US commits to Arctic climate change research

The United States will participate in advancing climate change research in the Arctic, a State Department official said, ahead of a summit of Arctic nations later this week where Washington’s commitment to tackling climate change will likely be questioned.

The administration of President Donald Trump, who has taking steps to bolster the US oil and coal industries, is reviewing former President Barack Obama’s plans to curb climate change.

Reuters Newsagency reports President Trump vowed during his campaign to “cancel” the Paris Agreement on climate change within 100 days of becoming president, a time period that has already passed, and has asked his advisers to debate whether the US should stay in the pact.

The United Nations sponsored Paris Agreement was agreed by nearly 200 nations in 2015 to curb warming by slashing carbon dioxide emissions.

However, Washington will not shut down participation in climate science on the Arctic, which is facing the fastest rate of global warming in the world.

“The US will remain engaged in the work the Arctic Council does on climate change throughout,” David Balton, the State Department’s assistant secretary for oceans and international environmental and scientific affairs, told reporters in a teleconference ahead of the meeting.

“I am very confident there will be no change in that regard,” he said.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will host the biennial Arctic Council meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska, on Thursday.

Foreign ministers from Russia, Canada and other nations with territory in the Arctic will attend the meeting.

Reuters reports scientists have warned the Arctic could suffer trillions of dollars worth of climate change-related damage to infrastructure in the coming decades.

President Trump’s consideration of pulling the US out of the Paris Agreement has led many countries, including America’s Arctic neighbours, to question Washington’s commitment to protecting the region from the effects of climate change.

Warming in the Arctic has raised the prospect of a new rush for resources as retreating ice opens new sea lanes, oil and minerals reserves, and fisheries.

The US and Russia have both expressed an interest in boosting Arctic drilling, and Russia has bolstered its military presence in the north.

Finland is due to take over the two-year chairmanship of the council from the US at the end of Thursday’s meeting.

Finland has said it aims to protect the Arctic during its chairmanship by adhering to the Paris Agreement.

“It is of decisive importance that the United States remains part” of the Paris agreement, Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende said ahead of the Arctic Council meeting.

President Trump has said he will announce his decision on the climate pact before a Group of Seven summit at the end of May.

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