Norwegian Chairship launches initiative to address wildland fires in the Arctic

Alaska Fire Service Photo
Lockwood Fire, Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, 2015.

The Norwegian Chairship of the Arctic Council (2023-2025) launched a Wildland Fires Initiative during the Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavik, Iceland. The initiative aims to increase circumpolar collaboration and make information on wildland fires in the Arctic more readily accessible through public panels and outreach campaigns that will span across the Norwegian Chairship term.

Wildland Fires in the Arctic

Wildland fires are a critical environmental concern with far-reaching ecological, social, cultural and economic implications. Record-breaking fire activity in 2023 intensified attention and concern on the growing threat of wildland fires across the circumpolar Arctic. Wildland fires across the Northern hemisphere have notably increased in frequency, severity and area across the Arctic over the past several years.

“Wildland fires are a growing emergency, and a prime example of why we need circumpolar cooperation. Wildland fires, their smoke and their impacts to communities, ecosystems and the climate are transboundary,” said Morten Høglund, Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials of the Arctic Council. “Under Norway’s leadership, we want to ensure that our attention is turned towards better understanding the causes and impacts of wildland fires on Arctic ecosystems and communities. It is important to the Arctic States – and the rest of the world – to find solutions. We regard this as an important offering for our climate’s future.”

About the Wildland Fires Initiative

The Norwegian Chairship Wildland Fires Initiative will provide an information sharing platform to pool together the collective expertise, experiences and resources on wildland fires from the Arctic Council’s Indigenous Permanent Participants, Working Groups and Observers, as well as relevant external actors. The initiative aims to identify knowledge gaps and best practices, enhance knowledge generation and sharing and improve the understanding of wildland fires from an Arctic and climate change perspective.

Expected outcomes include a publication on the state of Arctic wildland fires, a set of recommendations to Arctic States and a comprehensive compendium on wildland fires. The Chairship initiative was designed and will be implemented in close collaboration with Gwich’in Council International (GCI) and Arctic Council Working Groups Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response (EPPR), Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) and the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP), with support from the Arctic Council Secretariat.

The Arctic Council has been working extensively on wildland fires over the past years (get an overview here). The new Chairship initiative will enable the findings from these activities and projects to be shared within the Arctic Council and beyond as a cross-cutting issue. “As we are facing an accelerating emergency, we need a comprehensive overview of the best available knowledge that is both accessible and actionable,” stated Morten Høglund.

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