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Arctic is changing as US mulls climate policy, says Rex Tillerson

LiveMint logoLiveMint 12-05-2017 Nafeesa Syeed

Alaska/New York: US secretary of state Rex Tillerson told representatives of Russia, Finland and other nations with Arctic territory that the US needs time to develop its climate policy, even as the region undergoes “unprecedented change.”

“We are currently reviewing several important policies, including how the Trump administration will approach the issue of climate change,” Tillerson said on Thursday at the Arctic Council Ministerial meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska. “We’re not going to rush to make a decision.”

Tillerson’s remarks come two days after the White House said President Donald Trump would postpone a decision over whether to pull out of the landmark Paris climate accord until after he meets world leaders at the Group of Seven summit later this month. Tillerson is among those advocating for the U.S. to remain part of the agreement, brokered in 2015 by more than 190 nations.

The former head of Exxon Mobil Corp. said the US would continue to be an active member of the eight-member Arctic Council, which also includes Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. He called for vigilance in protecting the Arctic’s “fragile environment” and said the US would take other nations’ interests into account as it formulates environmental policies.

‘Unprecedented change’

“The Arctic region has been facing unprecedented change and challenges,” Tillerson said. “We are appreciative that each of you has an important point of view, and you should know that we are taking the time to understand your concerns.”

His remarks are somewhat of a departure from Trump’s “America First” doctrine. The president, who once derided global warming as a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, has moved aggressively to unravel programs to reduce emissions, saying the policies hobble US economic growth.

At the meeting in Fairbanks, the eight nations released a joint statement that cites the Paris accord and calls for global action to reduce greenhouse gases.

The US objected to “how strong the language” was around climate change, United Nations sustainability goals and renewable energy in an earlier draft, said Rene Soderman, senior adviser for Arctic cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland. The council reworked the wording and convinced the US to accept the changes.

“We were able to push the US back as much as possible,” Soderman said. Bloomberg

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