Arctic Frontiers 2015

Published under: Solberg's Government

Publisher Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Tromsø, 19 January 2015

'The overall goal for Norway’s Arctic policy is to ensure that the Arctic remains an area of peace, stability and international cooperation, said Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende at Arctic Frontiers.

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Dear friends of the Arctic,

  • The overall goal for Norway’s Arctic policy is to ensure that the Arctic remains an area of peace, stability and international cooperation.
  • As the geopolitical map is shifting, the international community is increasingly looking to the East and South.
  • China is already the world’s second largest economy. Seven of the ten fastest growing economies in the world are in Africa.

 

  • At the same time, natural resources, new trade routes and increased human activity have provided new opportunities in the north.
  • This has led to increased international interest.
  • We can see this clearly in Norway too. When I started in politics, many of us had the feeling that politicians in the north were looking to the south. Now we are definitely looking to the north.
  • The Arctic Frontiers conference is a response to the increased international interest in the region.
  • With 1400 participants from over 30 countries, Arctic Frontiers has established itself as the key annual meeting place for discussing the Arctic. The conference reflects the importance of the Arctic.
  • It is a pleasure to be here.

 

  • In this rapidly changing world, our ability to respond adequately is being tested, time and again.
  • However, what should not be changing are our common values and principles. These values have brought us far.
  • World trade is eight times what it was in 1970. Extreme poverty has been reduced by two thirds. Never before have so many people experienced prosperity.

 

  • Let us continue to uphold these values. Democracy. Human rights. The rule of law. Trade. Cooperation.

 

  • In the Arctic, too, these values and principles have served us well.
  • It is crucial that we make sure that they continue to do so.

 

  • 10 % of Norway’s population lives north of the Arctic Circle.
  • 80 % of our sea areas are located north of the Arctic Circle.
  • As a nation of seafarers and fishermen, Norwegians have always lived off the sea.
  • Polar exploration is an integral part of our national identity. 80 % of maritime traffic in the Arctic passes through Norwegian waters.
  • Almost 90 % of our export revenues come from resources and economic activity and in our sea areas. Our long coastline, traditions and innovation go hand in hand.
  • The people of the North are crucial for our High North policy.
  • Indigenous peoples of the north, represented here by the president of the Sámediggi (Sami parliament), Aili Keskitalo, have an important role to play. Thank you, madam president, for your inspirational words.

 

  • For Norway, the High North remains a key foreign policy priority.
  • Peace, stability and international cooperation are needed to ensure value creation and sustainable development in the Arctic.

 

  • Successful international cooperation depends on a robust and predictable legal and institutional framework. This is clearly the case in the Arctic.
  • The Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) provides a legal framework for the sea areas, with a firm basis in the UN. This should not be questioned, and certainly not in the Arctic.
  • Clear and indisputable borders make cooperation easier.
  • In addition to a legal framework that all Arctic stakeholders adhere to, we need well-functioning institutions to address Arctic issues.
  • The Arctic Council, which has been strengthened over the last few years, is crucial.
  • Establishing the secretariat of the Arctic Council here in Tromsø was part of this development.  
  • The Arctic Council is producing results. Its comprehensive reports and studies of climate change in the Arctic have been of major importance.
  •  The reports have proven beyond doubt that climate change is taking place at a fast rate, with serious and far-reaching consequences.
  • New challenges have been met by concluding legally binding agreements between the Arctic states.
  • In these agreements, we have addressed important issues such as search and rescue cooperation and marine oil pollution in the Arctic.

 

  • We look forward to the forthcoming US chairmanship of the Arctic Council and to hearing your aspirations.

 

  • I know that we share an interest in – and enthusiasm for – the Arctic. I know how much Secretary Kerry cares about the region. And more importantly, we adhere to the same values and principles.
  • We welcome the US priorities for the forthcoming chairmanship period.
  • I can assure you that we will do our part to make it a success.
  • It is of great benefit to the Arctic states that non-Arctic states are also showing interest in the region.
  • The Arctic has become an arena for cooperation between Europe, North America and Asia. This is a new and interesting development, which is easy to see here at the Arctic Frontiers conference, as well as in Ny Ålesund, where researchers from all countries are working side by side.
  • It presents us with new opportunities.

 

  • In order to meet the increased international interest in the Arctic, we need robust regional development in the north, based on knowledge and innovation.

 

  • Despite the obvious challenges of a harsh climate, long distances and a sparse population, the Norwegian Arctic is experiencing a higher level of economic growth than the rest of the country. I am happy to say.

 

  • This region is expecting a 6–7 % growth in exports in the coming year.
  • The Norwegian Government aims to promote sustainable business development in the north.

 

  • We will target industries with growth potential, like the maritime sector, the seafood industry, the mineral industry, tourism, space technology and of course the oil and gas and fisheries sectors.
  • Space technology is one area in which the region is already a world leader, and several research centres in North Norway make up the Norwegian space research cluster.
  • Our aim is to make North Norway one of the most innovative regions in the world, with growth and prosperity based on knowledge and science.
  • The region has always been a stronghold of traditional knowledge, gained from people’s experience of living close to nature.
  • We want to build on existing experience and expertise when developing scientific institutions and cooperation in North Norway, for instance in cooperation with the university here.
  • The number of doctorates completed in the Arctic and focusing on the Arctic has doubled in recent years. These doctorates are increasingly producing innovative solutions that can be used all over the world.

 

  • The Arctic Council should also cooperate with the business sector.
  • We warmly welcome the establishment of the Arctic Economic Council, and the proposal to open a secretariat for the Council here in Tromsø.

 

  • In order to secure sustainable economic growth in the north, responsible resource management is key. We must make sure that both new and traditional industries can live side by side.

 

  • In other words, the fisheries sector and oil and gas activities must be able to coexist. The last few decades have shown us that this is possible.
  • Norway takes an ecosystem- and science-based approach to resource management.

 

  • The global demand for energy will increase by 35–40 % over the next 20 years, according to the International Energy Agency. The demand for energy will grow immensely in developing countries. Without electricity, there can be no development, no economic growth.
  • As the Arctic becomes more accessible, we will be able to produce more energy. However, this should always be done in accordance with the highest environmental standards, and always with the goal of achieving a low-carbon economy.
  • Norway is the largest producer of natural gas in Western Europe. This gas will play a crucial role in the transition from fossil fuels to renewables. Natural gas can also replace nuclear power.

 

  • The Arctic is severely affected by climate change.
  • In the long term, the fate of the Arctic environment – and the pace of global climate change – depend on our collective efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Over the last 100 years, temperatures in the Arctic have been rising twice as fast as the global average.
  • In September 2012, the extent of the Arctic sea ice was at a record low.

 

  • The Arctic Ocean will probably become virtually ice-free in this century.
  • Over the last two decades, the Arctic ice sheets have been losing mass.
  • Almost all glaciers worldwide have continued to shrink. 

 

  • We know that what happens in the Arctic will not only affect the Arctic.
  • The global effects of the climate change observed in the Arctic are serious.

 

  • This year is going to be important when it comes to environmental issues and climate change. International efforts to reach a new climate agreement will culminate at the Climate Change Conference in Paris at the end of this year.

 

  • The changes taking place in the Arctic are a call for action.
  • They should give momentum to the international negotiations.

 

  • The Arctic is a barometer of global climate change.
  • I believe that foreign ministers have an important role to play in this context. That is why Foreign Minister Fabius of France and I will call a meeting in Paris in March focusing on how the Arctic can provide inspiration for the negotiations to reach a new international climate agreement.
  • I hope the Arctic experience will contribute to spurring the world into action.

 

  • To conclude I would like to quote the Norwegian polar icon Fridtjof Nansen, an inspiration to Norwegian foreign ministers for more than a century.
  • Nansen takes us to the core of Norway’s approach to the Arctic:
  • “The great thing in human life is not so much where we stand as in what direction we are moving.”
  • As we move forward in the Arctic, we must be guided by knowledge, responsibility, international cooperation and respect for universal values and principles.