Obama Rebuffed As Superpowers Refuse To Sign Arctic Climate Agreement

mapOn Sunday and Monday, foreign ministers and other international leaders met in Anchorage, Alaska to attend the Conference on Global Leadership in the Arctic. As a sign of the importance the United States placed on the Alaska forum, President Barack Obama attended. He used the conference as a platform for urging swifter action to combat climate change. After the conference, the representatives of the Arctic Council members signed a joint statement affirming “our commitment to take urgent action to slow the pace of warming in the Arctic.” China said that it needed more time to review the document before signing. But RT had a different take, saying that China and India “opted not to sign the document” because “reducing emissions entails huge expenditure and loss of economic effectiveness.” The failure to come to an agreement at the GLACIER conference sends a troubling signal for the Paris summit, and for U.S.-China cooperation in general. –Shannon Tiezzi, The Diplomat, 1 September 2015

The US-led GLACIER environmental conference in Anchorage ended with a joint declaration calling for more international action to tackle climate change. But Russia (the world’s leading oil and gas producer), China (the world largest producer of goods), and India with its huge emerging economy opted not to sign the document, however nonbinding it might appear. For China and India reducing emissions entails huge expenditure and loss of economic effectiveness, and for Russia the upcoming environmental deal brings additional costs to the oil and gas extraction industries. Moscow is boosting Russia’s presence in the Arctic, including militarily, for at least two reasons: future hydrocarbons extraction and the Northern Sea Route, a much shorter way from Asia to Europe, which could soon be operable year-around because of less ice in the Arctic Ocean. —Russia Today, 1 September 2015

While visiting Alaska and becoming the first American president to enter the Arctic Circle, President Obama announced Tuesday he would speed up the acquisition of icebreakers to help the U.S. Coast Guard navigate an area that Russia and China increasingly see as a new frontier. The announcement is the latest power play in the Arctic north, where melting ice has led to a race for resources and access. Forty percent of the world’s oil and natural gas reserves lie under the Arctic. Melting ice also would lead to new shipping routes, and Russia wants to establish a kind of Suez Canal which it controls. More than a Cold War, Russia may be preparing for an Ice War, and the Pentagon is taking note.  –Jennifer Griffin, Fox News, 2 September 2015

In February this year, the foreign ministers of India, China and Russia met in Beijing. The three ministers, Sushma Swaraj of India, Sergey Lavrov of Russia and Wang Yi of China, highlighted the potential for cooperation in oil and natural gas production, which raises the question of whether India and China could partner with Russia in exploring the mineral wealth of a fast thawing and navigable Arctic. Both India and China are now observing members of the Arctic Council. While mostly ceremonial, this illustrates how the two Asian economies are spreading their wings in unlikely places. While India still maintains that its interests in the Arctic are largely scientific, China has taken a more assertive stance, referring to itself as a “near Arctic state.” It is reportedly building up to 12 new specialized ice-breaker ships for use in both the Arctic and Antarctic. Kabir Taneja, Politico, 14 August 2015

Negotiators have again descended on Bonn, Germany to kick off what looks to be an increasingly desperate scramble to pare down the bloated draft text delegates will be using at December’s climate summit in Paris. Things got off to a rough start, though, with UN climate chief Christiana Figueres telling those assembled that a scheduled meeting next month and the final summit itself had both yet to be paid for. “We don’t have the funding for participation for the October session or the [Paris summit]”, she said. That’s hardly an encouraging opening announcement, considering that funding is one of the core stumbling blocks for the Global Climate Treaty. Failing also to secure full funding for talks that are now just weeks away is more than just a PR embarrassment for the UN—it’s a warning sign for the world’s already wary industrializing nations. —The American Interest, 1 September 2015

Frustrated by slow progress in global climate talks, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon plans to invite around 40 world leaders including President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to a closed- door meeting next month. The meeting will take place in New York on September 27, a day ahead of the UN general assembly, said three people with knowledge of the matter. While Obama, Modi and other world leaders have declared support for the goal, negotiations are moving slowly and Ban has complained repeatedly about the slow pace of the talks. Deep divides remain about the legal structure of the agreement, how to provide financial help to poorer countries and other issues. –Ewa Krukowska and Alex Nussbaum, Bloomberg, 31 August 2015

An international summit on Arctic issues that seems designed to burnish the green legacy of U.S. President Barack Obama is highlighting the absence of climate debate so far in Canada’s federal election. Opposition parties have been railing against the environmental policy record of Stephen Harper’s governing Conservatives for almost a decade but the Alaska summit in Canada’s northern backyard raised nary a peep from the various campaigns. In fact, a month into the official election race and with seven weeks remaining before Canadians go to the polls Oct. 19, climate change as been largely absent from the election dialogue to date. –Bruce Cheadle, The Canadian Press, 1 September 2015