As the current Chair of the Arctic Council, Canada has the pleasure of making this statement on behalf of the Arctic Council States – Canada, Kingdom of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russian Federation, Sweden, and the United States of America – and the six Arctic Council indigenous permanent participant organizations.

The theme during Canada’s Chairmanship of the Arctic Council is “development for people of the North” – development that improves well-being and prosperity, and also values and supports traditional ways of life, culture, livelihoods, health, while protecting the environment.

Global emissions of greenhouse gases are resulting in rapid changes in the climate and physical environment of the Arctic with widespread effects for societies and ecosystems and repercussions around the world.

Since the late 1970s, Arctic inhabitants and scientists have observed rapid reductions in snow and ice cover.  September 2012 marked the lowest sea ice extent ever recorded.  Arctic inhabitants are highly sensitive to climate change, and are among the first to experience its impacts. 

The IPCC recently concluded that over the last two decades, the Greenland ice sheet has been losing mass, that Arctic sea ice and snow cover in the northern hemisphere have continued to decrease, and that these developments are expected to continue during the 21st century as global mean temperature rises.

A changing climate has consequences for biodiversity, ecosystems, and human living conditions in the Arctic, posing distinct challenges related to adaptation and to the diverse resources that northern communities depend upon for their survival.  Since its founding in 1996, the Arctic Council has played, and continues to play, a leadership role in highlighting the environmental, cultural and societal implications of climate change for Arctic inhabitants, with a particular emphasis on Indigenous Peoples. 

Recent Arctic Council scientific assessments, including the Arctic Biodiversity Assessment that considered both western science and traditional knowledge, and the Arctic Ocean Acidification Assessment, both suggest that climate change is the most serious threat to Arctic biodiversity and ecosystems.  The Arctic Council’s work has also highlighted the imperative of reducing short lived climate pollutants to slow near term warming and provide climate and health benefits to northerners.   

Here are a few things that we have learned from the Arctic Council`s activities on climate. 

Within the Arctic Council, we know that we can learn from each other, and cooperate to contribute to global solutions.  This is why Arctic Council States remain firmly committed to work alongside other countries under the UNFCCC to reach – as a matter of urgency – an ambitious, inclusive, durable and flexible protocol, other legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention, applicable to all Parties by 2015 which will meet the long term goal aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions so as to hold the increase in global average temperature below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels.

To effectively address the impacts of climate change in the Arctic, it is clear that we must reduce carbon dioxide emissions, coupled with actions to reduce emissions of short lived climate pollutants, particularly black carbon, methane, and hydrofluorocarbons, which are contributing significantly to near-term impacts in the Arctic. This is why the Arctic States have mandated a dedicated, action-oriented task force to develop arrangements to achieve black carbon and methane reductions in the Arctic region.  Ambitious action on these short lived climate pollutants could reduce Arctic warming by up to 0.7 degrees Celsius.  Arctic States, Arctic Council observers, and other stakeholders are encouraged to contribute to these reductions. 

Furthermore, through observations and experiences with changes in the Arctic, we recognize that we will need to do more to adapt and increase our resilience to climate change.  Within the Arctic Council, we continue to undertake activities together to enhance our capacity in this regard, and to carry out scientific assessments and other projects, which advance our understanding and inform our actions.

Climate change effects in the Arctic not only impact Arctic nations, but are a major global concern, resulting in widespread effects on the global climate system and on societies and ecosystems around the world.

Earlier this year, the Arctic Council welcomed several new observer States. We are confident in their abilities, tools, knowledge, and desire to make major strides in the fight against climate change.  We look forward to working with them, to make even greater progress on addressing climate change and its impacts.

Thank you.

Photo: by UNClimateChange on Flickr / Creative Commons BY / Click here to access original

polar bear. Photo: Garry DonaldsonWhitehorse, Yukon, Canada R12; The Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF), the biodiversity working group of the Arctic Council, has released the Life Linked to Ice: a guide to sea-ice-associated biodiversity in this time of rapid change report, detailing changes in marine species and human communities as Arctic sea ice disappears, and making recommendations to the Arctic Council. 

The report has found that sea ice loss is affecting the very building blocks of life in the Arctic Ocean with changes resonating throughout entire food webs, affecting everything from ice-dependent algae to birds, fish, marine mammals and human communities that rely on sea ice for travel and food or for economic opportunities.

Changes are happening too quickly for some species to cope. Particularly vulnerable are species with limited distributions, specialized feeding or breeding requirements, and/or high reliance on sea ice for part of their life cycles. The report identifies the hooded seal, narwhal and polar bearR12; species that are vitally important to Indigenous communitiesR12; to be vulnerable to change.

Life Linked to Ice: Click to access the full reportOther changes can jeopardize some fisheries. For example, the 375 million USD (in 2011) walleye Pollock fishery in the Bering Sea might be reduced under a climate regime with more prolonged warm periods, as is projected by climate models.

Changes also mean that sub-Arctic species are expanding northwards, with potential economic opportunities. For example, the commercially fished snow crab has expanded northward in the Bering and Chukchi seas and moved into the Barents Sea. Other northward-extending species include several crab and mollusk species in the Chukchi Sea and the blue mussel in Svalbard. However, new and expanded activities related to resource extraction, shipping, fisheries, and cruise-ship tourism carry substantive risks and downsides to Arctic marine flora and fauna. The encroachment of southern species can also mean competition for Arctic-adapted species that are losing habitat along the southern edges of their ranges. 

The report offers four recommendations for actions, directed at the Arctic Council:

  1. Facilitate a move to more flexible, adaptable wildlife and habitat management and marine spatial planning approaches that respond effectively to rapid changes in Arctic biodiversity.
  2. Identify measures for detecting early warnings of biodiversity change and triggering conservation actions.
  3. Make more effective use of local and traditional knowledge in Arctic Council assessments and, more broadly, in ecological management.
  4. Target resource managers when communicating research, monitoring and assessment findings.

 It is important to note that the Arctic is a vast region, and changes will not be uniform across all areas and species. Individual speciesR17; responses to these changes will be uncertain and varied. Sea ice loss should also be viewed in the context of cumulative effects as it is interacting with other stressors, including development impacts, ocean acidification, and accumulation of persistent organic pollutants and mercury in food webs. Find out more about sea ice associated biodiversity or read the Life Linked to Ice report.


Risa Smith+1 778 838-4029 risa EP_DOT smith EP_AT ec EP_DOT gc EP_DOT caCAFF Chair

Tom Barry+354 861-9824 tom EP_AT caff EP_DOT isExecutive Secretary, CAFF

Courtney Price+354 821-3609 courtney EP_AT caff EP_DOT isCommunications Officer, CAFF


Images and graphics for press use

Access the following link on the CAFF site to download and use images for publication or click here to access the Arctic CouncilR17;s photostream on Flickr. Photos from both locations may be used in press stories but they must be credited according to the provisions on the site.

Graphics from the report are made available on the Arctic Biodiversity Data Service (ABDS).

About the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF)

CAFF is the biodiversity working group of the Arctic Council and consists of National Representatives assigned by each of the eight Arctic Council Member States, representatives of Indigenous Peoples' organizations that are Permanent Participants to the Council, and Arctic Council observer countries and organizations. CAFF´s mandate is to address the conservation of Arctic biodiversity, and to communicate its findings to the governments and residents of the Arctic, helping to promote practices which ensure the sustainability of the ArcticR17;s living resources.

VACANCY: Data Officer

The CAFF (Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna – International Secretariat based in Akureyri is looking for a Data officer. CAFF is one of six working groups of the Arctic Council and deals with Arctic biodiversity issues.  This position is for initially a one year contract and will involve maintenance and development of a variety of database tools and services connected with information on Arctic biodiversity.

Main tasks:

  • Maintenance and development of databases within the Arctic Biodiversity Data Service (ABDS –
  • Working with experts to facilitate their data management requirements
  • Report writing
  • Other incidental tasks


  • University degree in a relevant field
  • Experience/knowledge of GIS and database development
  • Data quality assurance and control experience
  • Managing multiple data sets for incorporation/consolidation
  • Experience in managing multiple partners for collaborative project development
  • Synthesizing and interpreting biological data, particularly GIS/ spatial data
  • Ability to learn and manage number of project partners to meet project deadlines
  • Ability to understand and implement metadata, web services, and data standards/protocol
  • Presenting and communicating CAFF data issues and progress to international scientific audiences
  • Good communication and relationship buidling skills
  • Fluency in spoken and written English is essential
  • Knowledge of other languages, such as Russian or Scandinavian languages is an advantage but not essential 

CAFF is the biodiversity working group of the Arctic Council and serves as a vehicle to cooperate on species and habitat management and utilization, to share information on management techniques and regulatory regimes, and to facilitate more knowledgeable decision-making. It provides a mechanism to develop common responses on issues of importance for the Arctic ecosystem such as development and economic pressures, conservation opportunities and political commitments. Further information can be found at

Recruitment is in the hands of Tom Barry ( tom EP_AT caff EP_DOT is / + 354 461 3352). Application deadline is 16th of October.


Wetland. Photo: Pi-Lens/Shutterstock.comThe Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF), the biodiversity working group of the Arctic Council is hosting a public event in partnership with the Arctic Council Canadian chairmanship, the Yukon Government and the Yukon Science Institute:

“Arctic waters and biodiversity in a time of change”

The event will bring together Arctic experts to present and discuss the changes facing Arctic communities in light of the environmental changes to Arctic freshwater and sea ice ecosystems.

Speakers will present the latest scientific findings on freshwater and sea ice ecosystems and wildlife from the Life Linked to Ice report (to be released at 12 noon earlier that day) and the Arctic Biodiversity Assessment report (released in May 2013), and describe the effects on communities.

Speakers include:

  • Patrick Borbey, chair of the Senior Arctic Officials
  • Risa Smith, CAFF chair, Environment Canada
  • Colleen Henry, project coordinator, Arctic Athabaskan Council
  • Lindsay Staples, contributing author, Life Linked to Ice report
  • Todd Powell, manager, Biodiversity Programs, Environment Yukon

Speakers will be available for interview after the event.

Date: October 23, 2013

Time: 7 p.m.

Location: Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre, Kilometre 1423 (Mile 886) Alaska Hwy., Whitehorse, Yukon



Courtney Price

CAFF International Secretariat

+354 821-3609,  Courtney EP_AT caff EP_DOT is


Media Relations Office

Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada

613-995-1874,  media EP_AT international EP_DOT gc EP_DOT ca

BiodiversityJournal of life on Earth is currently welcoming scientific papers for upcoming issues and invites researchers to put paper(s) forward. Every paper is peer-reviewed via our ScholarOne platform. 

Biodiversity is an international quarterly journal published since 2000, by Biodiversity Conservancy International, and both the CAFF Executive Secretary, Tom Barry, and the previous chair of CAFF Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program (CBMP), Mike Gill are on the journal's editorial board

The aim of Biodiversity is to raise an appreciation and deeper understanding of species, ecosystems and the interconnectedness of the living world and thereby effect the proper management, sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity. Articles are written for a broad readership including scientists, educators, policy makers, conservationists, science writers, naturalists and students. Biodiversity aims to provide an international forum on all matters concerning the integrity and wellness of ecosystems and the diversity of species.

For more information please visit Biodiversity online at Taylor & Francis Journals or contact Biodiversity's Managing Editor Vanessa Reid: reidva EP_AT biodiversityconservancy EP_DOT org. Papers can be uploaded directly through our ScholarOne website: 

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