Arctic Council fails to agree on joint ‘Rovaniemi Declaration’

When America refused to include language on climate change, Finland found a diplomatic solution to let everyone know where the problems lie.

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8 Ministers from Arctic States & 6 representatives of indigenous groups pose for a photo in Rovaniemi, 7th May 2019 / Credit: Arctic Council

For the first time in its history, the Arctic Council Ministerial meeting has failed to agree a joint declaration, after America refused to budge on including language about climate change.

The lack of agreement between eight Arctic States casts a cloud over the Rovaniemi conference, which marks the end of Finland’s two-year chairmanship of the regional organisation.

Problems with finding consensus on a joint declaration first surfaced last week when it was clear the US objected to any reference about climate change or the Paris Agreement.

Instead, in a diplomatic side-step, caretaker foreign minister Timo Soini (Blue) released a ministerial statement instead, which was signed by all eight participating minister, and makes no reference to climate change, and only an oblique reference to “sustainable development and the protection of the Arctic environment”.

Finland’s extra statement points the finger at America

There was also a separate statement from Soini, as the chairman of the conference, which spelled out in very diplomatic terms what went wrong with a formal Rovaniemi Declaration.

“A majority of us regarded climate change as a fundamental challenge facing the Arctic and acknowledged the urgent need to take mitigation and adaptation actions and to strengthen resilience” Soini’s statement said.

“A majority of us particularly emphasized the need to reduce greenhouse gas and black carbon emissions and to enhance work on climate change adaptation”.

Finland has now handed the chairmanship of the Arctic Council to Iceland, who will host the next ministerial meeting in 2021.