Climate change missing as US defends Arctic policy
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.