The Arctic Council is a high level intergovernmental forum which promotes cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States, with the involvement of the Arctic Indigenous communities and other Arctic inhabitants on common Arctic issues, in particular issues of sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic. Member States are Canada, Denmark (including Greenland and the Faroe Islands), Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden, and the United States of America. In addition, six indigenous peoples’ organizations have been granted status as Permanent Participants in the Arctic Council. Canada holds the chairmanship of the Arctic Council for 2013-2015.
The Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) is the biodiversity working group of the Arctic Council, and its mandate is to address the conservation of Arctic biodiversity, to communicate its findings to the governments and residents of the Arctic, and help to promote practices which ensure the sustainability of the Arctic’s living resources. Canada holds the chairmanship of CAFF for 2013-2015, with Norway acting as vice-Chair.
CAFF presented the Arctic Biodiversity Assessment (ABA) at the Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic Council in Kiruna, Sweden, in May 2013. The ABA report contains the best available science informed by traditional ecological knowledge on the status and trends of Arctic biodiversity and accompanying policy recommendations for biodiversity conservation. The key findings of the ABA deal with the significance of climate change as the most serious underlying driver of overall change in biodiversity, the necessity of taking an ecosystem-based approach to management, and the importance of mainstreaming biodiversity by making it integral to other policy fields, for example, in development, plans and operations.
The Ministerial Meeting in Kiruna welcomed the Arctic Biodiversity Assessment (ABA), the first Arctic-wide comprehensive assessment of status and emerging trends in Arctic biodiversity, approved its recommendations encouraged Arctic States to follow up on its recommendations, and instructed Senior Arctic Officials (SAO) to ensure that a plan for further work under the Arctic Council to support and implement its recommendations is developed, and that a progress report is delivered to the next ministerial meeting (scheduled for 2015). CAFF will report to the SAOs on progress and deliverables related to implementation and an implementation plan, and related tasks are included in the CAFF Work Plan for 2013-15. Canada and Norway are lead countries on developing an implementation plan for the recommendations from the ABA.
There are also important linkages between ABA efforts and the further development and implementation of the Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program (CBMP), CAFF’s cornerstone program. The findings in the ABA will also contribute to other Arctic Council work related to protecting the Arctic environment and to sustainable development based on Arctic ecosystems. This includes Arctic Council activities such as the project on Adaptation Actions for a Changing Arctic (AACA) and international fora such as the Global Biodiversity Outlook 4 being developed by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). The ABA will be used as a basis for developing thematic biodiversity reports and for specific items in CAFF’s Work Plan for 2013-2015.
CAFF has concluded that a larger public event can contribute to present ABA findings in more depth to key audiences and to strengthen the knowledge basis for implementation of ABA recommendations. Such science-policy interface events have also been arranged around previous Arctic Council assessments, for example the conference on Arctic Ocean Acidification which was held in Bergen, Norway, in May 2013.