MPs are coming together today to hear about the impacts of climate change on the Arctic and the indigenous communities it’s home to, and about why we’re calling for greater climate action from the UK Government.
The UK Government’s All Party Parliamentary Group for Polar Regions will hear from Sarah James, an elder and spokesperson for the Gwich’in Nation from Arctic Village, Alaska; (Josie) Okalik Eegeesiak, who chairs the Inuit Circumpolar Council based in Canada; and Jannie Staffansson, an environmental campaigner and a representative of the Saami Council, on their experiences of climate change, and why it’s so vital for the UK Government to act.
As the Arctic’s closest neighbour, we have a crucial role to play in committing to help safeguard the region by introducing policy that will help tackle climate change. But two years on from the Paris Climate Agreement, we’re still waiting for the UK Government to show global leadership by creating national policy to meet our international climate targets. We need this to happen urgently if we’re to stand a fighting chance.
Already, the Arctic is warming at twice the global average, with a global rise of 2°C equating to 5°C in this vulnerable region. The decline of Arctic sea ice is perhaps the most visible sign of a warming world. Sea ice – which supports unique marine ecosystems home to a variety of aquatic life from plankton to bowhead whales, and underpins traditional ways of life – is in long term decline across seasons. The Greenland ice sheet is a poignant example, with untold consequences for global sea levels as it rapidly melts. What’s more, what happens in the Arctic won’t stay in the Arctic. The Polar Regions are our global thermostats, as the snow and ice reflects heat back into space. Remove that buffer, and you’re left with a dark blue ocean that absorbs more and more heat.
We welcome the action already taken by the UK Government to meet climate commitments outlined in the Paris Agreement and the 2008 Climate Change Act, through publishing the Clean Growth and Industrial Strategies. However, neither plan has outlined specifically how it will combat climate change or provided the necessary funding. Politicians must take this chance to listen to the people most impacted by our changing climate, because unless we act now we will see the Arctic virtually ice free within a generation, with consequences for us all.