenland session will be historic, in that the grouping will create a permanent secretariat, and sign its first legally-binding common agreement, on Arctic search and rescue operations.

At a preview seminar at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies, Steinberg said the Greenland meeting will strengthen the Arctic Council's role as the preeminent world body for Arctic affairs and underline cooperation on regional environmental and maritime issues.

"In the broadest terms, we want to send a strong message that in the post-Cold War world, the Arctic is a region of cooperation, not conflict," said Steinberg.  "And by working together to ensure the safety of human life in a newly-emerging region of human activity, we can show in particular that Russia and the United States are key actors in helping to propel cooperation on important issues."

In addition to the United States and Russia, the Arctic Council includes Canada, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark, which is in the grouping because of its administration of Greenland.

Indigenous communities from around the Arctic region are also represented.  Countries not bordering the Arctic Ocean, but with interests in the region, have criticized the notion of a permanent structure for the Arctic Council.

The State Department's James Steinberg said another key objective of this week's meeting will be to agree on criteria for observer status for other interested countries and organizations.

The deputy secretary said data suggest that the Arctic region is warming two to three times faster than the rest of the world, and that council members will discuss new steps to curb emissions of black carbon, methane and other gases linked to climate change.

A study conducted under Arctic Council auspices and released last week in Copenhagen said Arctic warming and resultant melting of polar ice could raise sea levels by as much as 1.6 meters by 2100, almost three times more than forecast in a landmark United Nations study five years ago.

Charles Ebinger, an Arctic expert at Washington's Brookings Institution, says the world has not yet come to grips with the enormity of problems that would be posed by such change.

"When you starting talking about sea levels rising nine-and-a-half feet, I think the number was, by 2100, that's a staggering rise in the sea levels and would have potential catastrophic implications for certainly New York, Boston and Washington perhaps.  And I just don't think it's in peoples' mindset," noted Ebinger.

Ebinger said he hopes the Arctic Council agrees on a transparent observer mechanism that opens its deliberations to other countries with interests in the region, including China and South Korea.

Steinberg said Arctic and climate issues figured in Secretary of State Clinton's meetings with senior Chinese officials on Monday at the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue.

Clinton, who will be the first U.S. secretary of state to attend an Arctic Council meeting, will lead a team including Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.  Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is also expected to attend.

You May Like

In China, Mixed Signals on Ebola Controls

How authorities are monitoring at-risk individuals remains unclear, including whether there are quarantines for Chinese health workers returning from West Africa More

Video Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Elections

Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Electionsi
X
October 31, 2014 4:10 AM
Public opinion polls show American voters are deeply dissatisfied with their government and anxious about threats from abroad. This is especially true for a key voting group both Republicans and Democrats are trying hard to win over: women. Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats, with majority control of the Senate at stake. VOA’s Cindy Saine looks at the crucial role women voters will play in deciding the elections.
Video

Video Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Elections

Public opinion polls show American voters are deeply dissatisfied with their government and anxious about threats from abroad. This is especially true for a key voting group both Republicans and Democrats are trying hard to win over: women. Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats, with majority control of the Senate at stake. VOA’s Cindy Saine looks at the crucial role women voters will play in deciding the elections.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Lawmaker Blasts US Participation in Cuba Ebola Meeting

Mario Diaz-Balart said ALBA, which chaired the meeting, 'was created solely to oppose US interests' and US participation was 'ludicrous'
More

US Coast Guard Rescues 33 Cubans at Sea

Because the overloaded boat did not make landfall, those rescued will be returned to Cuba
More

Western Experts Increasingly Fear Lone Wolf Terror Attacks

Slaying and assault on Canada's parliament building was followed by a hatchet attack on two New York City policemen
More

Search Underway at New Site in Mexico Missing Students Case

This week marked one month since the students went missing after clashing with police in mysterious circumstances
More

Public Transport in Latin America, Asia Most Dangerous for Women

Thousands of women and gender experts were questioned to create the listing
More

Kerry Lays Wreath for Slain Canadian Soldier

World has been witness to Canada's strength in face of tragedy, he says
More