Statement at High North Dialogue

Bodø, 18 March 2015

- It is of global importance that the Arctic also remains a region of peaceful cooperation, respect for international law and sustainable management of resources, said State Secretary Bård Glad Pedersen in his statement at the conference High North Dialogue in the city of  Bodø.

Ladies and gentlemen, friends of the High North

It's a pleasure to be back in Bodø.

Perhaps it is even particularly exciting this time around.

(Things have happened since I was last here.) Recently the decision was made to examine alternative locations of the airstrip here in Bodø.

This opens up for a lot of possibilities.

The city now seems teaming with confidence and entrepreneurial spirit, with local authorities and business keen to expand the city's capacity as the regional capital.

Indeed, developments are under way that could make Bodø a locomotive for development of northern Norway, as a whole.

Already Bodø is an important hub for search and rescue preparedness in northern Norway.

The services provided by The Joint Rescue Coordination Centre here in Bodø mean basic safety and security to citizens and businesses, on shore and at sea.

This real sense of security, is a basic prerequisite for social and economic development to happen.

Spanning almost a third of the Norwegian coastline, Nordland has it all: Energy, metals, food, an export oriented economy, amazing nature and, might I add, amazing people, many of whom are gathered here today.

The University of Nordland and the High North Centre for Business and Governance are outstanding providers of yet another basic condition for progress - knowledge.

The Indeks Nordland survey tells us that Nordland stands for 67 percent of export from North Norway.

It is the second largest county in Norway when it comes to fish export, exporting to the amount of 9,4 billion kroner last year.

Export of metals and chemical products surpassed 13 billion last year.

Indeed, Nordland is among the regions with the largest potential for value creation based on maritime resources, minerals, tourism and renewable energy.

In order to realize this potential, research and knowledge is key.

It is only by bringing together bright heads that we can produce the bright ideas we need in order to take the High North and indeed the whole world forward.

I commend the University of Nordland for organizing the High North Dialogue for the ninth year in a row and for all the effort you make to foster dialogue between various stakeholders in the Arctic.

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Ladies and Gentlemen, we live in a time of geopolitical change.

As economic and political influence is moving east and south, eyes are increasingly turning to the north, too.

With good reason.

The challenges, first and foremost climate change, demand that we act responsibly in developing the Arctic.

The opportunities – within everything from the fisheries to advanced bio-technology - require that we have a long term perspective in managing the Arctic.

The solutions we have found in the Arctic have ensured peace and cooperation. These are prerequisites for business, development and prosperity.

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The Arctic in an altered security policy landscape

The Arctic is a region of peaceful cooperation, stability, respect for international law and sustainable management of resources.

Some people have suggested that current geopolitical tensions could spill over and pose a challenge to the peace and stability that characterise the region.

Russia

Exactly one year ago today, Russia announced the annexation of Crimea, a part of Ukraine.

Together with our partners and allies, Norway is standing firm in defence of international law in the face of Russia's conduct in Ukraine.

Norway has a long history of constructive neighbourly cooperation with Russia, but Russia's violations of international law in Ukraine have unavoidably affected our bilateral relations.

Norway has implemented restrictive measures against Russia that are identical to those of the EU.

We have also suspended our military cooperation and scaled down political contact in a number of areas.

This approach is also important in the context of the Arctic.

Respect for international law and international cooperation are crucial for promoting stability and predictability in the north.

These fundamental values will always be at the core of Norway's efforts.

It is in our interest to maintain constructive relations with Russia – but the responsibility for improving the current situation rests with Moscow.

As neighbours and Arctic coastal states, Norway and Russia have many challenges in common.

We thus continue our cooperation in crucial areas such as joint management of fish stocks, environmental protection, nuclear safety, search and rescue, maritime safety, and Coast Guard and Border Guard activities.

We also wish to continue cooperation with Russia in the Arctic Council and other regional forums.

It is in everyone's interests that the Arctic remains a

peaceful and stable region.

This is of crucial importance for economic development in the whole region.

  • It is important for the global environment.
  • It is important for global nutrition.
  • It is important for research and innovation.
  • And, it is important for international peace and security.

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Traditional security policy

The peace and stability that characterise the Arctic is not least due to a modern and comprehensive approach to traditional security policy.

For Norway's part, our NATO membership has compensated for the lack of symmetry between Norway and its larger neighbour, Russia.

It has provided a fundament of security and predictability that has enabled Norwegian society to concentrate efforts on development and prosperity.

It has made it easier to cooperate with Moscow.

Having a robust and predictable defence does not prevent cooperation – it enables it.

International cooperation

In addition to security policy in the classical sense, stability in the Arctic is also based on cross-border cooperation and a whole range of other factors.

The commitment of Norway, Canada, Russia, Denmark and the US to the Law of the Sea is preventing a free-for-all race for resources.

Established legal framework is in place so that overlapping claims to the continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean can be settled without conflict.

Clear borders make cooperation easier, and conflict less likely.

This highlights the crucial importance of international law for peace, stability and economic growth.

And it is a good example of the way in which adherence to agreed principles benefit small countries and great powers alike.

In other regions of the world too, all parties to maritime and other territorial disputes should see that it is in their interest to follow the Arctic example.

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Arctic Council

In addition to a legal framework that all Arctic stakeholders adhere to, security and prosperity also depend on well-functioning political institutions to address Arctic issues.

The Arctic Council, which has been strengthened in recent years, is crucial in this respect.

The Council produces groundbreaking reports on the Arctic. Its extensive work on climate change has been particularly important.

The Arctic states have shown that they are able to find new solutions in response to new challenges.

In line with our national effort to boost economic growth in the north, we welcome the establishment of the Arctic Economic Council.

We honour the work of the Canadian chairmanship of the Council.

Climate change and security policy

Ladies and gentlemen, climate change is the greatest challenge of our time.

Climate change is the main driver of change in the Arctic.

The Arctic summer ice cap is likely to completely vanish within few decades.

Last month, sea ice vanished in huge areas North of Svalbard and in the northern Barents Sea, instead of expanding as is normal this time of the year.

2015 could be an all-time minimum for late winter, likely to be followed by record little ice the coming summer.

The Arctic is a barometer of global climate change.

The global effects of changes observed in the north are alarming.

The melting of the polar ice sheet will cause sea levels to rise, accelerate global warming and probably change monsoon weather patterns.

Increasingly, researchers and governments are paying attention also to the security political effects of climate changes.

In fact, in a report from last October, the Pentagon asserts decisively that climate change poses an immediate threat to US national security, with increased risks from terrorism, infectious disease, global poverty and food shortages.

As a coastal nation with an economy based partly on traditional resource management, as an attractive country for climate refugees and an active international actor, climate change poses security challenges, also to Norway.

2015 will be a decisive year.

The fate of the Arctic environment – and the pace of global climate change – depends on our ability to reach an agreement at the Climate Change Conference in Paris.

There are considerable costs involved in solving the climate crisis today.

But these are nothing compared to what it will cost if we wait another ten years.

Sustainable growth

A stable and prosperous Arctic is a region in which people and businesses thrive in a sustainable manner.

Our aim is to make the north one of the most innovative regions of Norway, promoting growth and prosperity based on knowledge and science.

In North Norway, there is considerable potential in the maritime sector, the seafood industry, oil and gas, the mineral industry, tourism, space technology, and many other areas.

Let me give you an example:

In 2013, the cod quota in the Barents Sea was at a record high of 1 million tonnes, with an export value of nearly USD 1 billion.

From 2013 to 2014 the export value of Norwegian cod and cod species increased by 20 %.

We see great potential for even further substantial growth in years to come.

The Government wants to improve the profitability of the seafood industry and facilitate predictable growth in the aquaculture industry, within a science based and environmentally sustainable framework.

If managed sustainably our oceans can be a source of food security for ours, and future generations to come.

Energy

Let me dwell for a moment on the issue of Arctic energy.

The Arctic holds enormous amounts of energy resources.

It is still expected that global demand for energy will increase by 35–40 % over the next 20 years.

At the same time, production from existing fields will fall and the need for new fields will increase.

The share of fossil fuels in the energy mix will remain substantial for many years to come, also under a 2 degree Celsius scenario.

As the least harmful of the fossil fuels, natural gas can and should play a central role in our transition to a low-carbon future.

For that reason, it is safe to assume that Arctic gas will have its day.

The key challenge will be to strike the right balance between utilisation and protection.

The Norwegian oil and gas industry operate under the strictest environmental and security standards in the world, and it has done so for decades.

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Opportunities in the High North are plenty.

By giving priority to business development, knowledge development, infrastructure and environmental and emergency preparedness my governments want to boost development in our part of the Arctic.

Similarly, our Nordic neighbours are investing in the High North.

Close cooperation is important for us all to reach this goal.

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Conclusion

Ladies and gentlemen, friends of the High North

The Arctic states have worked together on managing resources, creating jobs, preventing accidents and addressing climate change.

As we move forward, we must continue to be guided by knowledge, cooperation and respect for universal principles.

As we recently have seen, we cannot take continued progress or security for granted. Hard work and long-term commitment are required.

The Arctic is a region of challenges, opportunities and solutions – solutions that can be an inspiration for other regions.

It is of global importance that the Arctic also remains a region of peaceful cooperation, respect for international law and sustainable management of resources.

It is only with these elements at the core that societies and businesses in the Arctic can develop and prosper.