The Upcoming U.S. Chairmanship of the Arctic Council


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Arctic Counsel

Malka Pattison: Good afternoon, I'm Malka Pattison and I'd like to invite you to the office of policy analysis monthly seminar. This month we are delighted to have the museum seminar join us and we welcome you to make a habit of this and join us every second Monday of the month.

If you want to sign up and be notified at the back of the room there's a sign-up sheet.

Today we're going to be talking about the arctic. We've heard about climate change but there's also governance change and our speakers today are Julia Gourley from the state department.

She is the senior arctic official with the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, and our own director at the policy office Joel Clement. Please, welcome, Julia.

Julia Gourley: Thank you, every one, all of my fellow feds at the Department of Interior, and others who may be on the line. I really appreciate the opportunity to be here. Thanks Sarah and Joel for inviting me.

This is a really nice opportunity to talk to the key federal agency in the US Government, on Arctic matters. Interior owns a huge chunk, 60 percent or whatever the land in Alaska, probably a larger percentage of the land above the Arctic Circle in Alaska, and has the most equities by far of any federal agency in the Arctic.

I really appreciate being able to talk to a whole wide swathe of Interior colleagues. This is really great. It's good timing too because we'll be...

The United States will be taking over the chair of the Arctic Council on April 25th. I'll tell you a little bit about that first before I launch into what the chairmanship is going to be about. I want to tell you a little about the Arctic Council itself, for people who may not really know what it is.

The Arctic Council is an intergovernmental forum, which means it's not a formal international organization like...

Am I talking too loud?

Julia: It's not a formal IO, International Organization, like the UN, NATO, the OECD, or bodies like that. It is just a loose affiliation of the eight countries that have land, territory, above the Arctic Circle.

The eight are the US with Alaska, Canada, Russia, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland. Iceland is just barely, it's basically right on the circle. There's a little tiny bit of it, right above the Arctic Circle.

The countries came together, those eight, in 1996 and formed the Arctic Council. There was a predecessor body called the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy. It was a little bit different animal, but it formalized into the Arctic Council in '96.

Because it's not an IO, each of the Arctic countries does the chairmanship for a two year period. So it rotates.

The last time we chaired...the United States chaired which was the second time since the beginning of the council, was in 1998 to 2000. Canada had it first, then us, and then the rotation went all the way through to Sweden, which finalized its chairmanship in 2013.

We're starting the rotation again, and Canada has it now and will have it again, and so forth. Finland will take over after us. The council is headed by the foreign ministers, for the most part. Secretary Kerry is our chair of the council when we take over.

The one exception to that has been Canada's chairmanship right now, in which they appointed the...Prime Minister Harper appointed Leona Aglukkaq, who at the time was the health minister and is now the environment minister. You probably all know who she is, and she's the environment minister for Canada.

She's an Inuk Inuit. She has a special relationship with Arctic. She grew up there, she's widely known in the Indigenous community. It was a very positive selection I think for Canada to pick her, but it's a little bit different since she is now dealing with...her counterparts are all foreign ministers.

She doesn't normally deal with them. So it's been a little bit challenging I think, but she's handled it very well. The council is also very unique in that next to the eight Arctic States, we have six NGOs that represent the large majority of the Indigenous people across the Arctic.

Four of those NGOs have membership in Alaska, and they are the Inuit Circumpolar Council, the Aleut International Association in the Aleutian Islands of , the Arctic Athabaskan Council, and the Gwich'in Council International.

The other two that have no membership in Alaska are the Saami Council, which the Saami people are in Scandinavia and western Russia, and then the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North who have membership just in Russia, but they cover a whole...something like 40 different tribal groups in Russia across the whole country.

The Indigenous peoples sit next to the States, they have a voice. They don't make the final decisions. The decision making is reserved to the States, but the Indigenous people provide a very close advisory role to the States.

We try as a group of countries not to do anything that would undermine, or upset the Indigenous peoples, which are know in the council as permanent participants with the unfortunate moniker of PPs. We call them PPs for short.

We try not to do things that upset the PPs, but the States do make all the decisions at the council. Underneath the ministers there are eight Senior Arctic Officials that run the day to day operation on behalf of the ministers, one per country. I meant for the US.

Then underneath the SAOs are six Working Groups that do the work of the Council. They each have a different mandate. Some, arguably, overlap a little bit.

There's the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme. That one does a lot of the climate science work, the really direct climate science work, and air pollution work. Obviously, by the name, they do scientific assessments.

There's the Arctic Contaminants Action Program, which focuses on mitigation of pollutants, mostly in Russia. Not entirely, but mostly focused on mitigation of the pollution legacy from the Cold War years.

The Emergency Prevention, Preparedness, and Response Working Group, that focuses on emergency situations, with respect to radiation, oil spills, other kinds of pollution emergencies. Acute problems.

The Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna, or CAFF, which, as the name implies, focuses on the biodiversity in the Arctic, the animal and plant species mostly.

The Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment, PAME, focuses its efforts entirely on the ocean. Not really the inland waters so much, unless they affect the ocean, but it covers the whole ocean ecosystem.

And then finally, the Sustainable Development Working Group, that is the place where a lot of other stuff doesn't fit. They work on the economic issues, indigenous peoples, socioeconomic concerns, things like that.

The six working groups do all the work, and if the work funnels up to the SAOs, who have more the higher-level policy discussions about the direction the Council should go in.

They bless the work or send it back for more work if more work needs to be done, take the pulse on what's happening at the political level in the countries, and prepare the ground for the Ministers to meet every two years.

In addition to the Working Groups, there are occasionally some one-off task forces, or expert groups, that we set up. Expert groups, generally being considered to be mostly speaking working-level people, but not entirely, working-level sorts of experts. Task forces being higher-level, decision-making, desk-level type people.

Right now, under the Canadian chairmanship, there were four task forces up and running. One of them has completed its work already. That one was called the Circumpolar Business Forum Task Force, which was negotiating the terms of a new Arctic Economic Council that I can talk a little bit later about.

There's a task force on science cooperation, which is trying to, not work on science, per say, but support to science. Its goal, when it finishes its work, which it won't finish by the end of the Canadian chairmanship, it will carry on to ours, is to try and reduce barriers to logistical aspects to support science.

Like, getting ships across Maritime boarders, and getting samples out of countries, and moving personnel more easily than some visa requirements would allow. Things like that. It's support to science.

A third task force that's been up and running this two years, and has been the continuation of a prior task force, is on black carbon and methane.

That task force is looking at ways to persuade the Arctic States to mitigate sources of black carbon and methane, and do it in economically-feasible ways, do it in ways that don't interfere with or undermine the purposes of the Framework Convention on Climate Change.

There's a heavy mandate to focus on climate as a group of countries that are parties to the Framework Convention. To tease out black carbon in particular, because it has particular effects in the Arctic, and it's not a global pollutant, it's a regional specific pollutant that happens to have a lot of affect in the Arctic.

Finally, the fourth task force is on oil spill prevention. It's looking at building out a framework for the Arctic States to cooperate on oil spill prevention in the Arctic. The end-game is not quite finished yet. I think it's just about done.

It will set up means for the Arctic States to work together to monitor what's going on in the Arctic a little more closely so that we can be ready if oil spills happen. Even though, of course, in the US we don't really have any Coast Guard assets up in the northern part of Alaska.

We're hoping that this work that the previous task force on oil spill preparedness and response, which resulted in a binding agreement that requires all of us to cooperate in the event of a spill, will get congressional attention to the lack of assets we have up there, so that maybe, eventually, we'll be better prepared to deal with environmental emergencies at large in the Arctic.

That's the structure of the counsel. When we take over, I'll shift gears now to when we take over the chairmanship for the second time, on April 25. The Canadian chairmanship will end with the ministerial meeting, the meeting of the foreign ministers, in Iqaluit Nunavut, Canada.

Secretary Kerry will go to that, and will literally accept the gavel. There's a nice, fancy gavel, and it's passed on. He'll roll out what our chairmanship program is going to look like.

What we've been doing, for the last couple of years, within an interagency group called the Arctic Policy Group that a lot of interior people are on, Joel, and Sarah, and lots of other people in the room from interior and other agencies, we've been talking in that group to tease out what we think the interagency could live with, what we might have resources to do, personnel to do.

What we've come up with is a set of projects that are organized under three themes, which are then organized under one overarching theme.

The overarching theme that we've picked, for a variety of reasons that I'll explain...The overarching theme of the chairmanship will be "One Arctic, Shared Opportunities, Challenges, and Responsibilities."

We picked that because we want our chairmanship to get across the idea that the Arctic is a region of peaceful cooperation among the Arctic states, among other players.

There are a number of observers in the Arctic Counsel, as well, and that we can work together collaboratively there to address the rapid changes that are happening.

We wanted to have a very positive, overarching message during the two years. One of the very main goals of the counsel is to keep the peace, and I think everyone knows that that part of the world is relatively peaceful.

There's nothing going on there that would lead anyone to suspect that anything is running afoul, but of course other politics, in other parts of the world, can bleed into that region, and we want to make sure that that doesn't happen in a way that undermines and breaks down the good cooperation we've had among those eight countries, in that part of the world.

That's our overarching theme. We've organized the initiatives that we want to propose under three sub themes, one of which is Arctic Ocean safety, security and stewardship. The second one is improving economic and living conditions. The third one is addressing the impacts of climate change.

Under the Arctic Ocean safety, security and stewardship theme, what we're proposing to do, and I should step back a minute, and say that the counsel's work goes on, regardless of which country's chairing.

It's a huge work program that's made up of things that carry over from chairmanship to chairmanship, but when a country takes over, it usually wants to introduce some of its own ideas for how it wants to take the counsel in the direction it wants to go in.

Canada has done that with a focus on development for people of the north. Its overarching direction that it's put the counsel in is more on economic development, and away so much from the strict environmental protections, sustainable development, focus, that the counsel's had from the beginning.

We're probably going to bring it back a little bit, with more of a focus on environmental protection, but we'll keep, of course, some work on, and some priority on, economic development, in that second theme.

I'll come back to that in a minute. On Arctic Ocean safety, security and stewardship, we wanted to do a couple of things that are new.

One is to look at the possibility of establishing a regional seas program for the Arctic Ocean. Regional seas programs sometimes take the form of binding agreements, sometimes arrangements, they're framework arrangements under which lots of activities happen.

Not clear what form this thing would take. We want to have that conversation among the Arctic states, but what we want to do is put the idea out there that a regional seas program might be beneficial for the Arctic Ocean, because it would be a way to maybe further the collaboration.

Not only among the Arctic states, but other countries that have interests in the region, like some of the big countries that now have observership, like China, and Japan, and South Korea, that do a lot of scientific research in the Arctic, and have a lot of fishing boats that may want to go up there someday.

Or major shipping powers, and are looking to the northern sea route and the northwest passages as shipping routes in the future.

Putting in place a management structure, under a regional seas program, might make sense. It might not make sense. We'll see what the Arctic states think, but we will put out (we're working on now), put out sort of a proposal of things that we could think about in the context of regional seas programs, modeling what some of the other programs look like.

In particular, the Helsinki Commission, which is a regional seas program for the Baltic Sea, and the Oslo Paris Commission, which is a regional seas agreement for the northeast Atlantic part of the ocean.

There are some models out there. There are lots of other models under the UN environment program, or in other parts of the world, but HELCOM, for short, and OSPAR, are independent of the UN, and just stand-alone agreements that might serve as models for the Arctic.

We also want to look at marine protected areas. The PAME working here, the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment, is doing a lot of work right now, looking at where the protected areas that are in the Arctic Ocean now exist, and knit them together, so that we can all see the big picture of where the protected areas are.

And see if the scientists think there are needs for specially protected areas in other parts of the Arctic Ocean.

It's controversial. The state of Alaska is not very happy with it, and some of the other countries even have concerns about it, so we'll see where that goes. Those are the two big things we'll do in the Arctic Ocean space.

On improving economic and living conditions, that's the part of our chairmanship that we want to focus some energy on economic development in a sustainable way. We're looking at how to improve conditions in remote communities. A lot of Arctic indigenous communities are very small, off the grid, far away, no roads go to them.

The quality of life is pretty bad. A lot of these communities, especially in Alaska, but also in Canada and Russia, have no indoor plumbing. Energy costs, both in gasoline prices, and electricity generation, are very, very high.

We want to look at if we can do something about that, and in the big picture, attract private-sector investment in renewable energy technologies, micro-grids, better water and sewer technologies that could be deployed in these small communities fairly economically, in an economically attractive way.

We'll look at public-private partnerships in that area. We want to also look at telecommunications infrastructure, that's another big initiative that we'll start, but won't finish for many years, but see if we can get a telecommunications infrastructure assessment for the whole Arctic.

Then, in the addressing climate change theme, the big deliverables will be on short-lived climate pollutants.

As I was talking about, this task force on black carbon and methane's been doing a lot of work for many years now, and we'll want to implement the framework that it's going to come out with among the Arctic states, and try and press really hard on the Arctic states and some of the non-Arctic states.

The big polluting countries like China and Japan and -- not Japan so much -- China and India to mitigate their black carbon emissions and see what we can do to persuade them to join with the Arctic states in doing that.

That's an issue that comes up in other climate forums like the CCAC which is the Climate Clean Air Coalition. There's a whole big global methane initiative. The work of the council might support those initiatives with a certain subset of countries that are members of those bodies.

Then we want to focus on climate resilience and adaptation. Joel will talk a little about resilience in a minute if I don't steal all of his time.

Then USGS is working hard on a pan-Artic digital elevation map as part of the Arctic Spatial Data Infrastructure work that has been going on outside of the council but with participation by the people who play in the council.

Probably also develop some kind of early warning indicator system that USGS I think is also working on with our climate folks to see if we can utilize some of the on-the-ground technology already. And use it in ways that provide better prediction capabilities for the country so we can move into adaptation a little more intelligently and practically.

That one is going to be challenging and tricky, but we'll see how far we get with it. That's the main thrust of what we want to do during the chairmanship.

The other piece that will go on in parallel with it is we want to do a very big robust -- what we call in the state department -- public diplomacy strategy involving public affairs, public education, media outreach. All kinds of things like that.

In fact our public diplomacy people are starting now to work with the public affairs people in the key domestic agencies like Interior, NOAA, EPA, NSF, so that we can all work together as a group of agencies that are all playing together in the Arctic and do similar messaging and see if we can use each other's websites, and each other's social media, and things like that that we can coordinate well during the two years that we're all messaging in similar ways.

That's in a nutshell what we want to do -- and I'll turn it over to Joel in a second -- but just to say that there's a whole lot more to our chairmanship program than that. I've just given the highlights. Feel free to ask a lot of questions and I will see if I can answer them. Thank you.

Joel: Great, well actually I think I will put this map up. Thanks everybody for coming. Welcome to those of you -- I see some folks from the Arctic families so you all know a lot of this stuff -- welcome to those of you that aren't usually part of this Arctic stuff.

I'll try to keep the acronyms to a minimum but Arctic -- I mean, it's bureaucracy times ten in terms of the acronyms so we'll see what we can do.

Thanks Julie for coming, it's great having you here. Julie and her team at state have been terrific colleagues and great collaborators on this stuff, so I know she's the main event.

I know she's why you're, here, so I'll be quick and then we can get to the Q and A. I just want to fill in a little bit around what she was describing as far as what we'll be up to during the chairmanship.

Policy analysis -- we coordinate DOI's domestic Arctic work quite a lot, and then we work closely with the international office here on those matters that relate to the Arctic Council and more international stuff.

Because we do that and because this office also coordinates the department's climate change efforts, among other reasons, State asked us to lead this resilience agenda during the chairmanship.

That's what I'll spend most of my time talking about. I will give a few examples of other ways that the many DOI bureaus are engaged with Arctic stuff, but I would refer you to the international office here at DOI. Karen Senhadji's office for more on that. They're the ones that have been following this for a lot of years.

Karen's pointing out Ryan Close who also can answer your questions. I'll put their email addresses up at the end.

I do want to start with a little bit of background info. First of all, this is a map of how we define the Arctic as the result of legislation.

There are a lot of definitions of the Arctic for the US purposes and for international purposes. This definition is what we go with. You can see that it does include the Bering Sea and the Aleutian Islands which some may not call Arctic. It's certainly not the Arctic Circle, but this is a fair representation of the equities that are up there.

I want to emphasize that the Arctic is a big deal for DOI. I don't think -- maybe it doesn't get the usual recognition as an issue area for DOI, but DOI manages 20 percent of the US land mass. That's a lot of land. 20 percent of that is Arctic.

It's a substantial part of what we do, and it brings into play all kinds of interesting issues about energy and natural resources.

DOI, as Julie mentioned, is also a big deal for the Arctic. We play a huge role in Arctic Management. Two-thirds of the US Arctic land mass is DOI managed. Certainly all of the outer continental shelf mineral resources.

We play in all these arenas and it's one of the reasons why it's been great to work so closely with state on all these things as it relates to the Arctic Council.

Something Julie mentioned that I want to emphasize is that the US has more permanent participant organizations than any other Arctic country within the Arctic Council. Those four that she mentioned; the Gwich'in, the Athabaskan, the Aleut and the Inuit.

This also puts DOI in an interesting position as the Federal Trustee for Native American tribes -- the Alaskan natives. That is another piece of the puzzle for us that brings in a lot of our equities. As Julie mentioned, we have a lot of play up there and it's a big part of what we do.

I'm just going to run through briefly some of the ways that DOI bureaus are engaged in other aspects of the chairmanship just to give you the flavor of it.

I think Karen and Ryan and others -- perhaps we might even call on them during the Q and A if we need to -- can fill in more about what the bureaus are doing, but this is a proposed agenda.

This is not a final thing, as Julie mentioned. This is an ambitious and an exciting chairmanship proposal, so we want to advance a lot of things and several IC folks from several bureaus here that are going to be engaged. I'll just run through the three themes.

The ocean theme first of all. The Stewardship Security and Safety theme. We know Bessie's going to be deeply involved in that. Certainly there's a lot there on oil spill prevention preparedness, pollution response equipment, circumpolar oil spill gap analysis. Things like that.

All these things that have been proposed by various parties to the Arctic Council. So Bessie will be involved.

Certainly Bessie, and Boam and Fish and Wildlife Service through their work with the CAFF working group will be involved through PAME -- the Projection of the Arctic Marine Environment working group -- on anything related to the marine protected areas or Regional Seas Proposal.

We can expect that all of these agencies will be involved in all this interesting stuff in the marine environment. Certainly when it comes down to describing whatever role investigating ocean acidification has in this. Certainly USGS as well as those agencies will be involved.

There's a lot going on in the marine environment that we'll be learning more about in the coming months. Improving economic and living conditions for people of the north. Again, those same agencies will be involved in the renewable energy side that's being talked about.

The one proposal that's been underway and hopefully will be amplified during this is the Rural Community Renewable Energy commission or RCRE. That's something that was a brain child of DOI, and we collaborated with DOE on advancing that thing.

That's just the idea I think, in the near-term, one hopes during the chairmanship that we can get to a demonstration project of some kind that will show that it's possible to provide the modular tools that communities need to toggle back and forward between the diesel that they depend on, and renewable energy sources as they start to come online.

We'll provide some opportunities to wean communities off of this expensive and difficult to acquire diesel fuel. Also certainly relates to the black carbon issue and other things.

Also, there's a water security element to the proposal. I'm sure that Fish and Wildlife Service will be involved in that certainly through CAFF.

Arctic states Julie mentioned, Fish and Wildlife Service is the head of delegation for the United States to the CAFF -- Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna -- working group. They're going to be involved in all these things that involve biodiversity, water security, and so on.

Before I get to the resilience piece -- and I'll get there -- there are a couple of other things just to mention. Julie mentioned USGS and the pan-Arctic digital elevation map. That's a big deal, and that's something USGS has been working on domestically for a while.

I think right now pilots are using topographic maps from the early Arctic explorers or something. It's absurd what's being used now. They've been remedying that in the US and would like to take that circumpolar.

I think there's a lot of interest internationally in doing that. For some reason it's the least -- well, for obvious reasons I suppose -- it's the least studied arena in terms of elevations. It's been difficult to access. We certainly have the tools now to do that. Ramping that up, USGS will play a real key role in doing that.

I should mention it is important to get a better handle on baselines and indicators for climate change in the region. I don't think we know mu -- we don't know enough about what change -- what climate is actually doing to the Arctic.

It's because we don't necessarily have all the baseline data we need, and we don't have established a set of established indicators that we can track.

The US Global Change Research Program is proposing an expansion of a means for getting at something. They're calling it their Climate Change Indicator System for the Arctic, and this will be a way to start doing that. I think it's super important.

Of course GCRP involves a lot of the federal agencies including DOI and USGS -- US Geological Survey -- will be a big part of that.

I did throw one other slide in here just to preamble our resilience agenda. An executive order in twenty-thirteen asked the natural resource agencies to pull together a priority agenda. Climate change is happening. What can we do? What's our list of top things that we're going to address?

Going forward, the idea was for the rest of this administration, but I think in general these are things that we want to emphasize for quite some time.

DOI co-chair, this effort with NOAA, developed this report that is titled here. It was released by the White House last October. It was closely integrated with the work of the State, Local, and Tribal Leader's Task Force on resilience.

We had input from governors from county executives -- from tribal members. One of whom, Reggie Joule, is up in Wainwright in the Arctics. We had some very direct Arctic input into this thing as well.

It is one of those tools for examining some of the major things that are happening up there that are essentially disasters. Villages are slipping into the sea.

We hear from folks a lot -- and this was a good opportunity to amply this -- that some of these problems seem intractable, and we need to find ways within the federal government and with partners such as the state of Alaska, the tribes, and so on, to address that in some way. Don't know how. That's part of what this is all about.

How can we crack this nut? This is potentially a very difficult situation that for some villages is already very real. I'm sure some of you have seen the pictures of buildings that have been undermined by the seas and falling into the ocean as a result of the lack of ongoing sea ice that normally would buffer these coast lines.

Climate change has turned up the volume on erosion big time up there. I've taken enough time on the preambular, but very briefly, the resilience agenda itself, the deliverables are loosely arranged into three clusters. I'm going to read them and then I'm going to translate from bureaucrat.

The first one is enhancing monitoring efforts and scientific understanding of the resilience of communities and ecosystems.

The second one, building on monitoring and scientific understanding efforts to develop and promote tools and services that foster greater resilience.

The third one is calling on member states, permanent participants, and other members of the global community to implement actions and policies that respond to climate change.

In translation, the three bins are information tools and actions. I'm sure we can find more words if we need to to describe those, but the idea is we need to build up the information sources, we need to then translate those into decision support tools, and then we need to set some precedent and put some markers out there for what we can actually do with those tools.

Under the information piece, there are couple of things we're going to continue and emphasize that have already been initiated within the Arctic Council.

One of those is the...I always need to look to make sure I get the name right because we have many acronyms that not even we are all familiar with...Adaptation Actions for a Changing Arctic is something that was initiated that will be focusing on certain geographies in the Arctic to investigate and provide, ideally, some of the information necessary to guide actions in those regions.

Those geographies are the Barents Sea region, Baffin Bay/Davis Straight region, and the Beaufort/Chukchi, which is on the US and Canada side, and Russia.

The other ongoing effort that we will promote is the Arctic Resilience Report, which the US has signed on as a co-chair in the last year. Five minutes is good. Oh, this is good. I can wrap up quickly.

The Resilience Report doesn't focus on regions so much as it focuses on case studies from villages all around the Arctic. It's meant to address the socioeconomic resilience as well as ecological resilience. That report, plus the AACA, we think will provide a lot of the information we needed to build tools.

There will be some pieces about citizen science and doing a better job getting traditional knowledge integrated into the tools we use. I'll talk a bit, briefly, about invasive species, but that's some information on the vectors for invasive species will also be something that we try to tackle.

Getting to tools and services, I'm going to cut some of this short because, again, I can translate this into real English. We'll take some of the information from the AACA and the ARR, and develop that into decision tools.

I think that's going to be a fantastic set of resources as preliminary reports will guide some information and guide some development of frameworks for tools.

The Arctic Adaptation Exchange Portal, it's a project of the SDWG, Sustainable Development Working Group. That's something that we're very interested in linking with, and if not, helping to expand.

In particular, we'd like to link a community resilience index of some kind to this portal, so that if you live in the Arctic you can start to have some tools available to you that say, "Here's what's likely to happen there, and here are some ways that you may be able to build resilience in your community to deal with those things."

There are also some ongoing efforts that are pretty impressive on adaptive capacity indices. I know the Aleut have been working on an index, or at least indicators, for adaptive capacity, which is super. That's the kind of thing that would feed into the development of these tools.

Invasive species, we have some experts in here that know a whole heck of a lot more than I do on this. We don't know when and where it's going to happen, but we're pretty sure that invasive species are going to make their way into the Arctic, and a lot of different kinds of invasive species: terrestrial, aquatic, airborne.

We need to have a better sense of those vectors. On the information side of this effort, we'll see if we can identify those vectors, but once we have a sense of those pathways of introduction, hopefully we can map those out and map out the risk of introduction so that in some...

You'll know if your community, or your project, or your efforts are likely to be threatened by invasives and what you might be able to do to forestall that invasion.

At the same time, try to summarize some of the current policy and practice for managing invasives and identify gaps. Because this is such as new thing up in the Arctic, we think it's very ripe for providing some policy guidance on this stuff.

The last thing I'll just mention is in the Call for Action. The action part of this, which is very important, obviously. We would like to develop, and this could be something the working groups do, a consolidated list of climate change resilience priorities, so what does the PAME working group prioritize in terms of resilience.

For each of the working groups, what are your top three to five things that absolutely must happen, and then encourage the member states and permanent participants to take actions that address those common priorities. We'll look for what priorities may span across the working groups and states.

Perhaps, encourage some kind of action on climate change by the parties to the UNFCCC in Paris, maybe some kind of statement that brings attention to the impacts of climate change on Arctic communities.

We'll develop guidelines, policy guidelines, for best practices related to invasive species, and maybe have a chance to explore the feasibility of some kind of Arctic resilience fund. Some kind of international fund that could address some of the needs of these communities.

This is all at the proposal stage, as Julie mentioned, there's a lot more fleshing out to do. The focus on information, tools, and actions, that's our framework. There are lots of ways that a lot of things that the DOI does fit into those.

For those of you that are new to this and have ideas, I'm certainly open to hearing them, about how we might integrate more efforts, more DOI projects into this. Right now, we've got a great team of people from DOI working on all these things.

That's all I have. I think we can just do a little Q&A. I might have gone over by 30 seconds.

Malka: While our speakers get ready at the table, should we start with the Internet, any questions? All right. The room prevails. Any questions in the room? If you want to identify yourself and your affiliation.

Male Audience Member: Blaine from the Solicitor's Office here at Interior. I have a legal question, maybe. I'm wondering to what extent, if any, the failure of the senate to ratify the UN Convention on Law of the Sea affects the delegations position, is it via negotiations or just day-to-day interactions? Thank you.

Julia: Actually, that's a good question. Not too much. Within the Council, we try and keep issues that aren't front and center or taken up under other bodies, out of the Council's discussion. Since there's a whole governance structure related to the Convention on Law of the Sea within the UN, we don't really talk about it there.

Marginally, we get a little grief every now and then for being the only Arctic state not a party to the Law of the Sea Convention. It doesn't really affect anything, any position that we take there or what we talk about, it's mostly an external issue.

Malka: Questions from the Internet? OK, the room prevails again.

Cindy Cafaro: Hi, thank you. Cindy Cafaro, Departmental FOIA Officer. Hi. As you may not be surprised to hear, I'm curious about records.

You mentioned public diplomacy, and I was wondering how much public diplomacy and proactive disclosures will work here, and also what work you're doing with the Freedom of Information Act, if you know of any at this stage.

Julia: Actually, with respect to records, it's a really good question. One thing I didn't mention is during our chairmanship, and within the Council, we're going to look for ways to strengthen the council as an entity.

One way we're doing that, which was begun by the Canadians in the last few years, is to create a whole record keeping system.

We have a brand new secretariat, that's located in Tromso, Norway, that's been in existence for less than two years now. One thing that the Canadians have done, and we'll continue on, is to create an archiving and record keeping system. Two different things.

The Canadian equivalent of The National Archives is doing it on behalf of the Canadian government, and when we take over, The National Archives and Records Administration will take it over. There will be a whole new procedure for keeping records.

I don't know that we're involving FOIA in that at all. Maybe we should, actually. It's a good point that I don't think anyone's really thought about, but we might need to involve them in that.

How that ties in with public diplomacy, we're not really sure. Certainly, it ties in with the work that the council does.

There will be dissemination rules, and how long we store records until we destroy them and that sort of thing, that is beyond my small brain to understand very well. National Archives is very into this, and is going to do a great job, I think.

Cindy: Thank you.

Malka: Any other questions in the room? If you could move it that way. Again, please state your name and your affiliation.

Katrina McLaughlin: Katrina McLaughlin with Resources for the Future, so not an Interior colleague. For the Regional Seas Programme and the Marine Protected Areas network, you mentioned PAME and CAFF. Will there be work and recommendations from the expert group on ecosystem-based management tied into those efforts?

Joel: Yes and no. The expert group actually doesn't exist anymore. It concluded at the conclusion of the Swedish chairmanship.

There has been an ongoing effort among those experts to keep the EBM conversation going. The Regional Seas idea, in particular, did emerge loud and clear and the last workshop of EBM experts. Not technically an expert group of the Arctic Council, but many of the same faces.

There was a pretty strong voice for the Regional Seas approach, or exploring the various different Regional Seas agreements that are out there and seeing what could be done in the Arctic region.

Malka: More questions in the room?

Julia: I was going to add to that, if I could take one. Just to add in, the outstanding work that Interior under Joel did in that expert group will be...

The way we're going to approach it to ensure there's follow up, is that during the meetings of the Senior Arctic Officials, we'll have an accountability process where the Arctic states, and the working groups in particular, will have to talk about how they're incorporating the ecosystem approach into the work that they do and what the states are doing at home on ecosystem-based management.

We're going to keep that issue alive so that it doesn't just become a back burner after thought. And then incorporating the ecosystem approach into the work of the council is going to be a huge priority for us.

Malka: Next question?

Stosh Virgil: Thank you. Stosh Virgil with the National Invasive Species Council. I had more of an institutional and geopolitical question that's first.

It's not an international organization, does it operate by a consensus-based process? And also, given current geopolitics in Russia, how does that factor in or not in terms of trying to move the US agenda forward?

Julia: Yes, it does operate on the basis of consensus. Of course, that means all eight countries have to agree before something goes ahead, or at least no one can block something from going forward.

The situation with Russia, so far all of the Arctic states, including the US, have blocked off the Arctic from the larger issues with Russia and the Ukraine situation.

We protected it as a space where we can still work with Russia directly. Caveated with certain requirements, such as we look at, on a case-by-case basis, meetings that are hosted in Russia, what level of delegation we'll send. Things like that.

High-level engagement is pretty much off the table, of course. Military-to-military engagement's off. As far as the scientific and other collaborative work under the Arctic Council, it's still going forward pretty smoothly, and hopefully that will continue during our chairmanship.

We have to have Russia. If we don't have them, it's ridiculous to even have Arctic discussions without Russia since it takes up half the Arctic. I think everyone understands that we need to protect that discussion.

It's a day-to-day thing. If things get really bad, the NSC is always evaluating where we go from here. So far, we've been able to wall if off from the greater political gamete that's going on.

Malka: Other questions? perfect. We thank you all for coming .

Transcription by CastingWords


For the past 18 years, the Arctic Council has served as a high-level intergovernmental forum made up of the eight Arctic countries and "permanent participant" organizations that represent most Arctic indigenous peoples. The Arctic Council is a way for the Arctic countries to discuss and cooperate on a wide range of Arctic issues, including environmental protection, sustainable development, and the well-being of Arctic peoples. In April 2015, the United States will assume a two-year chairmanship of the Arctic Council. During this time, U.S. agencies will work together to advance several initiatives within the Council. U.S. Senior Arctic Official Julia Gourley will present an overview of the initiatives being proposed as part of the U.S. chairmanship, which include climate change mitigation and resilience, advancing Arctic Ocean stewardship, and enhancing economic and living conditions of Arctic residents. The Department of the Interior (DOI) will play a key role in many of these initiatives, working together with the U.S. Department of State and other agencies. Joel Clement, Director of DOI's Office of Policy Analysis, will describe DOI's current and planned involvement in the Arctic Council over the next couple of years.


Julia Gourley, U.S. Senior Arctic Official, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, U.S. Department of State

Joel Clement, Director, Office of Policy Analysis, Department of the Interior