Speech/statement | Date: 10/11/2023 | Office of the Prime Minister
By Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre (Paris, France)
Why is polar research so important? The polar regions act as our global cooling system. Sea and ice levels at the poles have implications for the global carbon cycle, weather patterns, biodiversity and human livelihoods worldwide, said Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre.
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Monsieur le Président, Excellences, Mesdames et Messieurs,
La Norvège est une nation polaire. – Cet une partie importante de notre identité, nos perspectives, nos ressources et nos opportunités. – Le monde vu du nord.
The Arctic is not a remote wilderness. It is a modern region where people live and work. For Norway the Arctic represents great challenges and opportunities. Above the Arctic Circle you find more than one third of Norway’s mainland and almost 10 percent of our population. Two days ago, I spoke to 400 business people in Bodø, one of the thriving cities in the Norwegian far north.
Norway is also an Antarctic nation. Our scientists carry out extensive research activities there – as they do in the Arctic.
We have a long tradition of polar exploration and scientific discovery. Fridtjof Nansen and Roald Amundsen are among our most well-known explorers. Amundsen was the first to reach the South Pole. Both men and their teams had extensive first-hand experience of polar conditions. They also drew on the knowledge of indigenous populations in the Arctic. – On how to adapt, how to use their knowledge, and how to survive.
Let me briefly highlight three points.
Firstly, about research.
Today, Norway has world-leading institutions and scientists that specialise in the polar regions and in glaciers, ice and frozen water in general. A number of them, such as the Norwegian Polar Institute, are represented here in Paris.
We have also supported and facilitated international polar research cooperation for decades. The Ny-Ålesund Research Station has welcomed representatives from the French Polar Institute (IPEV) and institutions in other countries. Together they conduct research on glaciology, ecosystems, oceans and the atmosphere. The international scientific cooperation in these fields is essential.
They do research on the effects of climate change in the Arctic. They prioritize outreach activities to spread knowledge, especially on the consequences of climate change for societies and livelihoods in the Arctic region. One example is Norway’s wildfire initiative, which we have launched as the current Chair of the Arctic Council.
Why is polar research so important? The polar regions act as our global cooling system. Sea and ice levels at the poles have implications for the global carbon cycle, weather patterns, biodiversity and human livelihoods – worldwide.
Today, temperatures are rising more rapidly in the Arctic than anywhere else. Almost four times faster than the global average. With far-reaching consequences. During the summer months, the Arctic Ocean is rapidly turning from white to blue. This further amplifies the global warming.
We do not know how a polar ocean without sea ice will function. We do not know how it will affect weather patterns. What we do know is that on land, there is already less snow and more rain. And there is warm water beneath the shelves and glaciers of Greenland and Antarctica.
All of this is causing faster global sea-level rise. Today, the sea-level is about 20 cm higher than it was in the 19th century. This is very worrying.
However, there is much we still do not know about the implications of the development – for the global carbon cycle, for weather patterns, for biodiversity and for human livelihoods. We need to continue our research in order to understand and predict the effects. We must continue to do this together, by international research teams and projects.
Secondly, on multilateral organization.
In May, Norway took over as Chair of the Arctic Council. We will ensure that the Council remains the most important forum for international cooperation on Arctic issues, despite the tensions in global politics. We have four thematic priorities: the oceans; climate and environment; sustainable economic development; and people in the north.
For more than 25 years, the Arctic Council has been the primary arena for promoting cooperation and interaction among the Arctic states and indigenous peoples. This is more important than ever before.
The Council produces science-based reports on pollution, climate change and threats to biodiversity in the Arctic. Including important input to international environmental cooperation, as the work of the IPCC.
The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) working group has, for example, carried out an important assessment of cryospheric change in the Arctic.
The important thing is that the Arctic Council provides a platform for international science and policy cooperation.
Thirdly, on climate change.
While more research on the Arctic and Antarctic regions is needed, what we need most of all is to address climate change globally. Last October was the warmest October month ever in world history.
We already have the tools and systems in place, and we know what has to be done. We must take action to limit greenhouse gas emissions globally. This is also the most important way of safeguarding the Arctic and Antarctic environments.
Soon, we will gather for COP 28 in Dubai. The pace of climate action must keep up with the pace of climate change.
Thus, we need an ambitious outcome at COP 28, both on reducing emissions, and on strengthening finance for climate-vulnerable developing countries.
Norway will continue to do its part:
We have enhanced our climate target. We will cut emissions by at least 55 percent by 2030 (compared to 1990 levels).
Along with the State Budget proposal for 2024 we have produced a ‘Green Book’, presenting in detail how we will achieve our climate goals. And how the green transition is being implemented.
I will travel to COP28 to show how Norway contributes to keeping the 1.5 degree target alive.
We all need to mobilise at the national level to deliver on the global climate commitments we made right here in Paris eight years ago. Let us all work together to that end.