The Arctic is changing at a faster rate than the rest of the world. Warming air and sea temperatures mean melting ice, thawing permafrost, and unpredictable seasons. These changes in turn impact the marine and terrestrial ecosystems upon which many northern indigenous families depend for food, clothing, and shelter. My office works to engage these communities in building resilience in the face of a rapidly changing climate, while at the same time, we are working at home and abroad to address the causes of these changes.
Supporting Alaska Native Villages means taking action at home and abroad to address the impacts of global warming. EPA leads efforts under the President’s Climate Action Plan and the National Strategy for the Arctic Region to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases through domestic regulation, improve the monitoring and reporting of emissions, address sources of emissions with our international partners, and support capacity building for local governments, states, and American Indian and Alaska Native communities.
As part of EPA’s Climate Adaptation Plan, we work closely with tribal partners to provide funding and technical guidance which will assist tribes in adapting to these changes. With the new guidance on the Indian General Assistance Program (GAP), there is a renewed push for tribes to use grant funding for climate change adaptation programs. The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortia (ANTHC) is one group that is making progress on adaptation through the GAP program. This group has developed a workshop to help local communities develop the skills needed to monitor shifts in permafrost, water conditions, contaminants, and air quality due to a changing climate. As climate-related anomalies are recorded, ANTHC tracks larger trends and works to connect communities with the technical expertise needed to both develop appropriate adaptation strategies and also mitigate potentially dangerous conditions.
The U.S. is only one of eight major countries in the Arctic region, so my office also works with other countries to take cooperative action to address climate change. We engage through the Arctic Council to undertake projects and develop policies that address mitigation and adaptation needs in the Arctic. For example, EPA is leading the way on short lived climate pollutants in the Arctic through the high-level Arctic Council Task Force for Action on Black Carbon and Methane, which was established in 2013.
In 2015, the U.S. will assume Chair of the Arctic Council, and this will present an important opportunity for the U.S. and EPA to further address the great challenge that climate change poses to the sustainable development of the Arctic.
In the meantime, my office will continue to support efforts to assist our indigenous communities on the frontlines of climate change as they build capacity and resilience, protecting the unique cultural and ecological heritage we find in the Arctic.