Össur Skarphéðinsson, Minister for Foreign Affairs signed an agreement on cooperation in Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue in the Arctic, along with representatives of the other seven member states of the Arctic Council at its Ministers meeting in Nuuk, Greenland on 12 May.
At the meeting the Minister described the SAR agreement as a ground-breaking one in the annals of the Arctic Council. It strengthens cooperation between the states to address future mishaps and is important for Iceland due to increased maritime traffic in the Arctic in the next years and decades.
The agreement is the first legally-binding agreement negotiated under the auspices of the Council. The Foreign Minister said the agreement was also historical for the consensus among the Ministers of the eight states that the agreement creates a precedent for international cooperation among the Arctic states prevention, preparedness and response to oil spills in the region. Iceland has for a long time advocated such measures.
The Minister welcomed the Arctic Council's decision to set regulations on maritime traffic in the Arctic and that work has begun on recommendations and best practices in the prevention of marine oil pollution which will become especially important in the near future with the exploitation of untapped gas- and oil resources in the Arctic. These issues are indicators of the strengthening of the Arctic Council and in the interest of Iceland.
The Foreign Minister supported the view of Kuupik Kleist, the Premier of Greenland that the Arctic Indigenous Peoples should participate in all decision-making on the future of the Arctic.
Recently the Arctic Council published a major study on environment, showing that climate change is having more profound impact on the Arctic environment than previously understood. The scientists who conducted the study emphasized the importance of reducing carbon and other greenhouse emission, which is the key measure to counteract climate change. Another study shows that black carbon (soot), ground-level ozone, and methane may account for up to 40 percent of global warming in the Arctic