The eight Arctic states adopted a regional action plan to promote cleaner oceans at the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in Reykjavik in May 2021.
‘While all the Arctic states are dependent on ocean resources, this is especially the case for Norway, as so much of our ocean area is in the north and 9 % of our population live in the Arctic region,’ said Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide.
Ms Eriksen Søreide took part in the Arctic Council meeting together with the foreign ministers of Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Russia, Sweden and the US. They also adopted a new strategic plan for Arctic cooperation.
The action plan to combat marine litter consists of approximately 60 different strategic actions to reduce marine litter in the Arctic. These include measures to enhance waste management in the fisheries, aquaculture and shipping industries and at seaports, as well as efforts to promote Arctic coastal clean-ups, strengthen research and monitoring, and increase international cooperation.
The oceans are playing an increasingly important role in meeting the global demand for sustainable energy, transport, food, medicines and jobs.
In many places, the oceans are under severe pressure. Climate change, pollution, overfishing and loss of biodiversity all pose a threat to the world’s oceans. Norway is at the forefront of efforts to safeguard ocean health.
‘As elsewhere, marine plastic litter is a growing problem in the Arctic and poses a threat to seabirds and marine mammals. This is a much-needed action plan that will help us both to promote cooperation to increase knowledge about plastics in the Arctic and to implement measures to reduce plastic pollution. It shows how the Arctic states can work together to further develop regional cooperation on the marine environment and protect the Arctic environment,’ said Minister of Climate and Environment Sveinung Rotevatn.
Over the next two years, Norway will head two collaboration projects on marine plastic litter in the Arctic. One of these will develop more effective measures to prevent fishing gear from being lost, and the other will focus on cleaning up Arctic coastal areas. These are areas where Norway already has extensive knowledge.
Much of the Arctic Council’s work has been carried out in the working groups in order to expand the knowledge base on climate change and its impacts on the Arctic environment as a basis for cooperative action. The dramatic changes taking place in the Arctic are primarily due to the increase in global greenhouse gas emissions over time, not to human activity in the region itself. Therefore it is critical to implement measures where the emissions originate and to address challenges through multilateral cooperation.
At the Ministerial Meeting in Iceland, the Arctic Council also agreed on its first-ever strategic plan for the full breadth of the Council’s work, which encompasses climate change, environmental protection and sustainable economic development in the Arctic. The plan will cover the period 2021–2030. It sets out a vision and seven strategic goals for the Council’s work, and will be a key tool in regional cooperation to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
‘I am pleased that the Arctic Council has adopted this plan. It reflects the willingness of the Arctic states to work together and the value and importance they attach to Arctic cooperation. Several of the strategic goals revolve around climate and the environment, and sustainable economic development and the need for up-to-date knowledge are also priorities,’ said Ms Eriksen Søreide.
The Arctic Council has agreed on a number of measures to achieve the strategic goals. These include documenting and reporting climate change and environmental change, reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and short-lived climate pollutants, investing in green energy solutions, implementing ecosystem-based management and protecting vulnerable ecosystems and biodiversity. In addition, the following measures have also been agreed upon: cooperation to safeguard health and safety for people living in the Arctic, measures to promote viable communities, cooperation to strengthen the common knowledge base and make use of strategic communication to raise awareness about the Arctic Council’s work.