Arctic Council: breakthrough black carbon deal

Arctic Council: breakthrough black carbon deal

The Arctic Council has reached a deal on reducing carbon emissions, marking the first time that the council has acted to reduce human-induced climate change.

Arctic council members are expected to meet today in Iqaluit, Canada for a high-level ministerial meeting.  Senior Arctic officials from Canada, the U.S., Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Russia, and representatives of the six permanent indigenous participant groups, including the Inuit Circumpolar Council, have already met in Iqaluit earlier to prepare for this meeting. Among those meeting will be U.S. Secretary of state, John Kerry, as the chairmanship of the council will be passed from Canada to the U.S.. More can be found on the specifics of the meeting here.

The most important and groundbreaking part of this meeting is the black carbon deal that is expected to be signed today. This deal is poised to limit black carbon, or soot, emissions in the Arctic. Soot comes mainly from diesel engines, exhaust from aircraft and ship engines, and fires, all of which can be better controlled and regulated.

The regulation of black carbon is especially important in these areas because it is 10-100 times more damaging as when it falls on snow, it creates a blanket effect, absorbing mass amounts of heat. It is estimated that black carbon is responsible for 30 percent of warming in the Arctic.

This marks the first time that the Arctic Council has acted to reduce human-induced climate change since its inception in 1996. Their focus has been mainly on international environmental issues, but their focus is now on reducing the rate of climate change. Erika Rosenthal, a Washington lawyer for Earthjustice, has said “This is really an extraordinary step for the eight nations to take together.”

According to nunatsiaqonline, Rosenthal has also represented the Athabaskan group in negotiations that led to the Arctic Black Carbon Framework that Arctic Council ministers are expected to sign in Iqaluit. She describes the deal as non-binding, but said it also contains “all the major operational requirements” of a treaty, such as reporting requirements and the formation of an expert group. “Time is of the essence,” she said, as quick action on reducing black carbon emissions could very well slow the pace of Arctic warming in a short amount of time.

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