US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signed an agreement recognising the landmark Paris climate accord at a meeting of Arctic nations in Alaska on Wednesday (10 May) but said President Trump was not rushing to decide whether to leave or weaken US commitments to the pact.
But in opening remarks, he cautioned that the USA was not rushing to decide whether to leave or weaken American commitments to the pact.
Delegates plan to continue work on several issues, including climate change, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the USA will remain a member of the council.
Chairmanship of the Council rotates between the member states Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States every two years, and the Foreign Ministers of the twenty-year-old Council meet at the conclusion of each term or rotation to review where policies stand, and lay out prospects for the next two years.
The accomplishments of the Council during the U.S. Chairmanship (2015-2017) include projects like the Circumpolar Local Environmental Observer Network, Marine Protected Areas Network Toolbox: Area-based conservation measures and ecological connectivity, and a series of health-related projects aimed at improving the health and mental wellness of indigenous and Arctic communities. However, Lavrov lamented the suspension of high-level military talks between defence officials of the Arctic states. The U.S. will continue to be an active member of the council, he said. "We'd heard. that there would likely be a significant U.S. effort to red line or even remove entirely the Paris and climate language", said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The worst-case scenario feared by some would be that Tillerson used this gathering to announce the US would withdraw from the Paris Agreement.
And Arctic cooperation is familiar ground for Tillerson, a former ExxonMobil chief executive who once negotiated oil deals in northern waters with Russia's President Vladimir Putin. However, he said that Washington will take its time to make the right decision on the issue.
The Fairbanks Declaration does not affirm that the USA will honor the Paris accord.
The joint declaration adopted by the eight-nation Arctic Council simply noted "the entry into force of the Paris Agreement on climate change and its implementation".
"The Paris climate agreement is the cornerstone for mitigating climate change", Soini said.
The declaration pointed to such activities, and said signatories recognized "that activities taking place outside the Arctic region, including activities occurring in Arctic States, are the main contributors to climate change effects and pollution in the Arctic, and underlining the need for action at all levels".
"I have an open mind to it", he said.
He suggested Tillerson "should get away from his cronies in the oil business and start listening to the people of Alaska, for instance, and the people of the world who are so interested in these issues".
Foreign ministers from the eight Arctic States and leaders from the six indigenous organizations particpated in the meeting that marked the end of the two-year U.S. Chairmanship.
That's a tough position to take in the Arctic, which is warming rapidly and experiencing a multitude of climate change-induced issues.
Several of the foreign ministers said their goal remains to strike a balance between protecting the fragile Arctic environment while preserving and creating more jobs.
The assent to the Arctic Council's declaration comes as the Trump administration has a delegation in Germany to attend United Nations climate talks, a follow-up to the Paris agreement focused on implementation.
But in Fairbanks, the newly minted American envoy may come under more pressure from traditional allies like Canada and Finland than from Moscow, this time over climate change.