Arctic nations to crack down on soot

Foreign ministers of the eight-nation Arctic Council have agreed to crack down on soot, which is darkening ice around the North Pole and hastening a thaw also blamed on global warming, Reuters reported. The council will set up a “task force” to examine ways to cut down on soot along with two short-lived greenhouse gases.

Ending a two-day meeting in Norway, the council put off — until its next meeting in 2011 — consideration of requests by China, South Korea, Italy and the European Commission for wider involvement in the organisation. The council, once considered a diplomatic backwater, is becoming more important as ice retreats around the world.

The new soot task force would “recommend further immediate actions that can be taken” and report back in 2011, according to a final statement by the United States, Russia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Iceland and Norway.

Soot is caused by diesel fumes, forest fires and grass burnt by farmers. Darkened by soot, ice soaks up more heat, which accelerates climate change stoked by carbon dioxide. Technology to clean up soot emissions is cheap and easily available.

A thaw in the Arctic is disrupting livelihoods of indigenous peoples but may bring new business opportunities, such as for oil and gas exploration or trans-Arctic shipping. Canada said a wider review of Arctic Council observers was needed, accusing some European states of failing to understand the needs of northern indigenous peoples.

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