By Bob Perciasepe, Acting Administrator
Day after day, the Arctic Region is getting warmer, and the environment is changing in clear and measurable ways. Scientists have observed declining sea ice during the summer, thinning Arctic sea ice throughout the year, and a decrease in land ice that supports vital infrastructure. These changes are already attracting additional shipping in and through the Arctic and greater interest in the region’s energy and mineral resources.
Today the White House announced the United States’ new National Strategy for the Arctic Region. In the past four years, we have become increasingly aware of the mounting challenges we face in this region and the responsibility our country has as an Arctic nation. If we want to ensure a secure and sustainable Arctic, the federal government and our partners across the region must align our efforts. The Strategy highlights the importance of continued federal cooperation with the State of Alaska and Alaska Natives, which is particularly important for emergency preparedness and response. It also endorses new and innovative partnerships to address emerging challenges.
EPA already works with its Arctic neighbors to address climate and traditional pollutants, including our recent efforts to address black carbon. We’ve seen how working with international partners – including through the Arctic Council — allows us to combine our resources and knowledge so we can better protect American communities from emissions of mercury and other harmful toxins, as well as from the effects of climate pollutants. As part of the new Arctic Strategy, EPA will continue to monitor and take action as necessary to reduce emissions that impact the region.
Working closely with Alaska Natives is another key component of the Arctic Strategy. Not only are local residents essential sources of information when it comes to the region and its challenges, but they are also important stewards of the Arctic environment.
It’s not only about enhancing our partnerships; science has a major role to play in this effort, too. Since I became deputy administrator of EPA back in 2009, one of my most important goals has been ensuring that EPA makes decisions firmly rooted in the best available science. This principle is a cornerstone of the Arctic Strategy we are unveiling. Given the extreme conditions and vulnerabilities that this region has always presented, improving our scientific understanding of the region will allow the U.S. to design and implement better policies for a rapidly changing Arctic.
We don’t have all of the solutions just yet, but the new National Strategy for the Arctic Region provides a framework to address the region’s challenges as they evolve. The strategy we have developed supports EPA’s ongoing work in the Arctic and helps to prioritize our efforts going forward. I am proud of EPA’s role in developing this important framework, and I look forward to working with our many partners to implement it in the time ahead.
About the author: Bob Perciasepe is acting administrator of the U.S. EPA.