Act Now for the Arctic Ocean
The Arctic, supporting highly productive and diverse wildlife populations and home of Indigenous communities, who have built rich and lasting cultures and livelihoods respecting the great diversity and productivity of polar eco systems and wildlife, is currently warming four times faster than the rest of the planet.
During the last four decades the overall volume of sea ice has decreased by 73 percent. “Blue ocean events” – days with no Arctic summer sea ice – could happen by the 2030s. If the Arctic is in crisis, then our planet is in crisis. The Arctic plays a crucial part in regulating the planet’s climate.
Around the world, sea levels will continue to rise as ice sheets – including Greenland’s – retreat and collapse releasing freshwater into the ocean. We are perilously close to tipping points that could lead to cascading and irreversible climate impacts unprecedented in human existence.
The loss of Arctic ice is resulting in increased industrial activity and new shipping routes. Commercial and cruise ship traffic contributes high levels of climate pollutants and emissions that are damaging to human health, harmful marine discharges, disturbance from underwater noise, plastic litter, as well as an increased risk of accidents, spills and loss of life in waters that are poorly charted and difficult to navigate.
What happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic. It is time to act.
Call for action
Emissions of short-lived climate pollutants, such as black carbon, are powerful climate forcers that contribute to global heating. When deposited onto Arctic snow and ice, black carbon increases the snow and ice melt, exposing darker, less reflective land and water, accelerating warming even further as the heat from the sun is absorbed. Reducing emissions of short-lived climate pollutants could help to reduce the rate of climate change and is critical to meeting long-term climate goals.
As shipping in and near the Arctic grows, the use of heavy oil-based fuels which emit high levels of black carbon will contribute to the disintegration and collapse of Arctic ice, however, switching to cleaner fuels, utilizing diesel particulate filters, and using alternative forms of propulsion are possible today and will significantly reduce black carbon emissions.
Any attempt to continue using heavy oil-based fuels and reduce air pollution by installing scrubbers should be prohibited as it only turns air pollution into ocean pollution.
Halving of greenhouse gas (CO2) emissions from ships by 2030 is necessary to respond to the climate crisis and keep global heating below 1.5oC. Efforts to reduce all greenhouse gas emissions arising from ships must meet this challenge.
A holistic approach to managing and reducing all impacts from shipping on Arctic wildlife, habitats, ecosystems and communities is urgently needed.
We the undersigned, urge the international community to support immediate action to protect the Arctic from the impacts of shipping in and near to the Arctic and specifically call for:
- urgent action to halve ship climate impacts by 2030,
- an immediate switch to cleaner fuels to significantly cut ship black carbon emissions in and near the Arctic, and
- a ban on the use of scrubbers.