World leaders must act now to arrest arctic sea crisis

Temperatures are reaching 38° Celsius north of the Arctic Circle in June, and Arctic sea ice is melting faster than most climate models predicted.

Reacting to news of the Arctic summer sea ice reaching its second lowest extent in the 42-year satellite record on 15 Sep, and to recent reports of a polar heatwave, Greenland ice sheet’s loss of million tons of ice per day, the collapse of the Spalte glacier and Milne Ice Shelf, and the Arctic’s shift to a new climate, the Clean Arctic Alliance called on world leaders to take the following urgent action to slow Arctic warming.

  • Show leadership by example, by accelerating national and regional policies and practices that will fulfill the goals of the Paris Agreement, especially that of limiting the increase to 1.5o Celsius – requiring a 50% reduction in emissions by 2030. 
  • Through the International Maritime Organization (IMO), adopt mandatory measures to reduce ship speed to effect deep immediate reductions in climate emissions from ships.
  • Agree on an effective and credible IMO regulation which bans the use and carriage of heavy fuel oil by Arctic shipping from January 2024, without exemptions or waivers for any vessels. 
  • Support a mandatory IMO regulation requiring ships to switch from heavy fuels to distillate fuels (or other cleaner fuels) in the Arctic, and install efficient particulate filters in vessels, in order to reduce black carbon emissions by over 90% in the Arctic region, where black carbon emissions are especially damaging.

Dr Sian Prior, Lead Advisor to the Clean Arctic Alliance said that with temperatures reaching 38° Celsius north of the Arctic Circle in June, and Arctic sea ice melting faster than most climate models predicted, world leaders must take urgent action to curb warming of the Arctic region.

“It is not enough to think that emissions’ reduction is someone else’s responsibility”, said Prior. “All sectors – from agriculture to construction, energy production to all forms of transport – aircraft, trains, road vehicles and ships, along with all shipping practices – cruising, carriage of cargoes, to fishing must change to ensure that all greenhouse gas emissions, including black carbon, are reduced in line with the Paris Agreement’s goals. 

“The IMO and its members must step-up and deliver action to eliminate black carbon emissions and rapidly reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane emissions with the intention of moving to decarbonize the sector by 2035. According to the International Council on Clean Transportation, without further action, the international shipping sector could account for 17% of global CO2 emissions by 2050 – an increase from its current share of 3%.

“The loss of summer sea ice, not only allows for greater access to the Arctic and its resources by ships and maritime industries, but it also lengthens the time over which ships can operate in the Arctic. These activities drive an increase in the risks to the Arctic, its communities and its wildlife – risks of heavy fuel and distillate oil spills, increased black carbon emissions, increased underwater noise, and discharges of greywater and scrubber wastes.” 

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