Arctic Council experts gather in Helsinki for black carbon meeting

Gas flares, a producer of black carbon, go off at a an unnamed liquefied natural gas plant on Sakhalin island in Russia’s Far East. (Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images)
The Arctic Council’s expert group on black carbon and methane will gather in Helsinki on Wednesday for a two-day meeting to discuss their ongoing work tackling pollution in the North.

Black carbon and methane emissions are a serious concern for the world’s circumpolar countries because of this form of pollution’s role in warming the atmosphere. When black carbon is deposited on ice and snow, it absorbs heat, instead of reflecting heat from these surfaces, contributing to global warming.

Black carbon is made up of fine matter produced by incomplete combustion of carbon-based fuels. It can be emitted by everything from diesel engines to forest fires.

Because black carbon particles are so small, they can be inhaled and have also been linked to respiratory and circulatory problems in humans.

Concern for North

The Arctic Council is a forum made up of world’s eight circumpolar nations and six Arctic Indigenous groups. It was established in 1996 to work on sustainable development and environmental protection in the North.

Arctic Council - Quick Facts

Year formed: 1996

Arctic Council Members: Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia, United States

Permanent Participants: Aleut International Association, Arctic Athabaskan Council, Gwich’in Council International, Inuit Circumpolar Council, Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Saami Council

Current Chair:  Finland (2017-2019)

The Arctic Council  adopted the “Enhanced Black Carbon and Methane Emissions Reductions: An Arctic Council Framework for Action” in 2015 during Canada’s stint as chair after it was decided reducing this type of pollution should be a priority for Arctic nations. (The forum’s chairmanship rotates between member states every two-years.)

The establishment of an Expert Group on Black Carbon and Methane was established to help implement the framework’s commitments to reduce black carbon, recommend collective goals for black carbon reduction and to submit a summary of progress and recommendations every two years for the Arctic Council ministerial meetings.

Recommendations from their first summary in 2017 for emission reduction included a focus on diesel emissions, oil and gas methane leakage, residential biomass appliances and solid waste disposal.

Finland pushes for summit

Finland currently holds the Arctic Council’s two-year rotating chairmanship.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto (L) and U.S. President Donald Trump at a 2017 joint news conference in Washington, DC. The Arctic and black carbon were among the issues discussed. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

In June 2018, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö called for an Arctic Summit on black carbon with all eight circumpolar nations.

Niinistö said “a firm high-level commitment to reduce black carbon emissions in the Arctic would be welcome news for the environment,” Finland’s public broadcaster Yle News reported in June.  

This week’s expert group meeting runs January 16-17.

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canadian Chamber of Commerce backs carbon pricing, but not for the North, CBC News

Finland: Finnish president demands Arctic Summit to stop dangerous black carbon emissions, Yle News

Greenland: Glacier half the size of Manhattan breaks off Greenland, CBC News

Iceland: Environmental groups call on Arctic cruise industry to reduce pollution in Iceland, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: WWF urges Norway to protect its Arctic forests to help fight climate change, The Independent Barents observer

RussiaMonchegorsk, Russia: a mining town with green aspirations, Cryopolitics Blog

SwedenAfter the IPCC’s devastating report, what can Sweden do to fight climate change?, Radio Sweden

United States: Former Alaska Attorney General leads U.S. Interior office with focus on Arctic and ‘adaptation’, Alaska Public Media

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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