This second meeting 2019 of the Arctic Council's Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response Working Group (EPPR) was held in Reykjavik this past December. The focuses of the meeting were on projects related to oil spill response and oil fate and behavior in cold conditions, a workshop on legal issues related to the Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic (MOSPA Agreement), and the increasing interest in Arctic wildfires management and radiation issues.

Norway leads several projects related to oil spill fate and behavior as well as risk management for Arctic shipping. In this sense, they are increasingly involving State and public institutions, private companies, and universities in research and policymaking. The projects are targeting an increase in safety and environmental response, aiming to provide responses to the shipping trends in the Arctic.

In addition, EPPR and the Arctic Coast Guard Forum are planning a joint live exercise in 2021 to put in practice the operational guidelines from the MOSPA Agreement and then work on the issues that are related to it. A pre-meeting workshop held on December 2nd aimed to identify the legal issues related to the implementation of the MOSPA Agreement and the coordination of operations and transfer of responsibility within Arctic States. The Search and Rescue and Marine Environment Response Expert Groups met on December 3rd and provided several solutions to smooth the guidelines implementation. Regarding the planning, EPPR and the Arctic Coast Guard Forum are going to designate a group of experts to set up a planning and preparation schedule in order to optimize the exercise’s outcomes.

Furthermore, the Gwich’In Council International Delegation presented updates in the project related to the Arctic Wildfires Management, underlining the urgent situation for a new Arctic agreement as the past summer was marked by the raging fires in Russia, Canada, and the United States. In this approach, the Delegation of Spain presented the Spanish wildfires management and highlighted the importance of the local knowledge and the build of regional agreements and capacity; they established a comparison with the agreement between Spain and Portugal for intervention in the foreign territory of each country with no previous formal notification, within a range of 25km beyond official borders.

Finally, the EPPR Chair, Arctic States, and Expert Groups agreed on the need for a Radiation Expert Group on December, 5th, whose Chair still has to be defined. Norway is willing to develop projects related to radiation and is involving the Norwegian Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority as well as universities, to gather knowledge and establish operational procedures, providing information to policymakers. In this sense, the delegation from Japan presented Fukushima Daiichi as a case study, providing valuable information on radiation, crisis, emergency, first and long term responses, population, hospitals, infrastructures, cleaning and post-accident managements, underlining potential future threats and challenges, and solutions that may be applied to prevent future disasters and to enhance the response capacity in case of a radiation accident in the Arctic.

 

Thomas Viguier attended the EPPR meeting as a delegate representing IASC and submitted the above report. If you are interested in representing IASC at upcoming Arctic Council Working Group meetings, please contact the IASC Secretariat.