| FAIRBANKS, Alaska
FAIRBANKS, Alaska May 11 U.S. Secretary of
State Rex Tillerson will host foreign ministers from Arctic
nations at a summit in Alaska on Thursday, where President
Donald Trump's reluctance to fight climate change will likely
cast a shadow over talks.
The Arctic Council, which includes the United States,
Russia, Canada and five other countries, meets every two years
to tackle problems in the region, which is warming at a faster
pace than any other part of the world.
Unlike former President Barack Obama, Trump has expressed
doubts about whether human activity has a significant role in
climate change, and is mulling whether to pull the United States
out of a global pact to fight it.
He is expected to decide whether Washington will leave the
2015 Paris Agreement, or stay in with reduced commitments, after
a Group of Seven summit at the end of this month.
Canada and the Nordic countries have stressed the importance
of staying in the Paris agreement, setting them up for a
potential clash with the United States over language in a final
agreement to be reached at the conclusion of Thursday's meeting.
It is of "decisive importance that the United States remains
part" of the Paris agreement, Norway's Foreign Minister Borge
Brende told Reuters this week in Norway.
Arctic warming is thawing permafrost and melting sea ice,
causing damage to infrastructure but also opening up new oil
reserves, shipping routes and access to fisheries - intensifying
a decades-long race for Arctic resources.
This year's agenda will highlight sharing science on
climate-related issues, and also address Arctic search and
rescue and communications.
Adding pressure on the Trump administration, scientists from
the United States and other Arctic nations issued a report ahead
of the meeting that the impacts of warming in the region could
lead to trillions of dollars worth of damage to buildings, roads
and other infrastructure this century..
Following the meeting, Tillerson, the former chief executive
of energy giant Exxon Mobil, will hand over the
chairmanship of the council to Finland, which plans to stress
the Paris pact as it leads the council over the next two years.
Trump's administration has also reversed Obama-era bans on
offshore drilling in certain parts of the Arctic, a turn that
could intensify competition for resources in the region with
major oil producer Russia.
Russia has beefed up its military presence in the Arctic to
levels not seen since the fall of the Soviet Union, as global
interest in the region's oil, gas and rare earth metals heats
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met in Washington on
Wednesday with Tillerson and later with Trump before flying to
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Additional reporting by Alister
Doyle in Oslo; Editing by James Dalgleish)