U.S. & Canada Release Joint Statement on Climate, Energy, and Arctic Leadership
Concerns Expressed That No Alaskans Were Consulted
By MARY KAUFFMAN
March 10, 2016
(SitNews) - The White House today released a joint statement from the United States and Canada on Climate, Energy, and Arctic Leadership. The statement was the culmination of meetings between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Barack Obama at the White House – the first visit from a Canadian head of state in 20 years.
While there are sections of the joint statement that could hinder economic and resource development in Alaska, there are also areas that Alaskans could support. Canada is the United States’ closest ally and a vital partner in Arctic cooperation.
The statement began with a commitment for Canada and the U.S. to cooperate on implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change, and commitment to reduce methane emissions by 40-45 percent below 2012 levels by 2025 from the oil and gas sector.
The statement also announced a new partnership embracing the opportunities and confronting the challenges in the changing Arctic, with Indigenous and Northern partnerships. Indigenous peoples have great political and cultural importance for the United States and Canada.
The partnership’s four objectives are: Conserving Arctic biodiversity through science-based decision making; Incorporating Indigenous science and traditional knowledge into decision-making; Building a sustainable Arctic economy; and, Supporting strong Arctic communities. Under the first objective, there is agreement to re-affirm national goals of protecting at least 17 percent of land areas and 10 percent of marine areas in the Arctic by 2020. Notably, the third objective does not close the door on Arctic oil and gas development, but does call for science-based standards for environmental protection and robust emergency response standards.
Prior to today's announcement, the Canadian Prime Minister had met with all Premiers of the Northern Territories and Provinces of his country to solicit their advice and input. However, Alaska officials were concerned that no Alaskans had been consulted on the objectives laid out by President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau.
In the wake of the joint announcements made by President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Gov. Bill Walker said in a prepared statement, "While I appreciate the White House’s continued engagement in Arctic issues, it is concerning that no Alaskans were consulted on the objectives laid out by President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau today."
Walker said, “As the United States’ only Arctic region, Alaska should play a significant role in setting our nation’s goals and priorities for Arctic development. The Arctic presents great opportunity for our state and our nation to prosper in a global economy. However, the way to achieve that is by greater federal investment in our state’s Arctic development efforts, and not the restrictive policies that were presented today. It is important to consider the interests of all stakeholders in the region – whether it be focused on marine and wildlife preservation, international travel and shipping, or natural resource development. In doing so, we will ensure Alaska and the United States remain at the forefront of a flourishing Arctic economy.”
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said in a prepared statement, “I join my fellow Americans in welcoming Canada’s new prime minister to our nation’s capital." Murkowski said the announcement made today falls far short of the holistic vision needed for the Arctic and its people.
Murkowski said, “My long-standing criticism of the Obama Administration is that it sees the Arctic through the singular lens of climate change. It has failed – for almost eight years, today included – to account for the full range of issues and needs in the region."
“Although the joint statement makes topical reference to consultation with indigenous people and the incorporation of traditional knowledge into decision-making, it also implies unjustifiable limits that will leave Alaskans standing at the door, rather than seated at the table, on Arctic policy," said Murkowski.
Murkowski said, “The joint statement also threatens the continued development of oil and gas in the Arctic – including resources on State or Native land – and appears to give Canada at least partial veto power over our sovereign development decisions. That, to me, is simply stunning. Rather than upholding the promises enacted into law through ANCSA and ANILCA, the Obama Administration clearly plans to evade and ignore them."
U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) reacted to the joint announcement by President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau on climate change and “Arctic leadership.” Sullivan noted the announcement promises a host of new, legally suspect regulations on our country’s energy sector. The announcement would also subject the United States to a global initiative which could seriously undermine the opportunity for America to truly realize energy security, and would take “concrete steps” to lock up more of Alaska’s lands and waters."
“Because we are the only Arctic state in the country, this release should have been called, ‘The Alaska-Canada Statement,’” said Senator Sullivan. “However, none of the members of Alaska’s federal delegation were even consulted or asked for input on this joint statement. More troubling, there was little, if any, meaningful consultation with those Alaskans who will be most affected by the initiatives outlined in the statement."
Sullivan said, “Make no mistake, these initiatives will harm the energy sector, which provides low-cost energy and contributes to the quality of life for hundreds of millions of Americans. But it could be particularly devastating to Alaska at a time when the state is experiencing a budget crisis. If the initiatives are enacted, less oil and gas will be produced in our state, more jobs will be lost, and state coffers will be increasingly diminished. Now is the time when Alaska needs a federal government that will work with the state, instead of working against us to stymie economic opportunity.”
“Before release of this statement, the Canadian Prime Minister met with all Premiers of the Northern Territories and Provinces of his country to solicit their advice and input,” Alaska House Majority Whip Bob Herron (D-Bethel) said. “Alaska’s Governor, Congressional Delegation, Legislature, and Indigenous leaders – none were consulted by the President or members of his team before this release. While I appreciate the reaffirmation in the statement regarding partnerships and consultations with the people of the North, we’ve been promised that before. There are some positive aspects in the report, particularly the plan for cooperation on innovative options for development of infrastructure, renewable energy solutions, and resilience of Arctic communities.”
“While I am pleased to see a focus on the Arctic from the White House, there seems to be a disconnect in their train of thought,” Senator Lesil McGuire (R-Anchorage) said. “On one hand, they are saying they want to help build sustainable Arctic economies and resilient Arctic communities, while on the other hand, they are seeking to increase regulations on resource development industries operating in Alaska, and lock up 17 percent of land areas and 10 percent of marine areas by 2020. Alaskans are on the front lines of a changing climate and hampering Alaska’s ability to develop our resources and economies will only lessen our residents’ ability to adapt.”
"Alaska is the reason that the United States is an Arctic nation" Senator Cathy Giessel (R-East/South Anchorage) said. "The strategy for our Arctic needs to be an all of the above approach, not an anything but development approach. My concern is that this announcement gravitates towards the latter."
The diverse indigenous communities in both nations have strong connections across the border and indigenous peoples’ social and economic aspirations is a priority for the United States and Canada. In the coming months, the countries will share information on self-governance policy to improve service delivery for First Nations. Canada has also agreed to provide to the United States government agencies insight into its consultation with indigenous communities on federal land.
Canada and the U.S. committed to a regular bilateral dialogue to ensure progress towards the objectives, to continuing their strong cooperation on scientific work and research, and to advancing the shared Arctic leadership model through the Arctic Council.
On the Web:
U.S. - Canada Joint Statement on Climate, Energy, and Arctic Leadership
Source of News:
Office of Gov. Bill Walker
Office of U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski
Office of U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan
House Majority - Alaska State Legislature
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