Profound changes are taking place in the Arctic, and a central driver is climate change. It is rapidly occurring in the Arctic, melting sea ice and reshaping the social and political environment into a landscape of new challenges and opportunities. As a result, the Arctic Council, the region’s preeminent high-level forum, is evolving and reassessing its focus.
According to an agenda-setting perspective, the hierarchy of different issues on political agendas varies over time. Agenda-setting is a political process where stakeholders compete for the attention of decision-makers and media. Agenda-setting explains how growing public awareness helps elevate issues to the top of the political agenda. The Arctic Council is an environmental regime and an international regional institution which provides added value by producing information about significant environmental challenges. The evolution of the Arctic Council can be mostly explained by its growing understanding about the state of the Arctic environment and the most salient phenomena facing the region. This development can be analyzed in Arctic Council deliverables. The primary sources for these include the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS) and Arctic Council ministerial meeting Declarations (1991-2019) and selected scientific reports produced by the Arctic Council Working Groups. In this article I analyze how environmental questions were adopted into Arctic politics, concentrating on how climate change was incorporated into the agenda of the Arctic Council.