US to announce new Arctic strategy as climate threat grows

AFP , Friday 7 Oct 2022

US President Joe Biden's administration will announce a new Arctic strategy Friday that reflects the rising impact of climate change and increased competition in the region, senior officials said.

File Photo: Icebergs float in Baffin Bay near Pituffik, Greenland in July 2022. AFP


The announcement comes as global warming melts Arctic ice, opening previously closed areas to navigation and creating new opportunities for countries such as the United States, Russia and China to vie for resources and influence.

"The strategy outlines the US vision for the Arctic as one that is peaceful, stable, prosperous and cooperative," a senior administration official said.

It features four main pillars: security, climate change and environmental protection, sustainable economic development, and international cooperation.

On security, the United States is committed to "deterring threats to the US homeland and our allies," and also aims to improve its understanding of operating in the Arctic, the official said.

As the impact of global warming grows, Washington wants to help Alaska -- its northernmost state -- to build resilience and adapt and also aims to pursue international initiatives to mitigate emissions in the Arctic.

On the economic front, "we're really looking at how to expand economic growth in the region and to improve livelihoods in Alaska, especially for Alaskan native communities," the official said.

International cooperation in the Arctic has been made more difficult by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which has increased tensions between Moscow and Washington to a level not seen since the height of the Cold War.

"There are some challenges to Arctic cooperation now resulting from Russia's war in Ukraine," the official said. "At the same time, the United States is still committed to sustaining the institutions that we have for Arctic cooperation."

It has been nearly 10 years since the last US Arctic policy document was released, and the new strategy acknowledges both the changing natural and geopolitical environment.

"This strategy addresses the climate crisis with greater urgency, given the developments that we've seen over the last eight to nine years," the official said.

It also "recognizes the increased strategic competition that we've seen in the Arctic in terms of Russia and (China) over the last decade, and... seeks to position the US to effectively compete and also manage those tensions."

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