Polar issues: environmental cooperation

The circumpolar regions are important to Canada, and the threats of climate change, transboundary pollution and ozone depletion are realities particularly in the north and south poles. Both are sensitive indicators of global change, and the science and development of cold weather technology that is developed for one region is often applicable in the other, resulting in opportunities for partnerships and information sharing.  As steward of one quarter of the world’s northern circumpolar region, Canada has a significant interest in finding solutions to problems such as transboundary pollutants, global environmental change and the conservation of wildlife and their habitats,  many of which require international cooperation and global solutions in order to achieve improvements. 

Effectively managing international threats to the polar region provides opportunities to address, with key partners, issues of environmental priorities.  Canada cooperates on Arctic and Antarctic issues related to the environment in particular through the Arctic Council and the Antarctic Treaty discussions and initiatives.

Arctic Council:

The Arctic Council is a high-level intergovernmental forum that promotes cooperation on common arctic issues of concern, including sustainable development and environmental protection in the North.  Canada is one of the eight Arctic member states of the Council, and membership also includes six Arctic indigenous groups with Permanent Participant status. The Council meets biannually at the ministerial level and Senior Arctic Officials meet every six months. The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) are the lead-departments for Canada’s involvement in the Arctic Council. Environment Canada provides scientific and analytical support through active engagement and leadership in the six working groups of the Council. Environmental issues have been highlighted at recent and past Arctic Council meetings, and include: persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and mercury assessments; climate change, including  arctic climate impact assessment report, adaptation to climate change in the Arctic, and short-lived climate forces; Arctic biodiversity assessment; and  the circumpolar biodiversity monitoring programme.

Related link: www.arctic-council.org

Antarctic Treaty - Madrid Protocol:

Canada became a Non-Consultative Party (no Station in the Antarctic, no financial obligations or commitments under the Protocol, and therefore no voting rights during yearly Conferences of Members) to the Antarctic Treaty in 1988. The goal of the Antarctic Treaty is to ensure that Antarctica is used exclusively for peaceful purposes and does not become the scene or object of international discord.  In 1991, the Madrid Protocol on Environmental Protection of the Antarctic designated the Antarctic as an internationally recognized natural reserve and introduced the strict regulation of activities in the Antarctic.  Canada ratified the Madrid Protocol in 2003 and created the Antarctic Environmental Protection Act (AEPA). The AEPA assigns responsibility to the Minister of the Environment to issue permits to Canadian expeditions undertaking activities in the Antarctic and to report on Canadian activities to the Antarctic Treaty Secretariat. Since 2004 Canada has issued 14 permits for travel to the Antarctic, mainly for tourism purposes.

Related link: http://www.ats.aq

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