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Executive Summary for December 8th

We review and analyze the latest news and most important developments in the Arctic, including the Paris climate talks, an investigation into environmental assessments for offshore oil development and copper mining in Greenland. Our goal is to keep you informed of the most significant recent events.

Published on Dec. 8, 2015 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Support Grows for 1.5C Target in Paris

The global climate change talks have entered their final week in Paris and support for a target that limits global temperature increases to 1.5C (2.5F) appears to be growing. The U.S., Canada, China and the E.U. have all said they would back a proposal to include the lower target in the agreement.

Inuit and Saami representatives in Paris are among those who have pushed for international governments to make stronger commitments. Analyses differ on exactly what effect current pledges will have on limiting warming, but it’s fair to say that we haven’t yet met the 2C (3.5F) mark.

Today is Arctic Day at the Indigenous Peoples’ Pavilion, and the governments of Nunavut and Greenland, and the Inuit Circumpolar Council, issued a joint statement at the COP21 meeting in Paris today, calling for an agreement that recognizes and protects indigenous rights, and the values, interests and traditions of the people living in the Arctic. Greenland’s economic base must be transformed as a result of climate change, said Vittus Qujaukitsoq, Greenland’s Minister of Finance, Mineral Resources and Foreign Affairs.

A plan to limit black carbon emissions in the freight sector has also earned support. AMAP, the Arctic Council working group responsible for monitoring pollution, released a new scientific report on the effects methane, black carbon and tropospheric ozone are having on climate warming. Reducing methane could slow global warming by 0.2C (0.35F) by 2050 and global actions to reduce black carbon emissions could reduce Arctic warming by 0.25C (0.9F).

Meanwhile, new data published in the journal Nature Climate Change suggest that emissions will decline this year, marking the end of a decade of rapid emissions growth. The trend follows a drop in coal use in China, Carbon Brief reports.

The COP21 talks continue until December 11. We’ll know if the agreement has any teeth by answering these questions, Adil Najam, dean of the Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, and the IPCC author who has been involved in climate negotiations for 25 years, writes in the Guardian.

Report: Tight Deadlines and Political Pressure Rushed Shell Environmental Review

A U.S. federal watchdog agency has found that Alaska regulators sped up an environmental review of offshore Arctic oil development, reports the Alaska Dispatch News. A regional manager interviewed for the report said she understood the short timeline was in place to allow Shell “to drill during the spring and summer of 2015.”

The U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of the Inspector General received allegations that politics had interfered with the integrity of the scientific analysis and findings of a supplemental environmental impact statement for oil and gas leasing in the Chukchi Sea. An oceanographer told investigators she had never worked on a review “with such a short timeline in her 26-year career.”

The report said that the findings from the supplemental environmental impact statement still stood.

Copper Mine Would Put Tailings on Seabed

Greenland’s Environment Directorate has decided to permit a new copper mine in Kvalsund, Greenland.

Stringent demands make its development environmentally safe, the agency’s director Ellen Hambro told High North News (in Norwegian). According to the assessment, the main environmental effect will come from a “sea fill” tailings pond that will eliminate benthic fauna and could affect reindeer herding in the area.

A similar plan was approved for a mine in Norway in April. Conservationists there have previously spoken out against dumping mining waste into fjords.

Recommended Reads

Top image: Some 40,000 people, including heads of state, negotiators, activists and journalists, have gathered in Paris to hash out an international agreement to put a brake on global warming. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

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