Arctic Council

The Arctic environment is unique and rich in biodiversity, home to many species of global significance. Simultaneously, the region is extremely sensitive to disturbances and is greatly affected by ongoing climate change, technology development, and the increase of commercial activities. Our work in the Arctic Council focuses on marine protected areas and marine litter.

The Arctic Council was formed on the basis of the 1996 Ottawa Declaration. The Council focus on the protection of the Arctic environment, the area’s sustainable development, and improvement of the Arctic inhabitants’ economic, social, and cultural prosperity. We lead the Swedish delegation in the working group Protection of Arctic Marine Environment (PAME).

The Arctic Council is an international forum for cooperation between the governments of the eight arctic states: Denmark (with Greenland and the Faroe Islands as permanent assessors), Finland, Iceland, Canada, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the U.S, as well as representatives of six organisations for indigenous populations.

The council chair is a two-year rotating position, with a ministerial meeting every other year. Finland is acting chair of the Arctic Council for 2017–2019. Sweden served as chair 2011–2013.

Several countries and organisations have observer status, enabling non-Arctic countries to participate in meetings.

The Arctic and climate change

The Arctic region is rapidly changing in a way that can dramatically affect ecosystems and living conditions for Arctic communities. Climate change causes fundamental alterations in the Arctic, with consequences for biodiversity and ecosystems, as well as in human living conditions which have repercussions worldwide. In addition, climate change leads to increased opportunities for exploitation and utilisation of the Arctic’s natural resources.

The effects of climate change appear more quickly in the Arctic than anywhere else in the world, which can have global effects. Changes in the Arctic can affect the global climate. The distribution of sea ice in the area during the summers of 2000–2016 is the smallest in modern times.

Sweden and the Arctic

Sweden works to ensure that all development in the Arctic occurs in an environmentally sustainable manner. Our priorities include increased protection of biodiversity and ecosystems on land and at sea, enhanced climate work, and a sustainable use of resources.

Sweden has identified three overarching priorities for its commitment to strengthening environmental protection in the Arctic:

  • strengthened efforts in climate work
  • improved protection of biodiversity and ecosystems
  • sustainable resource utilisation.

The Arctic Council’s working groups

The Arctic Council’s work is carried out by the following six working groups and is staffed with experts from government authorities and researchers:

The working groups’ efforts focus on environmental protection and climate issues, and on sustainably economic, social, and cultural development in the region. A large number of projects are carried out within the working groups.

Our participation

We lead the Swedish delegation in the biannual meetings for the PAME working group. Work in the Arctic takes place in close cooperation with other concerned authorities, including

  • the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (Swedish EPA)
  • the Geological Survey of Sweden
  • the Swedish Transport Authority
  • the Swedish Maritime Administration.

We prepare documentation for decisions on maritime issues, pollution including marine litter, the marine environment, and marine protected areas. The Swedish EPA leads the working groups ACAP, AMAP, and CAFF.

SwAM participates in two expert groups (ecosystem-based management and marine protected areas) and also steers a project on marine protected areas and marine litter together with other members.

Published: 2017-05-09