Concluding Remarks at the Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement, and Resilience (GLACIER) Conference

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Anchorage, Alaska
August 31, 2015

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very, very much. Thank you all, Governor Walker, Lieutenant Governor Mallott, and Senator Murkowski, Senator Sullivan. We are so appreciative to all of you, to Alaska, for an absolutely spectacular welcome here. And I think it is fair to say on behalf of all of my colleagues who have been part of this daylong discussion that this has been a tremendous reception in Alaska but importantly a very constructive and substantive day. I think every delegation here would agree that we have covered an enormous amount of territory, and we reinforced here today that every nation that cares about the future of the Arctic has a responsibility to be a leader in taking action and in urging others to take bold action in order to deal with this challenge. It is immediate and it requires ambitious steps to curb the emission of greenhouse gasses and to deal with methane, coastal erosion, fisheries – a host of challenges that Alaska particularly faces.

There is no mystery, as we saw reinforced in very dramatic presentations by a number of scientists – no mystery at all about what a failure to act would mean. We can already see it. We can already measure it. And Alaskans are living it every single day.

We confirmed today that we cannot afford to wait until someone else moves to implement solutions to the challenges that confront us in the Arctic. I’m very pleased that through today’s GLACIER meeting we made progress in a host of areas – and our communique will summarize that – including addressing the issues of climate change, the impacts of it, enhancing resilience, strengthening emergency response, improving air quality, and promoting renewable energy and household innovations that will increase efficiency and community health at the same time.

Everyone in this room, those here at the circular table and those in the audience, are connected to the Arctic in some way. And so are all of the citizens that we represent. The fate of the region is not just the responsibility of the Arctic, the Arctic states even themselves. We agreed today it is everyone’s responsibility.

And it is with that purpose in mind that I turn now to the next speaker, who understands all of this, all of what is at stake. The threat posed by a changing Arctic has long been a top priority for President Barack Obama. He has repeatedly defined climate change as one of the great challenges that we face in this century. And the President has stated clearly that what’s happening in Alaska “isn’t just a preview of what will happen to the rest of us if we don’t take action. It’s our wake-up call. The alarm bells are ringing,” to quote the President.

Since 2009 President Obama has demonstrated repeatedly that he is committed to meeting this challenge before it’s too late – not with words but with actions. That’s why he put forward a National Strategy for the Arctic Region that establishes a comprehensive and long-term vision for our Arctic engagement. That’s why he created the Arctic Executive Steering Committee to prepare for a changing Arctic and to enhance coordination of national efforts here.

That’s why today, thanks the President’s Climate Action Plan, the United States is well on its way to meeting our international commitments to seriously cut our greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and beyond while bolstering our nation’s resilience to ensure communities thrive and that economies flourish. And that’s why he has prioritized so many other things, including I might add not a small symbolic step of renaming a big, famous mountain, and I think we could say that Denali never looked better than it does today. (Cheers and applause.)

That is why also the President has prioritized working with so many partners, because he knows that all of us together have to do so much more to beat this threat. We have to do it now, and it will not be done without our concerted global commitment.

Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States, Barack Obama. (Cheers and applause.)