Summary report, 9–12 October 2018

Arctic Biodiversity Congress 2018


The Arctic Biodiversity Congress was held from 9-12 October 2018 in Rovaniemi, Finland. The Congress was hosted and arranged by the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) working group of the Arctic Council, and the Finish Ministry of the Environment. The Congress was designed around six main themes, identified in the Arctic Biodiversity Assessment (ABA) recommendations for policy: climate change; ecosystem-based management; mainstreaming biodiversity; addressing individual stressors on biodiversity; identifying and safeguarding important areas for biodiversity; and improving knowledge and public awareness.

The Congress convened for the first time in 2014 to address the outcomes of the ABA, a region-wide assessment of the status and trends in Arctic biodiversity conducted by CAFF in 2013. The event convened again in 2018, bringing together nearly 500 participants with the following goals:

  • Advise CAFF on national and international implementation of the ABA policy recommendations and on any changes to future phases of the Actions for Biodiversity;
  • Consider and report on how the Arctic has fared in relation to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)’s Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, its Aichi Targets and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs);
  • Relate the work of CAFF and the Arctic Council to global processes;
  • Facilitate inter-disciplinary discussion, action and status updates on implementation of ABA policy recommendations among scientists, government officials, policy makers, Indigenous peoples, and industry representatives; 
  • Provide stakeholders the opportunity to collaborate around the themes of the ABA policy recommendations;
  • Highlight the work of CAFF and the Arctic Council in circumpolar biodiversity conservation and sustainable development;
  • Mainstream biodiversity and ecosystem services, ensuring that the ABA policy recommendations are implemented not just by governments, but many organizations and across disciplines; and
  • Increase the visibility of Arctic biodiversity in global settings, and raise CAFF and the Arctic Council’s profile among target audiences as a credible, reliable and authoritative voice in Arctic biodiversity research and policy.

A Brief History of the Arctic Biodiversity Congress

The Arctic Council is comprised of the eight Arctic states—the Russian Federation, Canada, US, Denmark (including Greenland and the Faroe Islands), Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland—and six organizations with permanent participant status, representing the Indigenous Peoples of the Arctic: the Inuit Circumpolar Council, Saami Council, Aleut International Association, Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Arctic Athabaskan Council, and Gwich’in Council International. Observer organizations from non-Arctic states, inter-governmental and inter-parliamentary organizations, and NGOs also contribute to the Council’s work.

The Council was formally established through the Ottawa Declaration of 1996 as a high-level, consensus-based, intergovernmental forum to provide a means for promoting cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic states, with the involvement of the Arctic Indigenous communities and other Arctic inhabitants, on common Arctic issues. Biennial declarations of the Arctic ministers set the agenda and mandate of the Arctic Council.

CAFF’s mandate is to address the conservation of Arctic biodiversity and to communicate its findings to the governments and residents of the Arctic, helping to promote practices that ensure the sustainability of the Arctic’s living resources. It provides a mechanism to develop common responses on issues of importance for the Arctic ecosystem, such as development and economic pressures. CAFF is one of the six working groups of the Arctic Council, which collectively address a broad range of issues, from biodiversity and climate change to emergency response.

In 2014 CAFF hosted the first Arctic Biodiversity Congress, in Trondheim, Norway, in cooperation with the Norwegian Environment Agency. The Congress aimed, among other things, to provide different stakeholders the opportunity to explore collaboration options, offer inputs for the Arctic Council Ministers meeting of 2015 and advise CAFF on “Action for Biodiversity: Implementing the Recommendations of the ABA 2013-2021.” The Congress focused on the following themes: Arctic change, resilience and adaptation; mainstreaming biodiversity and linking Arctic ecosystems to society; and understanding cumulative effects and managing impacts.

Report of the Congress


Tom Barry, CAFF Executive Secretary and Congress Co-chair, highlighted that the objective of the Congress is for various stakeholders to provide guidance to CAFF and the Arctic Council on what actions need to be taken to strengthen the conservation of Arctic biodiversity. He urged participants to be “as inventive and bold as possible, and to think about actions that we could take collectively to respond to the challenges affecting the Arctic.”

Cynthia Jacobson, Chair of CAFF and Congress Co-chair, underscored that this Congress is an opportunity to bring together people with diverse perspectives, ranging from policy makers and government representatives to Indigenous Peoples, NGOs, youth, academia, and industry.

Aulikki Alanen, CAFF board member, Finland, and Congress Co-chair, recalled that the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy was adopted in Rovaniemi in 1991. Participants then saw a cultural performance by Anna Morottaja, which celebrated three Arctic birds.

Sauli Niinistö, President, Finland, underlined the need to foster interactions between scientists and policy makers. He highlighted that the Arctic is not isolated from the rest of the globe, pointing to the region’s role as breeding ground for migratory birds. Niinistö emphasized that climate change should not only be in the headlines when a new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is published, but needs to “stay firmly on the agenda for the foreseeable future.” He further delineated Finland’s proposal to organize a summit devoted to Arctic environmental issues and noted that the proposal, which aims for discussing concrete solutions such as reducing black carbon emissions and preventing wildfires, was positively welcomed by other Arctic states.

Tiina Sanila-Aikio, President of the Sámi Parliament of Finland, gave a keynote speech in which she recalled that Indigenous Peoples are vital stewards of global biodiversity conservation and called for strengthening the inclusion of traditional knowledge holders in environmental decision-making.

In another keynote speech, Aleksi Härkönen, Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials of the Arctic Council, commended the constructive spirit of Arctic states. He said that species adapted to northern conditions are suffering and there is a danger of both fauna and flora degradation, noting that Arctic species may not have sufficient time to adapt to climate change. He lauded the recently signed legally binding agreement that will protect nearly three million square kilometers of the Central Arctic Ocean (CAO) from unregulated fishing. The agreement includes ten parties: Canada, Norway, Russia, the Kingdom of Denmark (in respect of Greenland and the Faroe Islands), the US, Iceland, Japan, South Korea, China and the European Union.

Dalee Sambo Dorough, Chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, gave a keynote speech on “Indigenous Peoples Biodiversity and their Interrelated Nature.” She described the evolution of several multilateral environmental agreements and UN frameworks that recognize Indigenous Peoples’ rights of self-determination. She highlighted Article 8(j) of the CBD as providing groundbreaking language for protecting and preserving Indigenous and local communities. She concluded stressing that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) cannot be achieved if the rights of Indigenous Peoples are not respected, as they have “understood and lived by the concept of sustainable development long before global legal frameworks have been established.”

Plenary 1—Our Knowledge, Our Actions: Addressing Biodiversity Conservation in a Chaning Arctic 

Martin Breum, journalist, moderated the session, which consisted of a dialogue among the panelists followed by an open discussion.

Tasha Elizarde, Arctic Youth Summit Participant, born and raised in Alaska, stated “climate change is real,” exemplified by disappearing glaciers in her region. She stressed how current decisions (or inaction) will impact the youth, urging for more ambitious conservation measures. She concluded declaring that local communities are well placed to help identify knowledge gaps that should be addressed.

Mike Gill, Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON), said that most of the main drivers of biodiversity loss are external to the Arctic, which reinforces the need for cross-scale data collection and policy action. He noted existing CAFF initiatives on advancing monitoring efforts and highlighted the value of community-based measures. With regards to prioritization of action, he suggested focusing on better communicating scientific findings, as well as on the issues of resilience and adaptation. He closed noting the need to accelerate policy action in spite of scientific uncertainty.

Vladimir Kattsov, World Climate Research Programme, declared the Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the world and is one of the most vulnerable regions of our planet. On knowledge gaps, he highlighted the need to further quantify the impact of climate change in the Arctic region; better understand permafrost changes; and determine freshwater availability and its trends. He emphasized the need to be modest about how much models can predict future realities and concluded by calling upon decision makers to take “the right decisions,” even under conditions of uncertainty.

Gunn-Britt Retter, Saami Council, argued that Indigenous Peoples are essential guardians against biodiversity loss and called for more attention to ethical aspects related to development and economic activities. She stressed that global legal frameworks clearly define the importance of Indigenous Peoples, but that there remain significant gaps with regards to the local and regional recognition of their rights.

In the ensuing discussion, participants discussed, among other things, strategies for grassroots organizations to foster change, cross-disciplinary tools to monitor species’ responses to environmental change, and mechanisms to foster co-production between scientists and traditional knowledge holders. On mainstreaming biodiversity into industry sectors, participants emphasized the need to engage the mining sector.

Plenary 2—The Arctic in a Global Context: Biodiversity Targets, Sustainable Development Goals and a Post-2020 Agenda

Martin Breum, journalist, moderated this session. Alexander Shestakov, CBD Secretariat, underscored the need to develop a new biodiversity narrative, which clarifies that biodiversity conservation is essential for reaching the SDGs. He highlighted the difficulty for policy makers and the general public to grasp the far-reaching impacts of biodiversity loss. He pointed to the example of climate change, where clear scientific targets facilitate communicating the urgency of this threat to the general public. He added media representatives are asking for a “2°C of biodiversity,” which would be “easier to communicate than the 20 Aichi Targets.” He said there is a lack of attention to biodiversity data among national statistic offices and called for strengthening reporting synergies between the SDGs and the biodiversity conventions. He finally emphasized the global nature of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, and welcomed inputs from all stakeholders for its development.

Melanie Virtue, Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, said migratory species “connect the Arctic to the rest of the world.” She added that many countries have an economic interest in conserving migratory species because they have a significant potential for the tourism industry, noting the guidelines for sustainable whale watching. Acknowledging existing knowledge gaps, she closed saying that we can’t wait for “science to have enough data” to develop conservation policy, highlighting that existing information is sufficient to act.

Martha Rojas-Urrego, Secretary General, Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Convention), recalled that Ramsar is the oldest environmental convention. She emphasized the high rates of global wetland loss stand at odds with the significant value of these ecosystems, especially pointing to the carbon storage potential of Arctic peatlands. She underscored that half of the world’s wetlands are located in the Arctic, a fact that is not well-known, and highlighted that Arctic countries have identified 80 Ramsar sites of international importance, calling for further strengthening the conservation of these areas.

Dalee Sambo Dorough, Chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, highlighted advocacy efforts to ensure states are cognizant of their legally binding commitments towards Indigenous Peoples. Pointing to the reliance of many Indigenous Peoples on biodiversity for food security, she said “we need to achieve equitable sustainable development” and called for collecting disaggregated data on how the SDGs are achieved in Indigenous Peoples’ territories.

Hannele Pokka, Finland, pointed to economic activities operating in the Arctic landscape, including mining and tourism, highlighting the need to ensure sustainable livelihoods for all Arctic populations, including Indigenous Peoples. She emphasized local communities and administrations are key in implementing the SDGs and called for strengthening collaborations across governance levels.

The panelists underscored the transformational character of the SDGs, which ensures that sustainable development is no longer a matter of only environmental ministries, pointing, inter alia, to the increased engagement of the private sector on sustainability issues. They also agreed on the need to “keep it simple” when communicating research findings and to ensure coherence between different governance frameworks.

Plenary Panel 3—Arctic Environment Ministers Panel

Martin Breum, journalist, moderated the ministerial plenary session. Martine Dubuc, Associate Deputy Minister, Environment and Climate Change, Canada, stressed the vital role of science in policy formulation and encouraged informed decision-making. She stated the SDGs are an opportunity to develop policies that “make sense and are inclusive.” She mentioned Canada’s experience with conducting stakeholder consultations on protected areas and defended the need to make science “available to all.” 

Per Ängquist, State Secretary, Ministry of the Environment, Sweden, underscored the SDG process presents a chance to implement a holistic development roadmap, urged establishing innovative partnerships, and specifically emphasized the relevance of Youth participation in conservation action.

Atle Hamar, State Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Norway, also stressed the importance of considering the Youth’s perspective on conservation themes. He noted the upcoming Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Poland in December 2018 and the critical impact of climate change on all societies. He called for strengthening the inclusion of Indigenous Peoples into Arctic conservation measures, underscoring the relevance of CAFF to scale up funding and build partnerships to support Arctic resilience.

Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources, Iceland, shared the Icelandic vision for its upcoming chairmanship of the Arctic Council, and encouraged more investments in research and monitoring, highlighting its importance of for sea bird conservation, coastal biodiversity management, and addressing invasive alien species. He suggested more attention be also paid to “geodiversity,” which refers to the variety of geological and physical elements such as minerals, rocks, soils, and fossils. 

Dmitry Kobylkin, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Russian Federation, lauded the contribution of “local champions” in protected area management. He stated “the government is there to maintain a balance between different stakeholders” and pointed to the contribution of the mining sector to wealth creation. Echoing discussions from the previous day, he welcomed the idea of “making the science understandable for both children and ministers.” Acknowledging that we will soon feel the effects of climate change, he said the changing “political climate” is the worst current hazard and emphasized the need to trust each other.

Judith Garber, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, US, applauded the Arctic Council’s good track record in keeping up with decisions made over the years. She specifically highlighted the value of collaboration between subsequent chairmanships and said continuous environmental monitoring is essential for achieving the Council’s objectives. On partnerships, she emphasized the value of collaborating with universities and the need to work together with industry actors to ensure “our economies keep growing.”

Åsa Larsson-Blind, President of the Saami Council, recalled the motto of the UN sustainable development agenda is “leaving no one behind,” emphasizing this entails ensuring a full and meaningful participation of Indigenous Peoples. On the need to better communicate about Arctic issues, she highlighted this also pertains to communicating with Arctic communities themselves. In this regard, she welcomed the Arctic Council’s initiative to translate key documents in Sami languages. She underscored capacity building was needed to strengthen Indigenous institutions and empower them to contribute their knowledge for decision-making.

Kimmo Tiilikainen, Minister for Housing, Energy and the Environment, Finland, expressed his wish for the Arctic states to increase the protected area coverage in the region. He questioned whether “we really have knowledge gaps that prevent us from acting,” highlighting that citizens won’t accept such an answer from their policy makers. As a promising way to close knowledge gaps, he noted the potential for citizen science to contribute to data collection efforts, and pointed to a project by the NGO BirdLife. He recalled the Arctic Council could, in many aspects, be regarded as a model for ensuring the participation of Indigenous Peoples in decision-making. In conclusion, he said that Arctic states are both vulnerable to climate change and contribute to it themselves. He called for leveraging innovative solutions on reducing black carbon and for raising awareness on the role of the Arctic for global biodiversity conservation.

Beyond The Blue Planet: Frozen Worlds, BBC Natural History Unit

Courtney Price, CAFF, introduced the session highlighting the challenges of outreach and communicating science and encouraged everyone to consider how they can better communicate science and solutions.

Sarah Conner, BBC Natural History Unit, urged Congress’ participants to engage with the upcoming production of the series “Frozen Planet 2.” She explained that the series will be broadcasted in 2021 and feature episodes that will introduce the public to what characterizes the cryosphere, and focus on areas such as frozen oceans, taigas, and Antarctica. She explained the BBC is specifically asking researchers and Indigenous communities to share stories that can help the public “better grasp what changes are happening in these environments.” She highlighted that cooperation between the Arctic community and the BBC could be particularly valuable for fact-checking the series’ script.

Parameters for Responsible Investments in the Arctic

Tero Kiviniemi, Chair of the Arctic Economic Council Investments and Infrastructure Working Group, underscored essential elements for responsible investments in the Artic, noting the valuable mining potential of the region, especially for European countries. He stressed that investments in the Arctic must be responsible and in accordance with the following six principles: build resilient societies through economic development and long-term investments; respect and include local communities and Indigenous Peoples through consultation processes that are aligned with domestic laws; set measures to protect the environment in the Arctic by incorporating environmental and social concerns into investment analysis; conduct business in a fair and transparent manner; consult and integrate science and traditional ecological knowledge in investment planning; and strengthen pan-Arctic collaboration and sharing of best practices.

Parallel Sessions

Throughout the Congress, participants attended a number of sessions, which are selectively reported in this report.

CAFF’s Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program (CBMP) Freshwater—coordinated monitoring and assessment to improve knowledge on status and trends in circumpolar Arctic freshwater: Willem Goedkoop, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, and Co-chair of the CBMP Freshwater group, chaired the session, which focused on presenting recent findings from research on the State of Arctic Freshwater Biodiversity Report developed through the CBMP Freshwater.

Kirsten Christoffersen, University of Copenhagen and University Centre in Svalbard, discussed the response of Arctic freshwater plankton to environmental stressors on a circumpolar scale. She highlighted that 8-10 phytoplankton classes are present within each region and that temporal changes in plankton diversity can already be identified.

On circumpolar trends of diatoms (single-celled algae), Maria Kahlert, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, said that modern samples show a gradual shift of taxa across the Arctic. She pointed to metabarcoding, a DNA-based identification technique, as a promising tool to provide more reliable diatom inventories.

Seppo Hellsten, Finnish Environment Institute, indicated that the number of macrophyte species generally declines towards the North and that species richness was best explained by average summer temperature levels.

Jennifer Lento, University of New Brunswick, presented evidence of latitudinal declines in benthic macroinvertebrates richness, specifically pointing to a sharp decline in diversity above 68°N for both Arctic lakes and rivers.

Sarah Laske, US Geological Survey, discussed drivers of freshwater fish biodiversity. She highlighted isolation results in nested patterns of species diversity, which means that remote areas have a subset of the species present in less isolated areas. All presenters underscored significant challenges associated with conducting circumpolar biodiversity assessments and, inter alia, called for increasing monitoring coverage, standardizing sampling methods, and collecting similar supporting data, such as on chemistry and habitat.

The ensuing discussion touched upon methods to design monitoring plans to best detect changes in ecosystem services and biodiversity; and the need to provide tools that help managers to make more informed decisions. In reaction to the chair’s question about potential positive effects of climate change, participants cautioned this must be reflected on carefully, and that changes in the number of species, for example, must be considered in a broader context. Others highlighted: the need for more data; the relative impact of climate change according to different species and the unprecedented speed at which change is occurring; as well as the importance of enhanced education and outreach.

CAFF’s CBMP as an international player and a regional Biodiversity Observation Network of GEO BON—exploring synergies: Mike Gill, GEO BON, chaired the session together with Tom Christensen, Aarhus University and CBMP Co-chair.

Christensen spoke on the CBMP Strategic Plan 2018-2021, providing an overview of CBMP’s structure, which has dedicated groups working on freshwater, terrestrial, marine, and coastal ecosystems. He announced upcoming scientific reports produced by these networks of experts, noting the strong traditional knowledge component in the coastal group. He described the process for the development of adaptive and ecosystem-based monitoring programs building on existing science. He gave examples of work on indicators and protected areas in the Arctic and highlighted the peer-reviewed State of the Arctic Marine Biodiversity Report from 2017, which includes advice for future monitoring priorities directed towards policy and decision makers.

Gill gave an overview of GEO BON’s work, noting the growing need for biodiversity data and deficiencies in existing data. As a global network, he explained GEO BON contributes to decision-making on conservation approaches by providing harmonized data. He indicated developing a standard and flexible framework for biodiversity observations as a priority, remarking complementarities with CBMP work and the importance of indicators to facilitate decision-making. Among other examples, he highlighted the “9-step BON Development Process” as a tool for countries in need to assess biodiversity data. On data visualization techniques, he said ‘NatureService’ provides a dashboard for biodiversity indicators, adding its uses for creating policy outputs. He underscored the need for further including Arctic findings into the work of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.

Alexander Shestakov, CBD Secretariat, discussed synergies between the CBD, GEO BON and CBMP, highlighting that the availability of reliable biodiversity data is key for reaching the objectives of the Convention. He underscored the Arctic remains underrepresented in global assessments such as those of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. Noting that information on Arctic biodiversity is more often available at the country-level, he called upon CBD parties to use national reports to feed information into the preparation of the fifth Global Biodiversity Outlook. He highlighted SDG 14 on oceans, SDG 15 “life on land” and the CBD Aichi Target 11 on protected areas as key global targets for guiding biodiversity conservation in the region. He concluded, stating the importance of bridging science and policy.

Sara Longan, CBMP Co-Chair, and North Slope Science Initiative, highlighted satellite data specific to pan-arctic marine and terrestrial biodiversity is now available on CAFF’s Arctic Biodiversity Data Service, including on marine chlorophyll and land surface temperatures.

Jennifer Lento, University of New Brunswick, delineated how lessons learned in the Arctic by CBMP-Freshwater can contribute to kick-starting the newly created Freshwater Biodiversity Observation Network, which operates at global scale. She especially pointed to the group’s work on creating a database on Arctic freshwater biodiversity, which includes, among other things, information on fish, diatoms, plankton, and macrophytes, and features a mechanism that facilitates the harmonization of different taxonomic nomenclatures.

In the ensuing discussion, participants, among other themes, touched upon the need to solidify collaborations around indicator development and data visualization to better meet user needs.

CAFF’s State of the Artic Marine Biodiversity Report: Alain Dupuis, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Co-chair of the CBMP Marine group, and Tom Christensen, Aarhus University and CBMP Co-chair, chaired this session.

Cecilie von Quillfeldt, Norwegian Polar Institute, spoke about key findings and persistent information gaps related to sea ice biota. She explained the species composition of different groups of bacteria found in sea ice, highlighting higher diversity near land, compared to offshore areas. On seasonal and inter-annual patterns, she illustrated trends in sea ice biota across Arctic marine areas, which are increasingly affected by anthropogenic pressures, such as climate change. 

Connie Lovejoy, Université Laval, highlighted, in particular, that: the functional and taxonomic diversity of Arctic microbes is vast and under-appreciated; half of the world’s ocean phytoplankton species have been reported in the Arctic; many types of Eukarya are only found in Arctic and Polar waters; plankton species shifts will be the first sentinel sign of overall ecosystem change; and more information relevant to ecosystem-based management of oceanic areas is needed.

Lis Lindal Jorgensen, Norwegian Institute of Marine Research, reported on the work of the Benthos Expert Network that contributed to the State of the Artic Maine Biodiversity Report. She explained that benthic species, which are those living on the seabed floor, represent 90% of Arctic species. She delineated future research objectives, such as: compiling historical and recent benthos data to assess changes in species richness; evaluating status and trends of focal ecosystem components; and evaluating drivers of observed trends. She highlighted six major drivers of change: sea ice dynamics; bottom-water temperature changes; commercial bottom trawling; ocean acidification; river/glacier freshwater discharge; and introduction of non-indigenous species.

Noting there’s a northwards expansion of bordering species towards Arctic waters, Edda Johannesen, Norwegian Institute of Marine Research, highlighted that Arctic marine fish communities are changing. She further pointed to differences in the way governmental agencies and academic institutions conduct species monitoring, limiting data comparability. Finally, she said that, as a key ecological species in the Arctic Ocean, polar cod is a suitable indicator species for monitoring the status of marine fish in the region.

Mia Rönkä, University of Turku and Chair of CAFF’s CBird Group said seabird population trends vary within and among regions, making it difficult to assess circumpolar trends. She emphasized declining populations in the Atlantic Arctic, and stable or increasing populations in the Pacific Arctic and Arctic Archipelago.

Kit M. Kovacs, Norwegian Polar Institute, said the status of many marine mammal stocks is unknown, especially for seals. She also underscored that marine mammals are important resources holding special cultural, nutritional and economic significance for traditional and local communities and that these mammals are global “Arctic icons.”

Rosa Meehan, ArcticTurn, delineated how various stakeholders have been using the State of the Arctic Marine Biodiversity Report, noting how overlaps in personnel contribute to incorporating findings from the assessment exercise into national monitoring programs.

Worldwide partnerships to conserve migratory birds: the Arctic Migratory Bird Initiative (AMBI): Evgeny Syroechkovskiy, Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology and Chair of CAFF’s AMBI, and Isadora Angarita-Martínez, AMBI, chaired the session. During introductory remarks, Angarita-Martínez said that CAFF’s AMBI aims to secure the long-term sustainability of declining Arctic breeding migratory bird populations.

Presenting the AMBI, Sergio Rejado Albaina, AMBI, underscored two main threats for migratory birds: habitat loss and illegal killing of migratory birds. He explained that the project is structured along four flyways—Circumpolar, American, African-Eurasian, East-Asian-Australasian—and underscored the initiative goes beyond Arctic countries. He explained that the first AMBI phase is soon coming to an end but that negotiations on its second phase are underway and will be the subject of an upcoming workshop in Hainan, China, in December 2018.

Victoria Johnston, Environment and Climate Change Canada, discussed a project bringing Inuit local knowledge (or Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit) into the management of snow geese. She highlighted that their overabundance has negative impacts on other bird species and shorebird habitats. As key findings from working with the Inuit communities she highlighted, in particular: the communities view the issue as “a problem but not a crisis”; healthy land is crucial for having healthy communities; there’s interest in increasing local harvest of geese, but there’s disagreement over whether it should remain non-commercial or if commercial hunting options should be explored; there’s a desire to take steps to reduce geese populations by implementing measures further in the South. She lauded the project as a good example of wildlife co-management.

Amie Black, Environment and Climate Change Canada, highlighted the Circumpolar Flyway’s work on mitigating the impacts of fishing activities on seabird populations, specifically pointing to seabird bycatch in Arctic fisheries. She underscored bycatch is a global concern and shared insights from gill net bycatch assessments in key Arctic regions, including an established fishery lacking bycatch mitigation mechanisms (Icelandic Lumpfish) and an emerging fishery that is expected to significantly grow in the future (Nunavut Greenland Halibut). In the Icelandic lumpfish fishery, she noted the positive incentives from the Marine Stewardship Council certification and that bycatch is more likely in shallower waters. In Greenland, she added that there is a need for better data and noted that, as a result of AMBI’s work, researchers are now being invited to participate in the fishery’s meetings.

Anders Braa, Norwegian Environment Agency, presented the AMBI work in the African-Eurasian Flyway. He underscored the objective of securing the intertidal non-breeding habitat of Arctic breeders in the Bijagós Archipelago, noting the importance of strengthening international recognition of the site and of fostering a coordinated implementation of the Bijagós component of the AMBI workplan. He noted mangrove harvest, commercial fisheries, oil-pollution from shipping, and some touristic activities as threats. To deal with these threats, he underscored the need for: national legislative tools; management plans; and conducting surveys to improve knowledge; as well as ensuring local participation.

Doug Watkins, AMBI, talked about the East-Asian-Australasian Flyway and highlighted that, with shorebird populations declining at currents rates of 5-9% per year, it is the most threatened flyway on the planet. He welcomed the increased engagement of countries from the region (such as China, Japan, Singapore and India), both through their observer status at the Arctic Council, and through in-country initiatives, such as capacity building measures to better conserve overwintering migratory waterbirds in ASEAN countries.

Closing the session, Syroechkovskiy, delineated the activities underway to develop the second AMBI work plan. He highlighted priorities for the different flyways, such as: improving the conservation status of the lesser white-fronted goose and the management of wader sites in the African-Eurasian Flyway; mitigating the effects of over-abundant white goose populations on shorebird habitats in Northern America and evaluating the impacts of mangrove loss in Latin America on populations of the Americas Flyway; supporting the activities of the International snowy owl working group and assessing the impacts of plastic contamination in the Circumpolar Flyway; and securing intertidal habitats at key staging and wintering sites in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway.

Participants then discussed collaboration opportunities between AMBI and other working groups of the Arctic Council as well with as partners from observer states.

Biodiversity in the high seas of the Central Arctic Ocean—Advancements in management and improved understanding for the future: Maya Gold, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, chaired the session. During introductory remarks, she provided background information on the negotiations process that led to the recent adoption of the International Agreement to Prevent Unregulated Fishing in the High Seas of the Central Arctic Ocean (CAO). She noted: the agreement builds on an initiative of the US; and Parties will establish a Joint Programme of Scientific Research and Monitoring for the CAO.

Hein Rune Skjoldal, Norwegian Institute of Marine Research, presented on the activities of a joint initiative between the International Council for Exploration of the Sea, the North Pacific Marine Science Organization and the Arctic Council’s Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) working group, which aims at developing an integrated ecosystem assessment for the CAO. He explained the initiative aims for improving the understanding of climate and ecosystem variability in the region, and described the possible methodology for conducting the ecosystem assessment relies on six main components: identify the ecosystem; describe the ecosystem; set ecological objectives; assess the ecosystem; value the ecosystem; and manage human activities.

Henry Huntington, Pew Charitable Trusts, spoke on ecosystem-based management (EBM) in the CAO. He described the spectrum of environmental management in the CAO, highlighting that with the region being covered by ice for most of the year, conducting research is expensive and technologically challenging. He closed by emphasizing the need for international cooperation to carry out holistic assessments and implement EBM.

David VanderZwaag, Dalhousie University, reflected on possible implications of the UN high seas negotiations on governance in the CAO. He recalled the negotiations for an international legally binding instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction is still underway and that views remain divergent on many issues. He pointed in particular to: marine genetic resources; area-based management tools such as marine protected areas (MPAs); environmental impact assessments; and capacity building and transfer of marine technology. He delineated potential overlaps with global frameworks, such as the CBD and the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species, as well as regional organizations such as the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission. In conclusion, he highlighted it remains to be seen whether “we will end up with cooperative currents or foggy waters.”

In the ensuing discussion, it became apparent that many participants of the Congress closely follow the negotiations on areas beyond national jurisdiction, and speakers noted that Arctic states have adopted very cautious negotiation positions in this process. Discussions also related to the practical implementation of the precautionary approach in the new fisheries agreement in the CAO.

Arctic MPAs—identification, effectiveness, co-management and cooperation: Tom Barry, Executive Secretary, CAFF, chaired the session and gave a presentation highlighting the contribution of CAFF and the Arctic Council’s Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment working group to support a pan-Arctic MPA network. He pointed to the 2017 Arctic Protected Areas - Indicator report, which provides an overview of the status and trends of protected areas in the Arctic, and noted four main recommendations: advance the protection of marine habitats; identify ecologically important areas; implement measures for their conservation; and involve Indigenous Peoples in their management and sustainable use.

Irina Onufrenya, WWF Russia, presented work on developing a pan-Arctic network of MPAs. She highlighted the urgency of marine conservation, pointing to human induced pressures, such as climate change and oil extraction, and said the current coverage of MPAs in the region is, at 5%, quite low. She said that the development of a management plan for the Pechora Sea relies on expert-advised analyses and the decision support tool Marxan, a method that could be used to identify new MPAs in the Arctic Sea. She said identifying priority conservation areas is a key step towards improving conservation.

Neville Ash, Director, UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC), presented the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA), explained how it complements the database presented by CAFF in the context of its Arctic Protected Areas - Indicator report, and underscored that the WDPA is the largest assembly of data on the world’s terrestrial and marine protected areas. He said that the database, which is available on the “Protected Planet” website, is a tool of outreach and can also help to assess the progress on the implementation of the CBD’s Aichi Target 11 (aiming to have at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water areas and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas conserved by 2020).

In the ensuing discussion, panelists provided further details on how the CAFF and UNEP-WCMC databases on protected areas are maintained, highlighting in particular that the protected areas are designated and subsequently proposed for inclusion by states. Another point related to the frequency at which the information in the databases is being updated.

A second part of the session started with Boris Solovyev, Institute of Ecology and Evolution of Russian Academy of Sciences, sharing experiences from identifying priority conservation areas in the Russian Arctic seas. He highlighted that, more than the lack of data, it is the lack of coordination and collaboration that impedes effective conservation planning. He emphasized the need to develop communities of practice to speed up the identification of priority conservation areas and the process of MPA designation.

Kayla Hansen-Craik, Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, shared insights on the collaborative effort by the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Inuvialuit organizations, such as the Inuvialuit Game Council, that led to the creation of the Anguniaqvia Niqiqyuam MPA. She highlighted the MPA features a conservation objective guided by traditional knowledge, adding capacity building activities are being implemented to support environmental monitoring efforts by local communities.

Tom Christensen, Aarhus University, talked about recent work on identifying ecologically and biologically valuable marine areas in Denmark. He highlighted the process built on both expert knowledge gathered in workshops, and on GIS overlay analyses. As next steps, he pointed to analyzing potential threats for the identified sites and to suggesting future conservation measures.

The follow-up discussion raised the question of how to account for dynamic changes in marine sites, inter alia, those related to seasonal variations and climate change induced alterations of species distribution patterns.

Community-based monitoring of Arctic biodiversity: Paul MacDonald, Canadian Wildlife Service, who chaired the session, talked about bird monitoring in the Labrador region. He highlighted the logistical challenges associated with wildlife monitoring in remote areas, emphasizing the value of collaborative partnerships between federal agencies and Indigenous communities. One example of such partnership related to supporting the Nunatsiavut community in conducting species composition surveys, resulting in a systematic recording of trends over time that complements the data collected in the context of periodic areal and boat surveys conducted by the Wildlife Service.

Philippe Fayt and Simone Gress Hansen, Snowchange Cooperative, discussed experiences related to a co-management initiative with the Skolt Sámi in Finland. They emphasized that cultural indicators and oral history data can be used to define local baselines for ecological restoration projects. They also underscored that climate change induced changes in species distributions call for more dynamic conservation approaches.

Henrik Hedenås, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, illustrated the value of community-based monitoring to support multi-use landscape planning, building on the example of lichen monitoring by Sami communities in Sweden. He pointed to the importance of lichens for the traditional reindeer husbandry in the region, highlighting how the field data collected by local populations serves to better reconcile their activities with conflicting land-uses such as mining and hydropower.

David Mitchell, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), presented the EU-funded PISUNA project, which works with Greenlandic stakeholders to share lessons-learned on community-based monitoring practices. He emphasized PISUNA: systematically documents local knowledge; makes available data gathered by communities, covering a wide geographic area; supports informed decision making; is relatively low-cost; and builds trust between communities and decision-makers.

Audrey Taylor, University of Alaska Anchorage, spoke on mainstreaming biodiversity through partnerships, building on the example of the Arctic expedition cruise tourism. Noting that polar tourism is increasingly becoming a form of mass tourism, she advocated for leveraging this sector’s biodiversity monitoring potential by developing targeted citizen science projects. Emphasizing the significant costs of conducting scientific expeditions to the Arctic, she said this form of tourism could contribute to data collection efforts in remote areas. She highlighted that citizen science projects would need a balance between top-down and bottom-up approaches to ensure that collected data reaches decision-makers.

In the ensuing debate, participants raised questions on data governance, funding stability, and industry engagement in community-based projects.

Ideas for enhancing effective communication and outreach for subsistence based households in Western Alaska—what we learned from Alaska native women: This session aimed at bringing Alaskan Native women into the discussions about monitoring and conserving Arctic biodiversity. Elizabeth Kersey and Nastasia Levi, Alaska Climate Resiliency Project, provided background information on subsistence lifestyles in Western Alaska. They highlighted that subsistence activities, such as berry picking, moose hunting, clam digging, and ice fishing account for about 35% of individuals’ economic wellbeing.

They then reported on findings related to: Native Elder women’s concerns related to climate change; what questions the women have for scientists; what format of scientific outreach they prefer; what they want scientists to know about Indigenous Peoples; and what they would like scientists to study. Levi, a Native of the Lower Kalskag village herself, highlighted that the women are primarily concerned about the effects of warming waters, especially because they notice it has an impact on fish, an essential food resource for their communities. With regard to the preferred format for science outreach, points that were raised included: promoting two-way face-to-face interactions, including through video conferences; having Elders and scientists meet for discussions on public radio channels; using photos rather than graphs (because they are more accessible forms of visualizations); using accessible language and having translators participate in meetings.

The issues that the women considered important for scientists to understand are: that Indigenous Peoples consider “all things are connected” and that Indigenous lifestyles differ from one village to another, for example because they rely on different food sources. Kersey also emphasized village-level tribal gatherings and statewide tribal conventions could provide a good forum for scientists to interact with Indigenous Peoples. The presenters concluded highlighting: that research which takes local knowledge as a starting point might yield valuable insights; and the need for scientist to understand traditional values and cultural practices.

In the discussion, participants exchanged about: challenges with organizing consultative sessions in local communities due to different cultural backgrounds and a lack of trust; the need to change the way that climate change is being framed to make the concept more accessible for local communities; and methods to improve scientific communication, pointing story telling as an effective method.

Conservation and sustainable harvest: Session co-chair Alexander Shestakov, CBD Secretariat, opened the session by emphasizing that the sustainable use of biodiversity and its components is one of the CBD’s three objectives. He highlighted that the parties to the Convention will consider adopting a voluntary guidance for a sustainable wild meat sector at the upcoming CBD meeting in Egypt, in November 2018. Co-chair Gregor Gilbert, Makivik Corporation, underscored that, from an Indigenous perspective, sustainable harvest and biodiversity conservation are intertwined, and that sustainable harvest is key to Inuit identity and culture.

Morten Frederiksen, Aarhus University, presented findings from ongoing research on quantifying the impact of hunting and oiling on Brünnich’s guillemots in the Northwest Atlantic. He highlighted that the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic listed the species as “threatened and/or declining.” Pointing out that guillemot hunting in Greenland also affects the populations in Iceland and Spitsbergen, he underscored the need for a coordinated international management plan for this species in the northern Atlantic and said a workshop would take place in 2020 to that effect. Given that hunting levels alone can’t explain the rate of decline, the workshop will also consider other potential drivers of species decline, such as climate change.

Carolina Behe, Inuit Circumpolar Council, talked about Alaskan Inuit food security and called for a greater recognition of Inuit knowledge and management practices as part of the solution. She emphasized the Inuits’ strong value system focused on conservation through use and said it builds on principles such as “never taking more than you need” and respecting nature’s time to process ecological change which she illustrated based on the example of whale hunting. She concluded emphasizing the inherent connection for the Inuit between food security and ecosystem health.

Geneviève Desportes, North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission, spoke on reconciliation of conservation and sustainable harvest. She noted that marine mammals are not only impacted by hunting, but also by many other anthropogenic activities, notably bycatch and shipping, and said these all need to be considered in the management process. She shared a success story from Greenland, which managed to balance whale stocks based on systematic assessments of stocks and the introduction of hunting quotas for walrus, narwhal and beluga. She concluded that, under the right conditions, local harvest is an activity that can be in balance with the environment.

Julia Newth, Wildfowl & Wetlands, spoke on a participatory approach to reducing the poaching of Bewick’s swans in the Russian Arctic, pointing to illegal hunting as the main driver for these species’ decline, also noting accidental shooting due to species’ misidentification. She emphasized the achievements of the Swan Champion Network, which focuses on informing hunters on protected and huntable waterbird species, and on promoting knowledge exchange between countries along the flyway of the Bewick’s Swan. She recommended uniting community leaders to help secure the future of tundra ecosystem and its wildlife.

Peter Westley, University of Alaska Fairbanks, spoke on salmon and salmon-dependent people in Alaska and shared insights from The State of Alaska Salmon and People project fostering collaboration between researchers, cultural leaders, and other stakeholders. He emphasized that a loss of fishing access, notably in rural areas, creates equity concerns saying: “urban voices dominate the discourse” and, consequently, regulations.

Konstantin Klokov, Saint-Petersburg State University, talked about the impact of Indigenous hunting on migratory waterbird populations in the Northeast of the Russian Arctic. He provided background information on the governance of Indigenous hunting in Russia and highlighted that birds, such as geese and swans, remain important food sources for these populations. He said that in some places waterfowl species were harvested in large quantities and hunting could pose a threat to species such as the spoon-billed sandpiper. As a main take-away he emphasized there is a significant lack of data on Indigenous hunting, calling for surveys to assess the current status of migratory waterbirds.

In the ensuing discussion, speakers debated whether it was a realistic or even desirable objective to restore historic population sizes, and some called for focusing on stabilizing populations at sustainable levels. Responding to a question from the audience, Shestakov highlighted that, while the CBD so far mainly focused on bush meat in Africa, discussions are underway among parties to expanding its mandate to address other issues related to wild meat.

Proteus Partnership—mainstreaming biodiversity information in the extractives sector: Neville Ash, UNEP-WCMC, moderated the session.

Matt Jones, UNEP-WCMC, presented the Proteus partnership, which aims to improve biodiversity data through private sector data contributions and leveraged funding. Proteus specifically focuses on companies from extractive industries and currently partners with companies such as ExxonMobil, Repsol, RioTinto, Shell, Statoil, and Total. In the context of this initiative, UNEP-WCMC provides trainings to develop corporate capacity in the use, analysis and interpretation of biodiversity data. He noted challenges related to: costs of getting high quality data and transaction costs; lack of clarity over the purpose of data sharing; lack of awareness of data standards; and legal concerns over losing data ownership and liability issues.

Melania Buffagni, Eni, provided a company perspective on the issue. She explained how Eni, an Italian oil and gas multinational, started addressing biodiversity concerns in its operations, pointing to collaborations with the Proteus partnership, NGOs (such as Fauna & Flora International), and the International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association. She indicated management decisions are informed by the International Finance Corporation’s Performance Standard 6 and the mitigation hierarchy developed by the Cross-Sector Biodiversity Initiative. She highlighted Eni uses data from the WDPA and the IUCN Red List to conduct biodiversity risk screenings, specifically illustrating how her company uses the “IBAT tool” provided by Proteus to conduct oil spill prevention analyses. On lessons learned in the Arctic she called for an emphasis on preventive steps to minimize restoration needs, especially pointing to the low speed of ecosystem recovery in the region.

Jürgen Weissenberger, Equinor, discussed ways to increase knowledge on biodiversity using modeling tools. Illustrating his presentation with the examples of modeling projects for humpback whales in the Chukchi Sea and seabirds in the Barents Sea, he emphasized: models are important tools to better predict species presence in areas prone for development; advances in computer technology allow for developing complex models; hydrodynamic and weather data are often sufficiently good; and models can also be used to examine the possible impacts of newly introduced stressors. He concluded indicating that quality data is crucial to get models “right” and alerted to the risks of poor data saying that “nice animations could be completely wrong if fed with poor data.”

During discussions, panelists focused on solutions for data sharing, highlighting: efforts for improving the models before making them public; ways to prioritize data collection; and innovative public-private partnerships, especially within the oil and gas industry.

Leading by example—lessons from Arctic biodiversity monitoring programs: Niels Martin Schmidt, Aarhus University, moderated the session.

Rob Gau, Government of the Northwest Territories, Canada, shared lessons learned from developing Canada’s General Status Ranking Program. He highlighted the large amounts of data collected in the Northwest Territories long remained “hidden away,” and that the program helped mainstream this data into governance processes at federal level. He underscored the value of having a high-level mandate for initiating coordinated species assessments, and pointed to the importance of agreeing on a robust methodology to ensure data comparability. With regard to public outreach, he emphasized the Northwest Territories Species Facebook page attracted significant attention and inspired citizens to use it for reporting on species sightings.

Knud Falk, Arctic Falcons Specialist Group, gave an overview on the trends in Arctic falcon populations through a preliminary overview for CAFF’s CBMP. He underscored challenges in surveying these species and gave examples on monitoring sites in eastern Russia and High Arctic, noting, however, the scarcity in monitoring sites. He recommended enhancing research, coordination and monitoring across study sites and promoting pan-Arctic harmonization of basic sampling/reporting protocols.

Aleksandr Sokolov, Arctic Research Station of Institute of Plant and Animal Ecology, Ural Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences, spoke on the case of Yamal Peninsula in the context of a changing climate and human impact. He discussed conservation challenges in the region due to fast industrial development, stressing that 80% of Russian gas comes from this region. He described the uniqueness of this region due to its abundance of birds, mammals, fish and plants, as well as optimal geographic conditions to access the Arctic.

Eeva Soininen, the Arctic University of Tromsø, presented the Climate-Ecological Observatory for Arctic Tundra (COAT), which aims to identify trends affecting the environment to facilitate policy change. She said the observatory integrates an adaptive and iterative protocol, including phases on: study design, statistics models, improved knowledge through dissemination of information and publications. She noted COAT employs a food-web approach and described the example of monitoring of the Arctic fox and of rodents.

Allison Patterson, McGill University, discussed the use of Inuit traditional ecological knowledge for detecting and monitoring avian cholera among Common Eiders birds in the eastern Canadian Arctic. She said these birds live in colonies, which explains their vulnerability to this disease. She recalled their longstanding cultural importance for the Inuit and highlighted a project building local capacity for Inuit training in monitoring avian cholera. She argued Inuit knowledge is a valuable asset for monitoring wildlife diseases in the Arctic, as well as for effective detection of unusual ecological events.

Olivier Gilg, University of Bourgogne, described the achievements of the “Interactions Working Group,” a circumpolar initiative to measure and predict the cascading impacts of “indirect trophic interactions” in Arctic terrestrial vertebrate communities. He considered the links of this work with CAFF and highlighted the uses of such work for improving understanding of predator-prey relationships.

Arctic Youth Summit Report Back

As a collective statement—Julia Wright, Finland; Juhan Niila Stålka, Sweden; Olga Nikolaeva, Russia; and Alejandro Soto, Alaska—voiced the concerns identified during the Arctic Youth Summit, which took place in parallel to the Arctic Biodiversity Congress. They shared stories of relocation, migration, and loss of resources affecting the Arctic populations, calling all Congress’ participants to “step up their actions to promote a sustainable development paradigm.” They also urged leaders to incorporate youth’s views in decision-making, emphasizing that climate chance is a priority and delivered their “Arctic Youth Summit Rovaniemi Declaration” to the ministerial panel participants.

Closing Plenary

Neville Ash, UNEP-WCMC, emphasized the Congress took a broad view of biodiversity and acknowledged the mutual reinforcement of sustainable use and conservation. Pointing to the participation of the BBC Natural History Unit, the “powerhouse of biodiversity communication,” he underlined that science alone won’t solve the problem, and that “we need political will and societal engagement.” In this regard, he said UN Environment is organizing the “last ice hockey game in the Arctic” in spring 2019 with a view to garner global attention for the region and leverage the power of sports diplomacy. He further called for a “strong and coherent Arctic voice” to strengthen the profile of Arctic issues in global biodiversity governance. Indicating that the AMBI is a project connecting the Arctic and the rest of the World, he said it could inspire other areas of CAFF’s work, for example on invasive alien species. In conclusion, he noted overharvesting, invasive alien species, and pollution as major threats to Arctic biodiversity, emphasizing climate change as the most important threat to the region.

Tom Barry, CAFF, announced the winners of the best poster award and thanked the various collaborators that contributed to the organization of the Congress which successfully fostered vibrant discussions among a diversity of actors, such as scientists, policy makers, NGOs, Indigenous Peoples, and the private sector. He noted that a future congress in four years time would provide a great opportunity to assess the status of Arctic biodiversity, as we move towards the 2030 deadline for action identified in the latest IPCC Special Report from October 2018. This would allow the Arctic biodiversity community to consider the Congress’ inputs to accelerate implementation of solutions to enhance conservation in the region.

Closing the event, Aulikki Alanen, Ministry of Environment, Finland, lauded participants for having “truly lived the Rovaniemi spirit” that characterized the early days of Arctic protection. She said the discussions held at the congress raised hopes for the future of the region, and called upon all to bring back the memorable stories on Arctic conservation to their families and communities.

Upcoming Meetings

2018 Arctic Circle Assembly: The Assembly is held every October at Harpa Conference Center and Concert Hall in Reykjavík, Iceland. The annual Arctic Circle Assembly is the largest annual international gathering on the Arctic and is attended by heads of state and government, ministers, members of parliaments, government officials, scientists, entrepreneurs, business leaders, Indigenous representatives, environmentalists, students, and others interested in the future of the Arctic.  dates: 19-21 October 2018  location: Reykjavik, Iceland  www:

World Circular Economy Forum 2018: The World Circular Economy Forum (WCEF) 2018 is hosted by the Ministry of the Environment of Japan, and Sitra. The 2nd World Circular Economy Forum will consider the economic benefits and social equity of the circular economy, energy and climate solutions for a circular economy, global value chains and circular trade, as well as shared mobility and circular solutions for reducing marine plastic waste. In addition, WCEF2018 will discuss the experience of Japan in becoming a leading circular economy nation, and Japan’s best practices for bringing the private and public sectors together. WCEF is the global initiative of Finland and the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, and brings together more than 1,000 business leaders, policymakers and experts to discuss how businesses can seize new opportunities and gain a competitive advantage through circular economy solutions, as well as how the circular economy contributes to achieving the SDGs.  dates: 22-24 October 2018  location: Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan  www:

GCOS Science Day: The Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) Science Day aims at informing the regional and national community on activities related to systematic climate observations and their relevance to pressing environmental concerns. The 2018 edition will focus on local actions with regard to climate observations, science and adaptation in the Arctic region. The event will consist of four sessions: GCOS activities in global and regional contexts; the Arctic now and tomorrow; science-based information for decision-makers; and climate change observing initiatives. GCOS is co-sponsored by the World Meteorological Organization, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, the International Council for Science and the UN Environment Programme.  date: 22 October 2018  location: Helsinki, Finland  www:  

14th Meeting of the UNFCCC Adaptation Committee: The 14th meeting of the UNFCCC Adaptation Committee will convene in Bonn, Germany. It seeks to promote the implementation of enhanced action on adaptation through, inter alia: providing technical support and guidance to Parties; sharing relevant information, knowledge, experience and good practices; promoting synergy and strengthening engagement between national, regional and international organizations, centers and networks; drawing on adaptation good practices, providing information and recommendations for consideration by the Conference of the Parties (COP) relating to finance, technology and capacity-building; and considering information communicated by Parties on their monitoring and review of adaptation actions, as well as support provided and received.  dates: 24-26 October 2018  location: Bonn, Germany  www:

Our Ocean Conference 2018: The fifth Our Ocean Conference will focus on the theme, ‘Our Ocean, Our Legacy,’ with participants reflecting on choices and actions to maintain the sustainability of ocean resources and to preserve ocean health, as a heritage presented for our children and grandchildren. The Our Ocean Conference is focused on generating commitments and taking actions to maintain the sustainability of our oceans. Since 2014, the Our Ocean Conferences have generated commitments totaling around USD18 billion and 12.4 million square kilometers of marine protected areas. The 2018 Conference will introduce the Our Ocean Commitment Registry, which will serve to facilitate the tracking and review of past and new commitments. This fifth edition of the Conference is the first to be held in Asia, and will feature a focus on action in the region.  dates: 29-30 October 2018  location: Bali, Jakarta Raya, Indonesia  www:

13th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (COP13): The 13th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (COP13) will take place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, from 21-29 October 2018. The meeting will consider progress in the implementation of the Convention, share knowledge and experience on technical issues, and plan for the next triennium. The agenda includes, among other items: regional initiatives, the status of existing Ramsar sites, guidance on identifying Ramsar sites for global climate change regulation, and the restoration of degraded peatlands.  dates: 21-29 October 2018   location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates  contact: Ramsar Convention Secretariat  e-mail:  

2018 UN Biodiversity Conference: The 14th meeting of the CBD Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the 9th Meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and the 3rd Meeting of the Parties to the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-sharing (CBD COP 14, Cartagena Protocol COP/MOP 9, and Nagoya Protocol COP/MOP 3) are expected to address a series of issues related to the implementation of the Convention and its Protocols. A High-Level Segment is expected to convene from 14-15 November 2018. The CBD COP 14 and COP/MOPs are expected to meet in parallel from 17-29 November 2018.  dates: 14-29 November 2018  location: Sharm el-Sheikh, South Sinai, Egypt contact: CBD Secretariat  phone: +1-514-288-2220  e-mail:  www:

Katowice Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC COP 24): The Katowice Climate Change Conference will include the 24th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 24) to the UNFCCC, along with meetings of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice, the Subsidiary Body for Implementation, and the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement. COP 24 is expected to finalize the rules for implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change under the Paris Agreement Work Programme. A High-Level Ministerial Dialogue on Climate Finance is expected to be held in conjunction with COP 24.  dates: 2-14 December 2018  location: Katowice, Slaskie, Poland contact: UNFCCC Secretariat  phone: (49-228) 815-1000  fax: (49-228) 815-1999  e-mail:  www:  


Further information