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International Cooperation

EPA's Role in the Arctic Council

Logo of the U.S. Chairmanship of the Arctic CouncilThe Arctic Council, established in 1996, is a high level international forum that promotes cooperation among Arctic nations on sustainable development and environmental protection. 
The United States assumed the chairmanship of the Arctic Council from Canada in April 2015, and has announced three priorities:
  1. addressing the impacts of climate change;
  2. Arctic Ocean safety, security and stewardship; and
  3. improving economic and living conditions

These efforts support President Obama’s National Strategy for the Arctic Region (13 pp, 478 K, About PDF), which recognizes that participation in the Arctic Council is a central element of protecting the U.S. Arctic and its unique ecosystem and cultures. 

EPA leads U.S. government participation in the Arctic Contaminants Action Programme (ACAP) Working Group,Exit which seeks to reduce contamination from hazardous chemicals and waste, as well as reduce emissions of black carbon and other short lived climate forcers (SLCFs). EPA also serves as the US head of delegation to the Project Support Instrument (PSI), Exit the new funding mechanism for Arctic Council projects.

Visit the official website of the Arctic Council Exit

Ministerial Meeting

On April 24-25, 2015, the Canadian Chairmanship hosted the Ministerial meeting in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Exit marking the end of the Canadian Chairmanship and the start of the United States Chairmanship (2015–2017).

After a traditional welcome and lighting ceremony, the Canadian chairmanship presented the results achieved during its Arctic Council Chairmanship. This was followed by statements by the Ministers, Permanent Participant Leaders, the adoption of the Senior Arctic Officials’ Report to Ministers and the ultimate adoption and signing of the Ministerial Declaration.  U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry presented the Arctic Council with the U.S. Arctic Chairmanship program for the next two years, and received the gavel from the Honorable Leona Aglukkaq, former Chair of the Arctic Council. 

Local Environmental Observer Network

As part of the U.S. Chairmanship, EPA will lead the expansion of the Local Environmental Observer (LEO) Network, Exit a tool that allows local practitioners of traditional knowledge to capture and share environmental observations and changes.  Using a phased approach, the U.S. will establish a North American LEO chapter and undertake scoping to develop a Framework for Expansion across the Arctic.  

Black Carbon

EPA is engaging with partners from government agencies, U.S. Arctic and Russian universities and non-governmental organizations, Russian and Arctic stakeholders, and indigenous communities on steps to reduce diesel black carbon emissions in the Russian Arctic through 2015.

One project was a pilot project with a regional bus company in Murmansk, Murmanskavtotrans (MAT), in partnership with Battelle Memorial Institute (Battelle), the Nordic Environmental Finance Corporation (NEFCO),Murmansk State Technical University, and WWF Russia. After attending the project’s 2013 Emissions Inventory training, the bus company decided to purchase more energy efficient buses for its bus fleet.  The result was reduced black carbon emissions, and decreasing operations and maintenance costs.

About the Arctic Council

The Arctic Council, established in 1996, is a high level international forum that promotes cooperation among Arctic nations on sustainable development and environmental protection.  

The Chairmanship of the Council rotates between the eight Member States every two years. The state holding the Chairmanship organizes meetings for Council members, participants, and observers; coordinates joint projects; and represents the Arctic Council externally.  Canada concluded its Chairmanship at a Ministerial Meeting in April 2015, which finalized work on common objectives agreed by the member nations.

Who participates in the Arctic Council?

  • The eight Member States are Canada, Denmark (including Greenland and the Faroe Islands), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russian Federation, Sweden, and the United States.
  • In addition, the Permanent Participants category provides for active participation of, and full consultation with, the Arctic Indigenous representatives within the Arctic Council. Aleut International Association (AIA), Arctic Athabaskan Council (AAC), Gwich'in Council International (GCI), Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC), Saami Council, and Russian Arctic Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON) are Permanent Participants.
  • Non-arctic states, inter-governmental and inter-parliamentary organizations, and non-governmental organizations may obtain Observer Status in the Council. Learn more about Arctic Council observers. Exit

How does the Arctic Council work?

  • The Chairmanship of the Arctic Council rotates between the eight Member States every two years. The state holding the Chairmanship organizes meetings for Council members, participants, and observers, coordinates joint projects, and represents the Arctic Council externally.
  • The U.S. assumed the chairmanship of the Arctic Council on April 24, 2015, taking the chairmanship from Canada.
  • The scientific work of the Arctic Council is carried out in six expert Working Groups, which meet at regular intervals throughout the year.
  • Ministers appoint Task Forces composed of Working Group experts and Member State representatives to work on specific topics of concern for limited periods of time.

Working Groups of the Arctic Council

The six Working Groups of the Arctic Council are: 

Each Working Group has a Chair, a Management Board or Steering Committee, and includes expert participants from government agencies and research entities. Observer States and Organizations may also attend Working Group Meetings and may participate in specific projects.

In 2013, Ministers convened four new Task Forces in the Kiruna Ministerial.

Learn more about those efforts, as well as past Task Forces. Exit

EPA @ Arctic Counil

The United States is honored to be chairing the Arctic Council for the second time since the forum’s founding in 1996. The chairmanship theme, One Arctic: Shared Opportunities, Challenges, and Responsibilities, reflects the U.S. commitment toward efforts for a well-managed Arctic, marked by international cooperation.

EPA leads U.S. government participation in the Arctic Contaminants Action Programme (ACAP) Working Group,Exit which seeks to reduce contamination from hazardous chemicals and waste, as well as reduce emissions of black carbon and other short lived climate forcers (SLCFs).  EPA also plays a leadership role in several specialized task forces such as co-chairing the Short Lived Climate Forcers and Contaminants (SLCFC) Expert Group, which focuses on black carbon, methane and associated tropospheric ozone.  Through this group, EPA works on the reduction of black carbon from diesel sources in the Russian Arctic, and leading the Black Carbon Diesel Initiative under the Arctic Black Carbon Initiative (ABCI).

In ACAP, EPA works with its partners to identify sources of contamination, demonstrate pollution control technologies, and implement projects which can be replicated throughout the Arctic. EPA played a leadership role in developing issue-specific Project Steering Groups (PSGs) as part of ACAP to directly address a range of important topics, such as:

1. Short Lived Climate Pollutants.  These are gases or particles which remain in the atmosphere for a few days or weeks, but warm the climate by trapping outgoing radiation from leaving the earth’s surface. The first project of this PSG proposed by the United States focuses on black carbon, one of several Short Lived Climate Pollutants.  Recent studies have suggested that black carbon may be responsible for 30-50 percent of observed warming in the Arctic.

2. Mercury. Exit EPA is also actively working to reduce mercury emissions in the Arctic, and chairs this PSG. In June 2010, EPA began a collaborative mercury control project to demonstrate the effectiveness of sorbent technology in reducing mercury emissions at a coal-fired power plant in the Russian Federation. Coal-fired power plants are a major source of global mercury emissions. Preliminary test results, presented at the Mercury Emissions from Coal Experts (MEC) May 2012 meeting in St Petersburg, Russia, indicate mercury emission capture efficiencies of up to 90 percent, confirming similar efficiencies to those found in the U.S. can occur using Russian coals, with possible application to other countries. Other mercury projects under this PSG focus on zinc smelting and gold production. Project results will also inform implementation of the Minamata Convention on Mercury.

3. Integrated Hazardous Waste Management Strategy. This PSG is developing an Integrated Hazardous Waste Management Strategy (IHWMS) for selected Northern regions of the Russian Federation, to improve waste management practices and decrease the negative impact on the Arctic environment from hazardous waste. The PSG is chaired by Russia, and co-chaired by USA and Norway.

EPA also participates in other ACAP activities such as the Indigenous People’s Contaminants Action Program, which aims to increase the involvement of Arctic indigenous communities in reducing exposure and impact of contaminants in their communities.


For additional information on EPA's work with the Arctic Council, contact:
Hodayah Finman
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of International and Tribal Affairs (2670R)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20460
E-mail: finman.hodayah@epa.gov
(202) 564-6600