Cli­mate change miss­ing as US de­fends Arc­tic pol­icy

The Tribune (SLO) - - Insight - BY MATTHEW LEE


The Arc­tic is melt­ing, but don’t ask U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo to talk about cli­mate change. Nor even to agree on a text that men­tions it.

For the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, dis­ap­pear­ing sea ice in the world’s “high north” ap­pears to be first and fore­most an eco­nomic op­por­tu­nity to ex­ploit rather than a cri­sis to mit­i­gate.

That po­si­tion was made clear by Pom­peo over two days of meet­ings in the north­ern Fin­nish city of Ro­vaniemi in­volv­ing the for­eign min­is­ters of the eight mem­bers of the Arc­tic Coun­cil – Canada, Den­mark, Fin­land, Ice­land, Norway, Rus­sia, Swe­den and the United States.

“Steady re­duc­tions in sea ice are open­ing new naval pas­sage­ways and new op­por­tu­ni­ties for trade, potentially slash­ing the time it takes for ships to travel be­tween Asia and the West by 20 days,” he said in a speech Mon­day, which was met with po­lite but muted ap­plause.

“Arc­tic sea lanes could be­come the 21st cen­tury’s Suez and Panama Canals.”

Fin­nish For­eign Min­is­ter Timo Soini, whose coun­try is wrap­ping up its two-year chair­man­ship of the coun­cil, said Tues­day there will be no joint dec­la­ra­tion as the sum­mit couldn’t get the U.S. to agree on a text that in­cludes lan­guage about cli­mate change.

A se­nior U.S. of­fi­cial, speak­ing to re­porters on con­di­tion of anonymity, down­played the fail­ure to craft a dec­la­ra­tion and de­fended Pom­peo’s omis­sion of “cli­mate change” from re­marks.

“Just be­cause you don’t have a cer­tain phrase in it, you can’t in­fer that the United States has taken a po­si­tion that is anti-en­vi­ron­ment,” the of­fi­cial said.

Pom­peo did ac­knowl­edge en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns, and told the meet­ing Tues­day that “the Trump Ad­min­is­tra­tion shares your deep commitment to en­vi­ron­men­tal ste­ward­ship.”

“The Arc­tic has al­ways been a frag­ile ecosys­tem, and pro­tect­ing it is in­deed our shared re­spon­si­bil­ity,” Pom­peo said.

Over the sum­mit, Pom­peo also de­fended Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s de­ci­sion to pull the U.S. out of the Paris cli­mate ac­cord in 2017, a day after a U.N. bio­di­ver­sity report warned that ex­tinc­tion loomed for over 1 mil­lion species of plants and an­i­mals.

“Col­lec­tive goals, even when well-in­ten­tioned, are not al­ways the an­swer,” Pom­peo said. “They are ren­dered mean­ing­less, even coun­ter­pro­duc­tive, as soon as one na­tion fails to com­ply.”


U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo at­tends the 11th Min­is­te­rial Meet­ing of the Arc­tic Coun­cil on Tues­day in Ro­vaniemi, Fin­land.

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