Rex Tillerson Signs Declaration Calling Climate Change Threat To The Arctic

Secretary of state Rex Tillerson will be asked to clarify the U.S. stance on climate change when he meets with foreign ministers of the Arctic Council in Fairbanks, Alaska, on Thursday.

The Trump administration has been in conflict for months over what to do about US involvement in the landmark 2015 Paris climate accord, which commits almost 200 nations to establishing goals to reduce emissions that lead to climate change.

He spoke Thursday in Fairbanks, Alaska, at a meeting of the Arctic Council, an advisory group made up of the eight Arctic nations and indigenous groups.

"We are appreciative that each of you has an important point of view, and you should know that we are taking the time to understand your concerns", he promised.

"We are unsure what the Trump administration thinks about the Arctic region in general, about the Arctic Council in particular and about its role", said Victoria Herrmann, president of The Arctic Institute, a Washington, DC-based group that provides research to shape Arctic policy.

"The United States has worked hard to advance the Arctic Council and we celebrate the success of their chairmanship" offered Nancy Karetak-Lindell, ICC Canada President.

The Finn official said the Paris Agreement is the cornerstone of global efforts to slow the impact of climate change, and said long-term strategic planning is important for the Arctic region. President Donald Trump, who has called global warming a hoax, has moved aggressively to unravel programs that reduce emissions, saying the policies hobble US economic growth. Ethel Blake, who represents indigenous Gwich'in people in the US and Canada, warned that rapid warming in the Arctic threatens their way of life.

The State Department defended Tillerson's signing by saying the declaration is not an obligatory document.

Climate change was the biggest issue at the biennial meeting of the Arctic Council in Fairbanks, which was overshadowed by the uncertainties over Mr Trump's policy. Trump had repeatedly mocked climate change as a "hoax" and "very expensive ... bullsh*t", but scientists say the Arctic will continue to feel the brunt of climate change at rates far higher than the rest of the world.

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Groups representing the indigenous peoples of the circumpolar north, known as permanent participants on the Arctic Council, were almost universally unified on the need to address climate change.

Meanwhile, other Arctic countries have called for a cut on greenhouse gases.

Protesters greeted Tillerson Wednesday afternoon in Fairbanks with a sign that said, "Welcome to the frontline of climate change".

Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs Margot Wallstrom said she walked away from a private conversation with Tillerson hopeful of the U.S.' intent in the region.

Timo Soini, the foreign minister of Finland, said Finns "recognize that global warming is the main driver of change" in the Arctic.

The Arctic Council meets once every two years, and Thursday's meeting marked the end of the United States' chairmanship of the group.

"No decision is imminent, and in his remarks on Thursday, Mr. Tillerson presented the delay as necessary to gain the viewpoints of parties outside the White House and even outside the United States, including the other Arctic nations", The Times reported.

Janis Searles Jones, CEO of Ocean Conservancy, highlights an agreement to enhance scientific cooperation and move forward with reductions of black carbon pollution, a contributor to climate warming in the Arctic.

That's a tough position to take in the Arctic, which is warming rapidly and experiencing a multitude of climate change-induced issues.

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