U.S. Special Representative for the Arctic, Admiral Robert J. Papp, says economy and living conditions of Arctic communities will be one of the top priorities when the country takes over the chair of the Arctic Council in April next year.
- Our leadership of the Arctic Council will focus on three issues, he states in a recent White House blog post.
The two other lines of effort will be Arctic Ocean Safety, security and stewardship; and climate change mitigation and adaption.
In October the American congressional newspaper, The Hill, reported that action on climate change will be the main focus when U.S. takes over the chairmanship after Canada.
Extensive experience from Alaska
Admiral Papp uses Alaska as an example, and says climate change is reshaping the Arctic environment as once-massive glaciers melt away, and sea levels rise.
- As the former Commandant of the United States Coast Guard, I have extensive experience working in northern waters, especially in Alaska. I first crossed the Arctic Circle nearly 40 years ago as a young ensign assigned to a Coast Guard cutter home-ported in Adak, Alaska. Later, I visited Alaska and met with Alaskans every year that I was Commandant.
- The human story in the Arctic is defined by the intense and arduous relationship between people and the environment, says the U.S. Special Representative.
- Arctic residents know not just how to survive, but also how to thrive in some of the harshest conditions on earth. Theirs is a story of adaptation and survival, he adds.
- Today, however, climate change is transforming this already challenging region at an unprecedented pace. Temperatures in the Arctic are rising at twice the rate as of the rest of the world on average. And though the region seems remote to most Americans, other parts of our country are also being impacted by Arctic climate change. The entire country experienced abnormal weather as the result of a storm that passed through the Bering Sea in Alaska earlier this month.
A global cornerstone
- The future of America is inextricably linked to the future of the Arctic, Papp concludes, adding that the Arctic is quickly becoming a global cornerstone, both for scientific and academic research, trade, and tourism.
Last month Papp attended the Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavik, Iceland, where over 1400 people representing more than 40 countries were gathered.
Papp held his first international speech during the Assembly, and when High North News talked to him afterwards, he said the United States will speed up the work of the Arctic Council when the country takes over the chairmanship.
In Reykjavik, Papp met with a delegation from Maine, and also spoke with individuals from Russia, Singapore, the U.K., and Quebec, among others.
- It made me realize that we are all connected through the Arctic, whether environmentally, through the global impacts of climate change; economically through international trade; or scientifically through multi-national research initiatives, he says.
Want to include Alaska Natives
- It is our imperative as an Arctic nation and global leader to set the bar high by pursuing an ambitious program to address Arctic challenges and opportunities, including climate change. I have no doubt about America’s ability to succeed. I welcome the efforts of our partners, including Alaska Natives, students, academia, private industry, and state and local governments, as we all focus our energy on this crucial global issue.
- While I’m a sailor, not a scientist, I have seen first-hand the dramatic changes taking place across the region, Papp says.
Profound and urgent need
He thinks there is a profound and urgent need to address both the challenges and the opportunities arising in the region, and adds that this is also the direct reason why State Secretary John Kerry appointed him to the position in July.
- As an Arctic nation, we have a moral obligation to use our human, financial, and scientific resources to help those in the region find ways to adapt to these changes, and to significantly reduce the pollutants driving global climate change.