Arctic black carbon work hampered by U.S. and Russia, says Finland

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HELSINKI (Reuters) - The Arctic region’s co-operation in the battle against global warming by reducing black carbon emissions is being hampered by the United States and Russia, the Finnish foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

Black carbon, the soot produced by burning fossil fuels and biomass, is an atmospheric pollutant that is particularly problematic in the Arctic region, where it darkens snow and ice, making them retain more warmth and melt faster.

“The United States has pulled out from joint reduction targets and Russia has not submitted its national calculations on black carbon emissions,” the Finnish foreign ministry said ahead of the Arctic Council’s meeting in Finland over May 6-7, which U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to attend.

Finland holds the rotating chairmanship of the Arctic Council, which also includes Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States.

The council coordinates Arctic policy and is gaining clout as sea ice thaws and opens up new trade routes, intensifying competition for its oil, gas and mineral resources while also putting its fragile ecosystem at risk.

“About one third of warming in the Arctic is caused by black carbon emissions of the Arctic Council members,” the Finnish foreign ministry’s statement said, adding that the majority of its member states had lowered their black carbon emissions.

Two years ago at the council’s previous ministerial meeting in Alaska, the member countries agreed to cut their black carbon emissions to 25-33 percent below 2013 levels by 2025.

Pompeo is expected to attend the May meeting in Finland in a show of Washington’s commitment to the region amid growing U.S. concern about China’s interests there.

China became an observer member of the Arctic Council in 2013 and last year outlined its ambitions to extend President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road Initiative to the Arctic by developing shipping lanes opened up by global warming.

Reporting by Tarmo Virki and Anne Kauranen; Editing by David Goodman