Arctic Yearbook 2015 - Page 366

Commentary The GLACIER Conference & President Obama’s Links to the Arctic Lawson W. Brigham The U.S. Department of State, led by Secretary of State John Kerry, hosted an improbable international Arctic conference in Anchorage, Alaska on 31 August 2015. That President Obama spoke at this conference, conducted a signature tour of Alaska, and became the first sitting U.S. President to visit above the Arctic Circle in Alaska made it an historic trip that emphasized the importance of the Arctic to America and the globe. It was very clear from the outset that the conference, together with the entire visit of the American leader to Alaska, was a political event organized to highlight the President’s climate change agenda in preparation for the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP21 (to be held 30 November to 11 December 2015 in Paris). Interestingly, the U.S. is currently chair of the Arctic Council (to May 2017), the intergovernmental forum of the eight Arctic states chartered in 1996. However, the State Department advised that the Anchorage venue was explicitly not an Arctic Council meeting. Nor was the gathering an official preparatory meeting for COP21. On one hand the GLACIER (Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience) Conference was an international venue with the heads of delegation of 19 nations and the European Union joining Secretary Kerry in Anchorage to discuss Arctic climate change issues. Dr. Lawson W. Brigham is a distinguished professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) and a fellow at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy’s Center for Arctic Study and Policy. Dr. Brigham is the Chair of the Arctic Yearbook’s Editorial Board and was a participant in the U.S. hosted GLACIER Conference in Alaska.