The Arctic's unique role in influencing the global climate

Anchorage, Alaska, 31. august 2015

Foreign Minister Børge Brende's speech at the Glacier Conference, Session 1 in Anchorage on 31 August.

Foreign Minister Børge Brende's speech at the Glacier Conference in Anchorage, Alaska 31 August. Credit: Kristin Enstad, MFA, Oslo

Let me start by thanking you, John, for inviting us to this important conference.

Temperatures in the Arctic are rising 2-3 times faster than the global average.

The consequences are dramatic.

I came here directly from Svalbard with Bert (Koenders), where we witnessed this with our own eyes:

  • We saw how the glaciers are receding.
  • We have lost 50 % of the ice coverage in the Barents Sea since 1980.
  • The Arctic summer ice cap could vanish completely by 2050.
  • These changes are a call for action:
  • They should give momentum to the international negotiations,
  • And they should inspire us to reach a strong agreement in Paris later this year.

If we succeed, this could be the most important agreement in our time.

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The melting of Arctic snow and ice is not only a threat to traditional livelihoods and polar bears.

The Arctic is a global cooling system, holding back 7 meters of sea-level rise in ice caps.

Arctic permafrost also holds vast amounts of carbon, which will be released if thawed.

In other words, Arctic warming is amplifying and accelerating the Global warming that is causing unprecedented damage to our planet:

  • Food production may be cut in half in North Africa and Latin America.
  • South Asia and small island states will be hard hit by rising sea levels and extreme weather events.
  • Africa and the Middle East could experience even more severe droughts.

Climate change is also one of the gravest security challenges of our time. The livelihoods, wellbeing and safety of hundreds of millions of people are at risk.

Dear colleagues, coal miners used to bring canary birds to give them a warning when trouble was brewing.

When it comes to climate change, the Arctic is our "canary in the mine".

The changes we see in the Arctic command us to act.

The time to act is now.

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Many nations have made important commitments prior to the Paris meeting.

The agreement between the US and China is encouraging.

But the reality remains unchanged: The sum of our national commitments will not be sufficient to reach the two-degree target.

This underlines the need for strong provisions in the Paris agreement to repeatedly strengthen our commitments over time.

Norway has committed to reducing national greenhouse gas emissions with at least 40% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.

Norway was among the first countries to tax CO2 emissions, and we are developing new technologies for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS).

And we have a holistic approach to assisting developing countries mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Mobilizing climate finance is key:

  • Norway has pledged USD 258 million to the Green Climate Fund.
  • Every year, we invest more than 150 million USD in renewable energy in developing countries.
  • We assist developing countries in reducing subsidies to fossil fuels.
  • And we allocate 375 million US dollars annually to end tropical deforestation.

We will continue to be in the forefront of these efforts.

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Sufficient and sustained reductions in CO2 emissions remains the greatest challenge to reach the two-degree target.

However, in the short and medium term, efforts to reducing emissions of short-lived climate pollutants are essential.

In April, the Arctic Council adopted a framework to reduce emissions from methane and soot. This an excellent example of what we can do regionally.

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The Arctic matters. That's why we are here.

The rapid changes in the Arctic have global implications, and they demand coordinated and global responses.

We need to make even better use of established meeting places, like the Arctic Council.

And we must support new initiatives, such as the "Oil and Gas Methane Partnership" under the Climate and Clean Air Coalition.

I would like to commend our hosts, the US government, for taking the initiative to this conference.

By putting the spotlight on the Arctic, this conference provides a great opportunity for us to lead the way towards a strong agreement in Paris later this year.

Because the Arctic is more than a place, it is an inspiration. Let the Arctic inspire us to inject new momentum into the climate negotiations and our efforts to curb global warming.

Thank you.