Rovaniemi, Finland - The participants at the Arctic Council meeting in Finland's far northern town of Rovaniemi have failed to issue a final declaration reportedly due to a U.S. refusal to mention climate change.
At the start of the council's 11th ministerial meeting, Finnish Foreign Minister Timo Soini said the final joint declaration was "off the table" and would be replaced by ministerial statements. He provided no explanation.
According to participants, member states were unable to reach an agreement, with the United States alone refusing to mention climate change in the final text.
Temperatures in the Arctic region are rising twice as fast as in the rest of the world, prompting the accelerated melting of the polar cap and opening huge untapped energy and mineral resources to commercial exploitation.
This is the first time the Arctic Council, which has been holding ministerial meetings every two years since 1996, failed to present a final declaration.
The meeting was supposed to come up with a two-year agenda to balance the challenges of climate change with sustainable development.
"The hang-up here right now is America making it hard to make a final agreement," Sally Swetzof of the Aleut International Association, one of six organizations representing the Arctic's indigenous peoples, told the media.
The Arctic Council consists of the United States, Russia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden.
In a speech in Rovaniemi on the eve of the meeting, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said President Donald Trump's administration "shares your deep commitment to environmental stewardship" in the Arctic. But he said collective goals were not always the answer.
"They are rendered meaningless and even counterproductive as soon as one nation fails to comply," he said.
Pompeo also criticized China, which holds observer status, and Russia, slamming their "aggressive behavior" in the Arctic.