Meeting of the Parties 2011

The PBSG delegation: PBSG chair Dag Vongraven (right), and senior members Ian Stirling (middle) and Steve Amstrup (left). The delegates of the 2011 Iqaluit Meeting of the Parties.

A third Meeting of the Parties, the second since 1981, was held in Iqaluit, Canada, the capital of the territory of Nunavut, Canada, October 24-26, 2011.

After a successful meeting in Tromsø, Norway, in 2009, hopes were high that the Parties would agree upon steps needed to mitigate the effects of climate warming and reduction of sea ice habitat on polar bears. Progress toward climate change mitigation was limited, however, because of Canada's official position regarding anthropogenic climate change, and because the US delegation chose not to support a statement on this topic. Also, the government of Nunavut, the Canadian territory that harvests polar bears from 13 of 19 polar bear subpopulations, is sometimes at odds with scientific conclusions about polar bear ecology and numbers and the threats of warming induced sea ice loss.

Two issues dominated the agenda, the Circumpolar Action Plan (CAP), and the Circumpolar Monitoring Plan (CMP). The delegates at the 2009 Tromso meeting agreed to develop national action plans, and later to develop a circumpolar action plan to be agreed on in Russia in 2013. The PBSG provided general comments on a draft table of contents for the CAP in June 2011, and provided a draft CAP science chapter for inclusion in the plan. The monitoring plan originally was developed as an independent project within CAFF (Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna), a working group within the Arctic Council, and funded by the US Marine Mammal Commission. CAFF did not accept the plan, however, because of lack of support from Canada and Greenland. In Iqaluit, the Parties expressed gratitude to CAFF for the plan development completed to that point, and requested that further development of a plan be pursued by the PBSG as independent scientific adviser to the Parties. The Parties also requested that PBSG suggest which elements of the CMP should be a part of the CAP. Because of their wide scope and detail, the monitoring and action plans will be essential to facilitate coordinated, efficient and focused actions to conserve polar bears worldwide.

The next meeting is to be held in Russia in 2013, although the Russian delegates could not officially sanction this at the meeting.

PBSG delegation member Steve Amstrup presented a strong and compelling message on climate warming where he focused on arguments against normal misconceptions about anthropogenic climate change. Delegation member Ian Stirling followed with specific examples of how climate warming is already having negative effects on polar bears in Western Hudson Bay and projections of future consequences

Read the final outcome report from the meeting, and visit the meeting website (username: polarbear, password: Canada2011) for more information.