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  • Finland's Foreign Minister Timo Soini welcomes the participants attending the Arctic Council summit at the Lappi Areena in Rovaniemi, Finland May 7, 2019

    Finland's Foreign Minister Timo Soini welcomes the participants attending the Arctic Council summit at the Lappi Areena in Rovaniemi, Finland May 7, 2019 | Photo: Reuters

Published 7 May 2019

The US Secretary of State prevented the 2019 Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting to officially recognice climate change as a global threat.

United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo praised the economic opportunities he claims climate change is bringing about at the 2019 Arctic Council Ministerial (ACM) meeting being held in Rovaniemi, Finland May 7.

Scientific warnings about the negative impacts of global ecosystem transformations were not mentioned by the high-level officer during his Monday address in the lead up to the May 7 meeting. Instead, the  U.S. diplomat seemed mainly worried by what Russia and China represent to the U.S. geopolitical interests in the Arctic region.

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"The Arctic is at the forefront of opportunity and abundance. It houses 13 percent of the world's undiscovered oil, 30 percent of its undiscovered gas, an abundance of uranium, rare earth minerals, gold, diamonds, and millions of square thousands of untapped resources, fisheries galore," the U.S. State Secretary said Monday in his Monday speech.

From his perspective, the continuous sea ice melting is "opening new roads and opportunities for trade" as they could reduce the time required to travel by ship between Asia and the Western Hemisphere. "Arctic sea routes could become the channels of Suez and Panama in the 21st century," he explained.

Within this supposed business opportunity, Pompeo highlightened that China and Russia have an "aggressive behavior" in the Arctic. He then warned that the President Donald Trump administration will increase the U.S. regional presence through military exercises, icebreakers and Coast Guard operations.

"The Trump administration shares your deep commitment to environmental stewardship. In fact, it's one reason Chinese activity which has caused environmental destruction in other regions continues to concern us in the Arctic. The Arctic has always been a fragile ecosystem and protecting it is indeed our shared responsibility."

Throughout his Monday presentation, however, Pompeo did not present any scientific data to justify his disregard for the effects of climate change. Instead, his speech focused almost entirely on how to take advantage of the Arctic in an era of "fierce" global rivalries.​​​​​​​

The U.S. Secretary of State delivered his speech on the same day the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) warned that one million animal and plant species are in danger of extinction due to human-driven ecological changes, the most damaging of which is global climate change.

Pompeo didn't make reference to the U.S. Global Change Research Program's 2017 climate assessment, which  indicated the Arctic ice mealting increases the risk of erosion along North American coasts, changes the presence of marine species in certain areas and affects commercial fish stocks.​​​​​​​

During the event's official Tuesday meeting, the secretary prevented the eight participating countries from approving, for the first time in the history of the meeting, the passage of a joint declaration among members because the U.S. delegate prohibited the phrase 'climate change' from being written in the document. The Donald Trump admistration has repeatedly denied the existence of climate change and its negative effects.

Canada, Denmark, the U.S., Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia and Sweden had been negotiating the declaration for days. However, the U.S. delegation strongly opposed both the inclusion of the words 'climate change' and the proposal of concrete measures to curb warming in the Arctic.

Due to the U.S. veto, the ACM published two alternative documents, one in which the participating governments commit themselves in a generic way to "maintain peace, stability and constructive cooperation in the Arctic" as well as to safeguard the region's sustainable development and environmental protection.

In the other document, some sustainable development objectives made on behalf of "most of us" are stated in those sentences in which the term 'climate change' appears.

"Most of us consider climate change a fundamental challenge facing the Arctic and we recognize the urgent need to take measures to mitigate and adapt and strengthen its resilience," the text reads, according to EFE.

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