This second meeting 2020 of Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response Working Group (EPPR) was held online in January 2021 as a consequence of the current COVID-19 situation. This meeting was, following the trend of EPPR-I 2020, highly marked by the analysis of each Arctic State’s response to the COVID-19 situation in the related fields of safety, emergency response and environmental protection. Other highlights are the approval of deliverables for the Reykjavik Ministerial Meeting 2021, the preparation for the Russian chairmanship of the Arctic Council, the discussion of the Arctic Guardian tabletop exercise that was held online on October 27th and the organisation of the future Arctic Guardian exercise to be held on April 2021 jointly with the Arctic Coast Guard Forum.
Regarding the state of EPPR projects, the COVID-19 situation had an impact on the development of the current and new projects. However, considerable advancement has been made in all the expert groups. Regarding the recently created Radiation Expert Group (RAD EG), a report has been provided regarding radiological/nuclear risk assessment in the Arctic and is paving the way towards emergency, preparedness and response in radiological/nuclear emergency scenarios. A phase III has been approved for the project “Prevention, Preparedness and Response in Small Communities”, where traditional knowledge and the role of local communities is crucial in preventing and responding to an accident. The “Circumpolar Wildland Fire Project”, led by the Gwich’In Council International, will provide its first deliverable for the ministerial meeting and continue working with the Arctic States, Permanent Participants and several observers such as Spain. Furthermore, several recent initiatives are underway, such as the Oil Spill R&D Initiative and the Arctic Lessons Learned Arena, which aims at enhancing first response, prevention and safety in Arctic operations and are developing online tools for broad outreach.
Norway remains a very active member, holding the leadership for several projects related with oil spill, fate and behavior, as well as risk management for Arctic shipping, and is holding the chairmanship of the RAD EG. In this sense, they have materialized alongside the Norwegian Coastal Administration and DNV GL Class Society the “Arctic Marine Risk Assessment Guideline Web Solution”, which is a deliverable for the Ministerial meeting.
Furthermore, updates regarding the Norilsk diesel spill response have been provided, highlighting the set-up protocol and the current state of the situation that is in the final phase of clean up. The Russian Federation shared further recommendations and best practices to promote capacity building within the auspices of the EPPR Working Group and mentioned the time response as one of the greatest challenges being faced due to remoteness.
The EPPR Chair and the Delegation of Canada addressed a particular welcome to the observers and the EPPR Working Group kindly invited a broader engagement and participation from the different observers. Finally, IASC salutes Jens Peter Holst-Andersen’s work as a chair and welcomes warmly Kathy Nghiem (Canada) as the new Chair for the next two years. Canada holds, as well, the chair of the Marine Environmental Response (MER) EG.