The Arctic Council
The Arctic Council promotes cooperation among Arctic nations on sustainable development and environmental protection. Established by the Ottawa Declaration in 1996, the Arctic Council is a high-level intergovernmental forum composed of eight nations with territory in the Arctic.
EPA leads U.S. government participation in the Arctic Contaminants Action Programme (ACAP) Working Group, which seeks to reduce emissions of pollutants into the environment.
In addition to supporting the State Department in the Arctic Council and on other Working Groups, EPA leads U.S. government participation in the Arctic Contaminants Action Program (ACAP) Working Group, which seeks to reduce emissions of pollutants into the environment. ACAP works to:
- identify sources of contamination,
- demonstrate pollution control technologies, and
- implement projects which can be replicated throughout the Arctic.
In June 2012, the U.S. EPA joined and provided funds to the Project Support Instrument (PSI), which thus came into force and now represents approximately U.S. $19.6 million. Current issues under discussion by ACAP and its Project Steering Groups (PSG) include how the PSI will determine which projects to fund and modalities of operation with the Nordic Environment Finance Corporation (NEFCO).
In March 2011, EPA hosted the ACAP Working Group meeting in Washington DC. OITA Assistant Administrator Michelle DePass delivered the opening remarks for the meeting, and EPA staff from many program offices participated in the two days of PSG meetings that preceded the main ACAP Working Group meeting.
EPA played a leadership role in the development of the PSGs as part of ACAP, and upcoming meetings cover the topics agreed upon in 2010, including:
- Short Lived Climate Forcers. Short Lived Climate Forcers 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 Forcers. Recent studies have suggested that black carbon may be responsible for 30-50 percent of observed warming in the Arctic. The United States (EPA) chairs this PSG which was endorsed by Secretary Clinton and other Arctic Ministers through the Nuuk Declaration at the 7th Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting.
- Mercury. EPA is also actively working to reduce mercury emissions in the Arctic, and is the chair of this work. 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, thereby confirming similar efficiencies to those found in the U.S. can occur using Russian coals, with possible application to other countries. The mercury PSG will consider a second phase to this project. Other mercury projects under consideration by the PSG would focus on zinc smelting and gold production. Project results will inform deliberations of the UNEP Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on a global legally binding mercury instrument.
- Integrated Hazardous Waste Management Strategy. This PSG will develop 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, the goal of which is to increase the involvement of Arctic indigenous peoples’ communities in reducing exposure and impact of contaminants in their communities.
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For additional information on EPA's work with the Arctic Council, contact:
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of International and Tribal Affairs (2670R)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20460