Tillerson: US reviewing climate change policy

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks during the

Environmental campaigners were given some hope that the USA may stick to its commitments under the Paris climate change treaty when Rex Tillerson, the U.S. secretary of state, signed a commitment to protect the Arctic and extend scientific co-operation.

The Arctic is warming at double the rate of the rest of the planet, with average temperatures up 3.5 degrees Centigrade since the beginning of the 20th century, leading to rapid loss of glacial ice and permafrost.

"We're not going to rush to make a decision".

But he says the US will not rush to make a decision on climate change policy. High-level officials from the world's eight Arctic nations will meet in Alaska this week amid concerns about the future of the sensitive region after President Trump called for more oil drilling and development.

The important role that the Indigenous peoples of the Arctic play within the council, through the six permanent participant organizations, was underscored at the ministerial by a performance from a group of Athabascan drummers, led by Trimble Gilbert, an elder from the tiny Yukon River community of Arctic Village.

Tillerson arrived late Wednesday afternoon in Fairbanks and immediately held a meeting with a congressional delegation as well as Arctic representatives from Alaska's indigenous people.

ICC Chair, Okalik Eegeesiak said yesterday at the Arctic Council Ministerial in Fairbanks, "Last year the Arctic Council celebrated twenty years - this year the Inuit Circumpolar Council celebrates 40 years". It refers to "reiterating the importance of climate science to our understanding of the changing Arctic region and our activities in the Arctic environment".

Tillerson, a former oil executive, has long acknowledged the threat posed by climate change, but has been more reluctant to attribute the phenomenon to human activity.

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"My message for Rex Tillerson is: Alaska shouldn't be for sale for what's in our earth", Hannah Hill, 36, who works at a Fairbanks soup kitchen, said to the Associated Press. "This place is attractive, and this place is delicate, and what already is happening on in the Arctic will affect the rest of the Earth".

Pat Lambert, a retired University of Alaska math professor, attended the rally because he believes climate change is a serious problem. Heads of state of all eight Arctic member nations articulated their visions for the Council moving forward.

Tillerson tackled the issue head-on during his opening statement.

After signing the declaration, Tillerson told the council that his administration was still determining its approach to combatting climate change.

In addition to the US and Sweden, the other council nations are Russia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Iceland. The president, who once derided global warming as a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, has moved aggressively to unravel programs to reduce emissions, saying the policies hobble USA economic growth. It noted "entry into force" of the pact "and its implementation", and called for global action to reduce greenhouse gas pollution.

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He did not, though, take a hard line against including climate change as part of the council's formal statement, the major outcome of the biannual meeting.

While this global body can not make any binding decisions, it provides information to help governments craft their policies, according to Marin Forsius, chairman of the council's Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme working group.

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