The United States has joined seven other nations that border the Arctic to increase cooperation to protect the region from threats posed by climate change and energy development. As more harmful environmental effects are being felt there and demand has grown for resources beneath the Arctic ice, the U.S. is determined to work together with other countries to effect positive change.
Demonstrating this commitment, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to Greenland May 11 and 12 to meet with diplomats of the Arctic Council from Finland, Russia, Norway, Sweden, Canada, Denmark and Iceland to discuss issues of regional concern. Also in attendance were representatives of indigenous Arctic peoples.
Rapid warming above the Arctic Circle has resulted in accelerated melting of sea ice, glaciers and the Greenland ice sheet. That threatens wildlife and the livelihoods of people there, and will raise sea levels around the globe. At the same time, Arctic thawing facilitates access to potentially valuable mineral and petroleum resources, as well as polar shipping and travel.
Following two days of talks, the council agreed to create international protocols to prepare for and clean up offshore oil spills in the region. Member nations also signed a deal to coordinate search and rescue responsibilities in the case of shipwrecks or plane crashes in the region. The pact is the first since the council was established in 1996, and could be the model for a new agreement on oil spill response and future agreements on other issues of mutual concern.
The United States is an Arctic nation and the region matters greatly to us. It is an area of both great potential and great concern, and we will pursue our interests in a smart, sustainable way that preserves the Arctic environment and ecosystem.