(1) Introduction Regional initiatives relevant to Arctic environmental protection in 2016 occurred mainly through the Arctic Council. With no ministerial meeting scheduled for the year, Council work continued through meetings of Senior Arctic Officials (SAOs), three task forces, and six working groups. Documentation from meetings and cooperative efforts may be found at the Council’s website (<http://www.arctic-council.org>). Other international activities of note included: efforts led by the Arctic five coastal states (Arctic 5) towards preventing unregulated high seas fishing in the central Arctic Ocean (CAO); the twelfth Conference of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region; the 2016 Arctic Circle Assembly; the release of an integrated European Union (EU) policy for the Arctic; and the United States–Canada joint leaders’ statements on the Arctic. (2) Arctic Council Activities (A) Meetings of SAOs Two SAO meetings took place during the year, and various environment-related issues were addressed. At the March meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska, delegates were briefed on the role of the Arctic Offshore Regulators Forum in sharing regulatory practices in the region, and they discussed possible future Arctic Council work in the field of oil and gas. However, delegates did not agree on new activities. The chair of the Expert Group on Black Carbon and Methane (EGBCM) announced that national emission inventories had been received from all Arctic states, eight accredited observer states, and the EU. At the October meeting in Portland, Maine, the chair of the EGBCM presented preliminary recommendations for reducing emissions from vehicles and engines, oil and gas production, heating stoves, and landfill sites. She noted that it was premature to suggest an ambitious regional target for black carbon emissions reduction as called for in the Arctic Council’s Framework for Action on Black Carbon and Methane. An open discussion was also held on present and future climate change work in the Arctic Council. Key questions addressed included: whether the Council should initiate work to identify and safeguard wetlands in the Arctic; whether the Council should work further on the development and use of renewable energy sources in the Arctic; and whether Arctic states should form an Arctic caucus in other international fora, such as the International Maritime Organization and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Broad support was expressed for initiating new efforts on wetlands, with Sweden being invited to prepare a paper on possible future directions for wetlands conservation. Other ideas did not receive widespread endorsement. Arctic Council financing was a further discussion topic. An update on the Project Support Instrument—an instrument for mobilizing and financing approved Arctic Council projects—was provided, and the SAOs approved the request to extend the Project Support Instrument trial period to 18 July 2019 (five years after it became operational on 18 July 2014). The Indigenous People’s Secretariat provided an update on efforts to establish the Álgu Fund in the form of a foundation based in Sweden that would support involvements of permanent participants in Arctic Council projects and activities. Considerable debate occurred regarding whether the 50 percent rule—whereby observers may fund no more than half of any Arctic Council project—should continue to apply and be extended to the Álgu Fund. Canada agreed to take the lead in writing a paper to further explore Arctic Council funding issues. At the October SAO meeting, Finland announced its draft program for the Finnish chairmanship of the Arctic Council to commence in May 2017. The proposed theme was ‘Exploring Common Solutions.’ The four proposed priorities were environmental protection, connectivity, meteorological cooperation, and education. (B) Task Forces Three Arctic Council task forces were active during the year. The Task Force on Telecommunications Infrastructure in the Arctic continued to draft a report on future directions for telecommunications infrastructure developments in the region, including those related to telehealth. The Task Force for Enhancing Scientific Cooperation in the Arctic had substantially concluded drafting a new regional agreement on scientific cooperation for signature at the May 2017 ministerial meeting. The Task Force for Arctic Marine Cooperation, established by Arctic Council ministers in 2015 to assess future needs for a regional seas program or other mechanism for increased cooperation in Arctic marine areas, held its third meeting on 1–2 June in Reykjavik and its fourth meeting on 22–3 September in Portland, Maine. The task force was on track to submit a report to the May 2017 ministerial meeting, but details for a possible new subsidiary body within the Arctic Council had yet to be agreed upon. It appeared likely that the task force’s work would have to be extended into the Finnish chairmanship with a new mandate. (C) Arctic Council Working Groups (i) Arctic Contaminants Action Program (ACAP) The ACAP Working Group held two meetings during the year: in Washington, DC, on 2–4 February and in Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russian Federation, on 31 August–2 September. ACAP activities, aimed at encouraging national actions to reduce pollutant emissions especially in the Russian Federation, were carried out through four Expert Groups on Persistent Organic Pollutants and Mercury, Hazardous Wastes, Indigenous Peoples Contaminant Action Program, and Short-Lived Climate Pollutants. An updated ACAP Strategic Plan for 2016–20 was approved by the SAOs with two priorities. The plan promises to support pilot projects for reducing emissions of hazardous substances, such as persistent organic pollutants and mercury, as well as of short-lived climate pollutants, such as black carbon, methane, and hydrofluorocarbons. (ii) Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) A large component of the AMAP Working Group work during the year was devoted to preparing five ‘summary for policy-maker’ reports as deliverables to the Arctic Council’s ministerial meeting in May 2017. Three regional reports (Barents, Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort, and Baffin-Davis Strait) were drafted under the auspices of AMAP’s Adaptation Actions for a Changing Arctic initiative. The reports will summarize projected environmental and socio-economic changes in the regions along with expected impacts and will suggest ways that adaptation preparedness may be enhanced. A report on Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic will highlight climate change impacts on the Arctic cryosphere. The fifth report, Chemicals of Emerging Arctic Concern, was actually published by the end of 2016 with policy findings to be communicated to the Council’s ministerial meeting in 2017. The report notes that up to approximately 1,200 substances have the potential to reach the Arctic and accumulate in food webs. Among the chemicals of emerging concern identified are new brominated flame retardants, chlorinated flame retardants, chemicals in pharmaceuticals and personal care products, phthalates, sixoxanes, and organotins. The growing threat of microplastics in the Arctic is also described. The report makes various recommendations for future action but is quite general as to how chemical management might be strengthened, merely suggesting that new approaches to chemicals and waste management should be considered along with a new generation of policy instruments. AMAP also cooperated with the World Climate Research Programme’s Climate and Cryosphere Project and the International Arctic Science Committee in publishing The Arctic Freshwater System in a Changing Climate. The report reviews the complex array of benefits and threats associated with changing freshwater conditions and flows in the Arctic. Greater freshwater flow into the oceans is flagged as a particular concern with possible disruption of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation and a concomitant drop in average temperatures in northwestern Europe. Freshwater influxes may also exacerbate ocean acidification, for example, by increasing the supply of organic material that bacteria can convert to carbon dioxide. (iii) Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) The CAFF Working Group was working on two main deliverables for the Arctic Council’s 2017 ministerial meeting. A State of Arctic Marine Biodiversity Report was under preparation with six expert networks (sea-ice biota, plankton, benthos, marine fish, seabird, and marine mammal) playing supportive roles. An Arctic Invasive Alien Species Strategy and Action Plan was also being drafted in collaboration with the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environmental Working Group to set an action agenda to counter the spread and impact of invasive alien species in the Arctic. CAFFs Arctic Migratory Birds Initiative, seeking to address habitat losses and unsustainable harvests of migratory birds along four main flyways connected to the Arctic, held a meeting in Texel, Netherlands, on 5–7 April with the overarching goal of reviewing progress to date in implementing actions set out in the Arctic Migratory Birds Initiative Work Plan 2015–2019. Through a May 2016 meeting report, attendees set out a series of future actions to bolster flyway protections, especially for the East Asian Australasian Flyway and the African-Eurasian Flyway. Supporting the possible nomination of the Yellow Sea and the Bijugós Archipelago in Guinea-Bissau as world heritage sites was discussed. A key CAFF publication during the year was an Atlas on Pacific Arctic Marine Fishes (CAFF Monitoring Series Report no. 23). The atlas describes the distributions and relative abundance of over 100 marine species occurring in the Pacific Arctic region. Species assemblages on the continental shelf of specific sea areas is compared—for example, the northern Bering Sea has the largest number of species (98), compared to the Chukchi Sea (72), the Beaufort Sea (56), and the East Siberian Sea (34). (iv) Emergency prevention, preparedness, and response The Emergency Prevention, Preparedness, and Response Working Group carried out various project activities during the year with at least four expected deliverables to the 2017 ministerial meeting. A database and user manual on Arctic emergency response assets held by governments and industry was being finalized. A report on how often different types of response systems can be effectively employed in different areas of the Arctic based on historical ocean conditions was being prepared. A report on oil spill prevention standards in the Arctic and a report on follow-up activities to the Arctic Council’s Framework Plan for Cooperation on Prevention of Oil Pollution from Petroleum and Maritime Activities in the Marine Areas of the Arctic were also being developed. (v) Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) The PAME Working Group, which met twice during the year in February and September, devoted considerable attention to finalizing various deliverables for the 2017 ministerial meeting. Deliverables included a marine protected areas indicator report; a desktop study on area-based conservation measures in the Arctic; progress reports on implementation of Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment recommendations and implementation of the Arctic Marine Strategic Plan; a regional waste reception facilities plan; and the Status of Implementation of the Ecosystem Approach to Management in the Arctic report. PAME continued to address Arctic shipping issues. At the September meeting, a decision was reached to establish an Arctic Shipping Best Practices Information Forum with terms of reference to be finalized in 2017. PAME invited the submission of new project proposals relating to mitigation of risks associated with the use and carriage of heavy fuel oil (HFO) by vessels in the Arctic. PAME suggested possible HFO paper topics, such as a study on alternative fuel use (including liquefied natural gas) by ships in the Arctic and a review of on-shore uses of HFO by indigenous and local communities. PAME agreed to post two new HFO-related papers on its website: Heavy Fuel Oil and Other Fuel Releases from Shipping in the Arctic and Near-Arctic and Possible Hazards for Engines and Fuel Systems Using Fuel Oil in Cold Climate. PAME invited Finland and the Russian Federation to develop a project proposal on how PAME could report on the implementation and challenges of a Polar Shipping Code. PAME decided to suspend its project exploring the possibility of establishing one or more particularly sensitive sea areas in the CAO pending receipt of information on areas particularly vulnerable to international shipping activities from CAFF and/or the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea/PAME Working Group on Integrated Ecosystem Assessment for the CAO. (vi) Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG) The SDWG continued various project activities during the year with Improving Health through Safe and Affordable Access to Household Running Water and Sewer being one of the most active projects. An Arctic Council Survey on Water and Sanitation Services in the Arctic was published, which highlighted the inadequate water and sanitation services and associated poorer health status especially evident among rural and indigenous populations. The SDWG cooperated in convening an international conference, Water Innovations for Healthy Arctic Homes, in Anchorage, Alaska, on 18-21 September, where challenges and innovations in making running water and sewage systems in remote northern communities affordable and sustainable were shared. (3) Other International Activities (A) Arctic Five-Led Initiatives The five coastal states surrounding the CAO, Canada, Denmark/Greenland, Norway, the Russian Federation, and the United States (the Arctic Five), continued their efforts to encourage the prevention of unregulated commercial fishing in the high seas portion of the CAO. The Arctic Five led three sets of talks with delegations from China, Iceland, Japan, Korea, and the EU to continue discussions on interim measures to prevent unregulated high seas fishing. Following initial talks on 1–3 December 2015, the Arctic 5 and the aforementioned groups met again for policy discussions on 19–21 April in Washington, DC; 6–8 July in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada; and 29 November–1 December in Tórshavn, the Faroe Islands. Delegates continued to discuss three possible approaches for advancing cooperation: a non-binding declaration; a legally binding international agreement stopping short of establishing a regional fisheries management organization or arrangement; and negotiation of an agreement or agreements to establish one or more regional fisheries management organizations or arrangements for the CAO. The second approach, which was advocated by the United States, gained broad support at the Tórshavn meeting. Key issues still to be resolved include: the appropriate framework for controlling exploratory fishing; the conditions under which a decision might be made to commence negotiations on a regional fisheries agreement for the CAO; and decision-making procedures. At the Tórshavn meeting, Iceland offered to host the next meeting in the first quarter of 2017. Norway hosted the fourth Scientific Meeting on CAO Fish Stocks in Tromsø on 26–8 September. The meeting, including representatives from the Arctic 5 + 5, completed a draft Joint Scientific Research and Monitoring Plan aimed at addressing gaps in knowledge regarding distributions and abundances of species in the CAO and the potential for sustainable harvests of commercial species. A fifth scientific meeting is expected to be held in 2017 to develop an implementation strategy for the plan. (B) Twelfth Conference of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region The twelfth Conference of Arctic Parliamentarians, held on 15–17 June in Ulan-Ude, Russia, issued a conference statement with various recommendations. The statement urges key actions to enhance Arctic cooperation in addressing climate change after the adoption of the Paris Agreement. These actions include organizing an Arctic Council meeting between ministers responsible for climate to take new initiatives to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and short-lived climate forcers; exploring new ways to involve observers to the Arctic Council in efforts to combat climate change by reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and black carbon; supporting the development of renewable energy suitable for the Arctic; raising a strong Arctic message about the consequences of climate change at all relevant international meetings; and promoting the development of national, regional, and local climate change adaptation plans in the Arctic. (C) Arctic Circle Assembly The 2016 Arctic Circle Assembly was held in Reykjavik, Iceland, on 7–9 October. Over 2,000 participants from more than forty-five countries attended the Assembly, where Arctic development and governance issues and challenges were discussed (the program and videos of selected speeches are available at < http://www.arcticcircle.org>). (D) Integrated EU Policy for the Arctic In April, the European Commission and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy published a joint communication to the European Parliament and the Council on integrated EU Arctic policy that suggests strategic directions for engaging with the region in three priority areas. Initiatives were proposed for addressing climate and safeguarding the Arctic environment; promoting sustainable development in the region; and supporting international cooperation on Arctic issues. Under the international cooperation theme, the EU pledges continuation of its active participation in the Arctic Council and the pursuit of its early acceptance as an observer in the Council. The EU policy also foresees, in due course, a new regional fisheries management organization/arrangement, combined with a new regional sea convention, to ensure long-term conservation and sustainable use of resources in the Arctic high seas. (E) United States–Canada Joint Arctic Leaders’ Statements President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued two joint statements during the year regarding Arctic cooperation. The US–Canada Joint Statement on Climate, Energy, and Arctic Leadership, released in March, pledged various avenues of cooperation including working with all Arctic nations to develop a pan-Arctic marine protected area network; establishing low-impact shipping corridors and determining how best to address HFO use and black carbon emissions from Arctic shipping; seeking a binding international agreement to prevent the opening of unregulated fisheries in the CAO; and developing a plan and timeline for deploying innovative renewable energy and efficiency alternatives to diesel use in the Arctic. The two leaders also welcomed the upcoming White House Arctic Science Ministerial meeting that was subsequently held in September. The United States–Canada Joint Arctic Leaders’ Statement, issued in December, included commitments to substantially curb future offshore oil and gas activities in the Arctic. The United States announced the designation of the vast majority of US waters in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas as indefinitely off limits to offshore oil and gas leasing. Canada pledged to designate all Arctic Canadian waters as indefinitely off limits to future offshore Arctic oil and gas licensing, subject to review every five years through a climate and marine science-based, life-cycle assessment. © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Yearbook of International Environmental Law – Oxford University Press
Published: Dec 28, 2017
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