The Arctic is melting, but don’t ask U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to talk about climate change. Nor even to agree on a text that mentions it.
For the Trump administration, disappearing sea ice in the world’s “high north” appears to be first and foremost an economic opportunity to exploit rather than a crisis to mitigate.
That position was made clear by Pompeo over two days of meetings in the northern Finnish Arctic city of Rovaniemi involving the foreign ministers of the eight members of the Arctic Council — Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States.
“Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new naval passageways and new opportunities for trade, potentially slashing the time it takes for ships to travel between Asia and the West by 20 days,” he said in a speech Monday, which was met with polite but muted applause.
“Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century’s Suez and Panama canals.”
Finnish Foreign Minister Timo Soini, whose country is wrapping up its two-year chairmanship of the council, said Tuesday there was no joint declaration given the inability to get the U.S. to agree on a text that included language about climate change.
Instead, a brief joint statement reaffirmed a “commitment to maintain peace, stability and constructive co-operation in the Arctic.”
Over the summit, Pompeo also defended President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord in 2017, a day after a U.N. biodiversity report warned that extinction loomed for over 1 million species of plants and animals.
“Collective goals, even when well-intentioned, are not always the answer,” Pompeo said. “They are rendered meaningless, even counterproductive, as soon as one nation fails to comply.”