All eyes on Monday were on US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the 11th Arctic Council ministerial meeting in Rovaniemi, Finland with the US expected to refuse to sign off a common statement that makes reference to the Paris Climate Agreement and climate change.

Pompeo, in a speech o 6 May, made no mention of the term “climate change”, although he did reference “steadily reducing sea ice.” He instead chose to focus on geopolitics and the race for natural resources amid climate concerns.

Pompeo criticised Russia and China in the Arctic while discussing a “new age of strategic engagement” in the region. Pompeo said that China could use its research activity in the region as a cover for an increase in its military presence and demanded that Russia halt its weaponisation of the Arctic.

Failure to reach a consensus on combatting climate change could undermine the entire purpose of the Arctic Council as a platform for environmental cooperation, given that climate change is defining the future of the region. There is speculation that the US position may have softened; a commitment to combating climate change may be included in the final statement, albeit with different wording.

The Arctic Council was formed in 1996 to address issues unique to the region, including military deployment in the region and climate change. The Arctic Council includes the United States, Canada, Russia, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Iceland. Representatives of indigenous Arctic people also participate in council discussions, but without voting rights.