As the leading intergovernmental forum for cooperation in the Arctic, the Arctic Council exists to ensure that the region is peaceful, stable, and prosperous and that it develops sustainably and equitably in a manner that respects the natural environment, local habitats and ecosystems, indigenous populations, and traditional lifestyles. These principles form the core of the Council’s Strategic Plan for 2021-2030.
Social equity is an important consideration in the sustainable and ecologically conscientious socioeconomic development of the Arctic and the Council aims to give all inhabitants of the region access to both opportunities and fair standards of living. Committed to ensuring that Arctic voices are heard internationally in the pursuit of the Paris Agreement goals, the Arctic Council is of the opinion that using natural resources sustainably while respecting the rights and cultures of local inhabitants fosters resilience in the face of global warming and other environmental challenges.
The Arctic Council’s 2021-2030 goals include: 1) monitoring the Arctic climate, highlighting the impact of climate change, and encouraging compliance with the Paris Agreement through circumpolar cooperation; 2) protecting habitats and biodiversity and fostering healthy and resilient Arctic ecosystems through conservation and sustainable development; 3) promoting the understanding, conservation, and sustainable use of the Arctic marine environment and safety at sea; 4) sustainable social development through cultural inclusion and initiatives to improve health, safety, resilience, and the well-being of Arctic inhabitants, especially members of the indigenous community; 5) sustainable economic development through economic cooperation and the exchange of information on innovative low-carbon solutions; 6) generating and communicating scientific and traditional knowledge to enhance the understanding of the Arctic and inform policy and decision-making; and 7) strengthening the Arctic Council as a forum for cooperation and enhancing its ability to efficiently respond to challenges.
The Council works to fulfill its goals primarily through its six Working Groups and one Expert group on Black Carbon and Methane (EGBCM). Collectively, these groups explore a wide breadth of subjects, from climate change to mental health, providing a broad framework to make informed, science-backed decisions and develop best practices for the Arctic.
Projects are at the core of the Arctic Council’s activity, and the council’s member states, permanent participants, and subsidiaries (i.e. working groups and expert groups) can work on up to 100 initiatives at any given time.
Current projects focus on monitoring the Arctic environment and climate change, environmental protection and pollution prevention, ecological remediation, managing biodiversity and ecosystems (including protection from invasive species), sustainable development, carbon neutrality, monitoring fire ecology, waste management, nurturing the mental health of local populations, protecting indigenous lifestyles and livelihoods (including reindeer husbandry) in the face of climate change and globalisation, and many others.
Stressing knowledge exchange and cooperative research, the council produces comprehensive studies on trends impacting the Arctic and explores science-backed solutions to pressing challenges. Representing the Arctic’s indigenous communities, the council’s Permanent Participants play a key role in this process.
The following are amongst the Arctic Council’ current initiatives: Arctic Demographic Index; the Economy of the North (ECONOR); Arctic arrangement for regional reception facilities; Arctic Marine Tourism: Development in the Arctic and enabling real change; Shoreline Treatment - Circumpolar oil spill response viability analysis (S-Cosrva); Ecosystem status, human impact and management measures in the Central Arctic Ocean; Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Programme (CBMP); the Kola Waste Project; Climate change impacts on Arctic ecosystems and associated climate feedbacks; Prevention, Preparedness and Response in Small Communities; Actions for Arctic Biodiversity; Addressing contaminants and human health issues; Agreement on cooperation on marine oil pollution preparedness and response (MOSPA); Air pollution, with a focus on short-lived climate forcers (SLCFS); Mercury risk evaluation, risk management and risk reduction measures in the Arctic (ARCRISK); Indigenous knowledge exchange session; Coastal Ecosystem Monitoring; Advancing Arctic Resilience; Salmon peoples of Arctic rivers; Wastewater discharges from vessels in the Arctic; New Low Sulphur fuels, fate and behaviour in cold water conditions; Arctic protected and important areas; and Arctic port reception facilities inventory.