The Arctic Council is a high-level forum for cooperation, coordination and interaction between Arctic states, indigenous communities and other Arctic residents, which addresses sustainable development, safety and environmental issues.
The Arctic Council consists of six working groups:
- Arctic Contaminants Action Program (ACAP),
- Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme Working Group (AMAP),
- Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF),
- Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG),
- Emergency Prevention, Preparedness, Response Working Group (EPPR), and
- Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment Working Group (PAME).
These groups carry out scientific work and studies for the Arctic Council.
ACAP deals with pollution risks in the Arctic by reducing the emissions of pollutants. It encourages the Arctic State Governments to take action to prevent and reduce the release of contaminants.
AMAP provides information on the Arctic environment, and threats to it. It provides scientific advice to Arctic State Governments on actions to improve the Arctic environment.
CAFF studies the Arctic biodiversity and its conservation, and communicates the results to the governments, researchers, and the general public.
The SDWG works to assist the economies, cultures and inhabitants of the Arctic. Five areas of special importance that the SDWG has identified are: health issues and the well being of people living in the Arctic; sustainable economic activities and increasing community prosperity; education and cultural heritage; management of natural resources (including living resources); and infrastructure development.
The EPPR is a non-operational group. It aims: to protect the Arctic environment from accidental release of pollutants from activities, to promote sustainable development, and assist in preparations for responses to natural disasters in the Arctic. The objectives of the EPPR are: to improve prevention measures aimed at reducing accidents, to improve emergency preparedness programs at local, national, regional, and international levels, and to improve response capabilities. Through the EPPR, Transport Canada works with other Arctic Countries to coordinate prevention, preparedness, and response regarding environmental emergencies.
PAME protects the Arctic marine environment from land and sea-based activities through policies, and non-emergency pollution prevention and control measures. Transport Canada is working with PAME, Finland, and the United States to lead the Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment (AMSA). AMSA will provide an overview of shipping in the Arctic, and projected levels of shipping in the years 2020 and 2050. There will be a study of potential impacts of shipping at current and projected levels of activity, economic development scenarios, and risks, such as the possibility of increased ice hazards. The final report is to be presented to the sixth Arctic Council Ministerial in 2009. Transport Canada is gathering information through the Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment Questionnaire.