PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A forum about Arctic diplomacy slated to take place in Maine's largest city will focus on issues like climate change and shipping, and put a spotlight on its host, organizers said.
The Arctic Council's Senior Arctic Officials meeting will take place in Portland from Oct. 4-6. Officials from the council's eight member nations, including the United States, and a host of non-governmental organizations will assemble for the midweek event.
The event will also likely focus on the Arctic's indigenous groups and energy issues, said U.S. Ambassador for Oceans and Fisheries David Balton, who will lead the meeting. Balton said the event is the first time the council has held such a meeting on U.S. soil outside Alaska or Washington, D.C.
It's a big moment for Maine, Balton said. It reflects that U.S. is sending a message that it is an Arctic nation whose interests extend outside far outside of Alaska, and that Maine is a big piece of the puzzle, he said.
"In the state of Maine, it's a way to demonstrate that our issues in the Arctic could very well affect your state," Balton said.
The State Department selected Portland to host the forum. There isn't a formal agenda, but climate change is sure to be a key focus, Balton said. Leaders of the eight nations will discuss what the countries can do to implement pieces of the Paris Agreement, a global-warming accord adopted by consensus last year, he said.
Dana Eidsness, director of the Maine North Atlantic Development Office, said holding the council meeting in Maine illustrates the state's "long history with the Arctic and our contributions in climate science and ocean ecosystem studies" through entities like Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences and the University of Maine.
The other member nations of the Arctic Council are Canada, Russia, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Iceland and Denmark. Each country appoints a senior arctic official to the council. America's official is Julia Gourley, who made an appearance in Portland this month.