In the 1991 Rovaniemi Declaration, the eight Arctic states adopted the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS). This cooperative framework focused initially on science and environmental protection and management, with sustainable development being added later. To implement the AEPS, six programmes were established, each managed by a working group. The Arctic Council subsumed the AEPS and its working groups in 1996.
Collectively, the working groups provide the Arctic Council with its mechanism for undertaking work and for providing itself with information to inform the Council’s decision-making. Therefore the breadth of the Arctic Council’s achievements can be gained by briefly recalling representative achievements of the six working groups and their programmes.
ACAP: Arctic Contaminants Action Program
ACAP strives to prevent adverse pollution effects in the Arctic by reducing and ultimately eliminating such pollution. Cooperative actions are promoted to strengthen and support national activities aimed to reduce emissions and releases of pollutants including releases from contaminated sites.
Reports associated with heavy metals (including mercury) and persistent organic pollutants (POPs) include Environmentally Sound Management of Obsolete Pesticides in the Russian Federation (2013); Reduction/Elimination of Dioxin and Furan Emissions in the Russian Federation with Focus on the Arctic and Northern Regions Impacting the Arctic - Phase II (2008); Environmentally Sound Management and Elimination of PCBs in Russia (2005); Reduction of Atmospheric Mercury Releases from Arctic States; and, Arctic Mercury Release Inventory (2005).
The ACAP/AMAP 2000 project on PCBs in the Russian Federation guided cooperative remedial actions and was followed between 2000 and 2004 by several AMAP reports (in collaboration with financial funding organizations) also aimed at remediation. Reports associated with climate change include Reduction of Residual Black Carbon Emissions from Residential Wood Combustion in the Arctic (2014).
AMAP: Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme
AMAP monitors and assesses the Arctic with respect to pollution and climate change by documenting pollutant levels and pathways, geophysical processes, and effects on ecosystems and human health. Assessments are reiterated to evaluate trends and to inform policy and decision-making by Arctic Council states. Examples include reports on POPs and heavy metals (environmental and human health) that led directly to the 1998 Aarhus Protocols on POPs and heavy metals (under the Convention on Long-Range Transport of Air Pollution) and to the 2001 Stockholm Convention on POPs and the 2013 Minamata Convention on Mercury. These four United Nations treaties use AMAP environmental and human health assessments for effectiveness evaluation and to identify new substances to be included in the POPs agreements. AMAP health assessments are also used by health authorities when planning dietary intervention strategies for POPs, mercury and radioactivity. Radioactivity assessments also supported the remediation of radioactive waste and nuclear submarines and safety operations of nuclear installations in the Barents region.
Reports on climate change include the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA) (2004/5), produced with CAFF and the International Arctic Science Committee; Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic (2011); Arctic Ocean Acidification (2013); and several reports on short-lived climate forcers (SLCFs) (2008-2015). These reports exposed the accelerating pace of Arctic climate change. Much utilized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, they also identified immediate mitigation opportunities for SLCFs.
CAFF: Conservation of Flora and Fauna Working Group
CAFF is responsible for addressing conservation of Arctic biodiversity and for communicating its findings to the governments of Arctic Council countries and to the residents of the Arctic. CAFF’s projects provide data to support informed decision-making aimed to promote practices that ensure the sustainability of the Arctic’s living resources. CAFF has produced a large number of reports related to biodiversity monitoring and species trends assessments, conservation and management strategies, protected areas, and educational material such as a series of postcards summarizing the results of the 2013 biodiversity assessment. Reports are widely utilized by wildlife, natural resource and habitat managers throughout the Arctic. Some specific examples include Arctic Biodiversity Assessment (2013); Life Linked to Ice - A Guide to Sea Ice Associated Biodiversity in this Time of Rapid Change 2013); ACIA (2004 with AMAP); Plans for Biodiversity Monitoring (2013-17); Protected Areas of the Arctic – Conserving a Full Range of Values; and Arctic Flora and Fauna (2001).
EPPR: Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response Working Group
EPPR is responsible for addressing prevention, preparedness and response to environmental emergencies in the Arctic as well as search and rescue. It is not an operational response organization but provides a forum for cooperation on response, best practices, risk-assessment methodologies, and exercises and training. Representative reports concerning oil pollution include Recommended Practices for Oil Spill Prevention (2013); Behaviour of Oil and Other Hazardous and Noxious Substances Spilled in Arctic Waters (2011); the 2008 update of the Arctic Guide providing information on emergency systems and applicable agreements; and Arctic Shoreline Clean-up Assessment Technique Manual (2004). EPPR is also responsible for updating and reporting upon the operational guidelines of the Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution, Preparedness and Response in the Arctic (2013) in which Arctic States commit to cooperate and assist each other when dealing with Arctic oil spills.
Examples of reports concerning radiation emergencies include analyses of response exercises held between 2008 and 2014 that simulated different accident scenarios. More than ten reports are available pertaining to risk assessments of radiological facilities.
PAME: Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment Working Group
PAME is responsible for advising the Arctic Council on policy and non-emergency response measures related to protection of the Arctic marine and coastal environment from both land- and seabased activities. Such measures include coordinated actions and guidelines aimed to complement or supplement existing international agreements. Examples include the Arctic Marine Strategic Plan 2015-2025, a framework to guide the Arctic Council’s actions to protect Arctic marine and coastal ecosystem development and to promote sustainable development; Arctic Marine Tourism Project – Best Practice Guidelines (2015); Arctic Offshore Oil and Gas Guidelines (2009 and 2015); Arctic Ocean Review (2009-2013); Framework for a Pan-Arctic Network of Marine Protected Areas (2015); and Marine Shipping Assessment (2009).
SDWG: Sustainable Development Working Group
SDWG proposes steps to be taken by Arctic states to advance sustainable development. Representative results and products of five of the SDWG’s six thematic areas include the following:
Arctic Human Health: Sharing Hope - Circumpolar Perspectives on Promising Practices for Promoting Mental Wellness and Resilience (2015); Arctic Human Health Initiative - A Legacy of the International Polar Year 2007-2009 (2013); Circumpolar Health Systems Review (2012); Hopes and Resilience, Suicide Prevention in the Arctic (2009); and Analysis of Arctic Children and Youth Health Indicators (2005).
Arctic Socio-Economic Issues: Arctic Human Development Report (2004 and 2015); Economy of the North (2008); and Sustainable Model for Arctic Regional Tourism (2006). Adaptation to Climate Change: Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Change in the Arctic (2009).
Management of Natural Resources: Youth - The Future of Reindeer Herding Peoples. Arctic Council EALLIN Reindeer Herding Youth Project 2012-2015 (2015). Arctic Cultures and Languages: Assessing, Monitoring and Promoting the Vitality of Arctic Indigenous Languages (2013-2015); Gender and Equality in the Arctic - Current Realities and Future Challenges (2015); and Assessment of Cultural Heritage Monuments and Sites in the Arctic (2013).