In April 2015, Canada handed over the chairmanship of the Arctic Council to the United States. The United States will have an opportunity to shape the priorities of the Arctic Council for the next two years and communicate its vision for the future of the circumpolar region. On 21 May 2015 Secretary of State John Kerry will host a reception celebrating the U.S. Chairmanship of the Arctic Council brand as “One Arctic.”
Even, at the Arctic Council ministerial meeting in Nuuk in May 2011 the U.S. delegation displayed a renewed commitment to participation in Arctic matters, symbolized with the same high level presence of Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton and Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, before Sweden handing over the gavel to Canadian Minister for the Arctic Council Leona Aglukkaq.
Some observers congratulated the United States for putting climate change front and centre on the council’s agenda — signalling its willingness to be a serious player in global climate change discussions, including the fast-approaching 2015 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change conference in Paris.
The Canadian 2013–2015 chairmanship program sought to broaden the agenda of the Arctic Council by placing “responsible economic development” in the Arctic at the forefront of its priorities (Government of Canada 2013). Climate change is transforming the development potential of the Arctic and the region is attracting intense global attention. In fact, many attribute the desire of countries such as China, India and South Korea to attain observer status in the council in part to their economic interests in the region’s natural resources and alternative transportation options.
All the interested parties agree that climate change has been the catalyst for pushing the region’s economic development issues onto the global stage.