The 7th Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting took place yesterday and today in Nuuk, Greenland. At the meeting, the Arctic Council ministers signed the Search and Rescue Agreement (PDF), which is the first-ever legally binding agreement to be signed under the Arctic Council. The agreement mandates that the seven signatory countries cooperate in a 13-million square mile area in the Arctic to provide search and rescue assistance in emergency situations. With the increased use of the Arctic by shipping, aviation, the oil industry, tourism, and science, to name a few fields, the chance of disasters occurring in the area is higher – hence the need for agreement. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar signed the agreement on behalf of the U.S, a good sign that the country is taking such the Arctic and the Arctic Council seriously by sending such high-level delegates.
Another important achievement of the ministerial meeting is the release of a report by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme on the effect of climate chance on snow, water, ice, and permafrost in the region. The report’s findings confirm what we already know, but demonstrate that all of the following is happening more quickly and dramatically than expected: the Arctic is warming, that sea ice, snow cover, and glaciers are all melting, and the Arctic Ocean will be generally ice-free sometime within this century, “perhaps within the next thirty to forty years.”
For more on developments at the Arctic Council, visit their website, which is chock-full of resources and documents.