President Obama and Prime Minister Trudeau today launched a number of actions under the United States-Canada Joint Arctic Leaders’ Statement that will help ensure a strong, sustainable and viable Arctic economy and ecosystem. These actions will help promote low-impact shipping, science based management of marine resources, and significantly mitigate the risks of offshore oil and gas activity.
The measures announced today include:
- A new process to build an Arctic Policy Framework co-developed with Indigenous, territorial and provincial partners, that will replace Canada’s Northern Strategy and Arctic Foreign Policy;
- A second phase of Northern engagement by Minister Bennett’s Special Representative, Ms. Mary Simon, to further inform the government’s approach to Shared Arctic Leadership;
- A 1-year project working with Northerners to build a vision and a plan to ensure abundant Arctic fisheries and jobs for Northerners;
- Investments that will enable Northern communities to acquire basic marine infrastructure and safety equipment to help sea-lifts and community re-supply operations;
- The Government will engage Indigenous and Northern communities in developing a governance model for the Northern Marine Transportation Corridors and Arctic marine shipping, in a way that is environmentally and socially responsible, including respecting modern northern treaties;
- Additional Marine Safety and Security inspector jobs to ensure vessels operating in the Canadian Arctic meet marine shipping and navigation safety requirements;
- Direct support to establishing training and certification programs for ships operating in polar waters at Canada’s Northern Marine School, including a new transfer payment program to support Northern and Indigenous people entering marine jobs (crew members for the Canadian Coast Guard, Marine Safety and Security inspectors for Transport Canada, and workers for the marine sector at large);
- Reaffirming the creation of a new Coast Guard Auxiliary unit in the Arctic, including new funding for Northern communities to purchase boats and emergency response equipment;
- Reaffirming increased icebreaking services by the Canadian Coast Guard, to ensure safe passage of vessels through Arctic waters;
- Improved coverage of modern hydrography, charting and navigational information in the Arctic;
- Launching a new process with Northern and Indigenous partners to explore options to protect the “last ice area” within Canadian waters, in a way that benefits communities and ecosystems;
- Reaffirming commitment to complete a plan and timeline to deploy innovative renewable energy and efficiency alternatives to diesel in the Arctic;
- Announcing all of the Canadian Arctic waters as indefinitely off limits to new offshore oil and gas licences, to be tested every 5 years by a science-based review taking into account marine and climate change science; and
- Announcing a 1-year consultation with existing offshore oil and gas rights holders on their interests.
The following are details of some of the major actions that Canada intends to undertake — both bilaterally and unilaterally — within the framework of the Statement:
Science-based approach to oil and gas
No New Oil and Gas Exploration Licenses in the Arctic Offshore
Implementing partners: N/A
Source program and department: Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC)/Natural Resources Canada (NRCAN)
Brief description: The Government of Canada is announcing a new approach to Arctic oil and gas development: the Canadian Arctic Ocean will be indefinitely off limits to new oil and gas exploration licenses. This decision will be tested every five years by a science-based, life-cycle assessment, taking into account marine and climate change science. Consultations will inform this 5-year assessment.
Supporting Strong Arctic Communities
Protection for the last ice area
Implementing partners: Inuit communities, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), Parks Canada and other federal departments, other governments, management organizations, northern communities, scientists and others
Source program and department: DFO/Parks Canada
Brief description: The “last ice area” is the only Arctic region expected to retain summer sea ice until 2050. This area will be essential to the cultures and livelihoods of Indigenous and Northern communities, as well as to ice-dependent wildlife such as polar bears, beluga, narwhal, seals, walrus that communities depend on for food. In partnership with Indigenous communities, DFO and Parks Canada along with other federal departments, are working with other governments, management organizations, other Northern communities, scientists and other stakeholders to lead consultations to determine future conservation approaches.
Co-development of Arctic Policy Framework
Implementing partners: Territorial and affected provincial governments (Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec & Manitoba) and Indigenous groups with asserted or established rights in the Arctic region, including National Indigenous Organizations. Many federal government departments will also be involved in this process
Source program and department: INAC, GAC
Brief description: Canada will collaborate with Arctic partners to work towards a common vision of Canada’s Arctic and co-develop a new Arctic Policy Framework that integrates domestic and international policy objectives. The Framework will replace Canada’s Northern Strategy and Arctic Foreign Policy and will include priority areas identified by the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs’ Special Representative, such as education, infrastructure, and economic development, amongst others.
Plan and Timeline for Deploying Energy Alternatives to Diesel in the Arctic
Implementing partners: N/A
Source program and department: INAC, with NRCAN, ECCC and ISED
Brief description: The Minister of INAC will lead with the development of a plan and timeline for deploying innovative renewable energy and efficiency alternatives to diesel in the Arctic in collaboration with key partners. Two key elements of this plan include:
Northern Responsible Energy Approach for Community Heat and Electricity Program (Northern REACHE)
The Northern REACHE program funds renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, and related capacity building and planning in the Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Nunavik and Nunatsiavut. The program objective is to reduce Northern communities’ reliance on diesel for heating and electricity by increasing the use of local renewable energy sources and energy efficiency. This will result in environmental, social and economic benefits to support developing healthier, more sustainable Northern communities.
Budget 2016 set aside $10.7 million over two years, starting in 2016–17 to implement renewable energy projects in off-grid Indigenous and northern communities that rely on diesel and other fossil fuels to generate heat and power.
The Climate Change Preparedness in the North Program
Climate Change Preparedness in the North funds climate change adaptation projects in Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Nunavik and Nunatsiavut. The program works with Indigenous and Northern communities, territorial and regional governments and other stakeholders to identify priorities for climate change adaptation in the North. It provides support to Northern communities and organizations to help them adapt to climate change impacts by funding the following types of projects.
Budget 2016 set aside $21 million over five years to enhance coordination efforts in the North and support territorial governments and communities in addressing climate change adaptation priorities.
Low impact shipping corridors
Canadian Coast Guard and Transport Canada Collaboration to Establish Low Impact Shipping Corridors
Implementing partners: DFO/Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) and the United States Coast Guard (USCG)
Source program and department: Oceans Protection Plan/CCG/DFO/Transport Canada
Brief description: Canada and the US Coast Guard are collaborating to discuss establishing low impact shipping corridors. These would increase benefits to communities and reduce the impact of shipping on the environment, with a particular focus on sensitive ecological areas, used by Indigenous communities, and the threat posed by hydrocarbons.
Science-based management of Arctic fisheries
Preliminary Consultations on Establishment of Arctic Fisheries Management Regime
Implementing partners: Canada with the United States
Source program and department: DFO
Brief description: DFO and the CCG will lead a one-year engagement process with key partners and stakeholders to determine measures to ensure that any new fisheries in Canadian Arctic waters are managed to the highest standards of conservation and sustainability for generations to come. Canada, together with the US, does not currently allow fishing vessels on the Arctic high seas, and will not, until there is a fisheries management regime in place to ensure sustainable fisheries.
Today, Canada recommits its support for a legally binding agreement to prevent unregulated commercial fisheries in the Arctic High Seas until an internationally recognized Regional Fishery Management Organization is in place to provide science-based and effective management. Canada is working toward an agreement via negotiations with other countries in the coming months. This would ensure a cautious and sustainable approach to potential fisheries in this emerging area. We will continue to work towards an international agreement that will prevent commercial fishing in this area until we have a better understanding of the fish stocks, their habitats, and an appropriate path forward.