Sunday, 31 May, 2020

'Climate change' mention missing from U.S. defence of Arctic policy

Climate change is radically altering the Arctic's position as a strategic area and shipping hub Climate change is radically altering the Arctic's position as a strategic area and shipping hub Credit Sergei Malgavko\\TASS via Getty Images
Sandy Nunez | 07 May, 2019, 15:51

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo talks to the media after the Arctic Council meeting in Finland.

Pompeo didn't mention climate change in his speech but tried to burnish the U.S.'s environmental bonafides in the Arctic citing its involvement in everything from the signing the 2018 moratorium on fishing in the Central Arctic Ocean to its reduction of black carbon emissions by 16 percent since 2013, something Pompeo described as "the best of any Arctic country" done at the same time "it isn't clear Russian Federation is reducing emissions at all" and that "China's CO2 emissions tripled between 2000 and 2016".

The two diplomats had a "good conversation" on the sidelines of the Arctic Council meeting in Rovaniemi, Finland on Monday, Pompeo told Reuters, adding that he brought up the subject of the Russian "interference" in United States elections.

She also noted that "unpredictable weather patterns caused by climate change" are causing security threats and navigational issues.

"We're entering a new age of strategic engagement in the Arctic, complete with new threats to Arctic interests and its real estate", Pompeo said.

To stifle rival ambitions in the Arctic, the USA is "hosting military exercises, strengthening our force presence, rebuilding our icebreaker fleet, (and) expanding Coast Guard funding", Pompeo said.

He denounced attempts by China, which has observer status on the Arctic Council, to style itself as a "near Arctic" state, citing Pentagon fears that China is seeking to establish a permanent security presence in the polar region, including by deploying submarines as a deterrent against nuclear attacks. "Yet the shortest distance between China and the Arctic is 900 miles".

"There are only Arctic states and non-Arctic states", he said. "No third category exists, and claiming otherwise entitles China to exactly nothing", he said, adding that China's activities in the region must be closely monitored.

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Chinese officials said Beijing's investments in the Arctic region, seen as an extension of Chinese President Xi Jinping's signature Belt and Road Initiative, are "open, inclusive and transparent".

China and Russian Federation would like to make the Northern Sea Route a part of the New Silk Road project, a vast Chinese investment programme which several countries, especially the United States, see as an attempt to gain control.

"These provocative actions are part of a pattern of aggressive Russian behavior here in the Arctic", Pompeo said.

"He says it's a new era".

Surface air temperatures in the Arctic are warming at twice the rate of the rest of the globe, and the ocean could be ice-free during the summer months within 25 years, according to some researchers. "On the one hand, he can warn".

Pompeo also warned that Russia's intentions in the Arctic, where it has embarked on a massive military expansion campaign, may prove destabilising given its record.

Speaking in the northern Finnish city of Rovaniemi, Pompeo said: "Just because the Arctic is a place of wilderness does not mean it should become a place of lawlessness".

Despite Pompeo's warnings and defense of US positions, many council members and observers are equally alarmed by the Trump administration's environmental policies and skepticism of climate change.