Balancing Industry and Environment – Norwegian High North Policy

Foreign Minister Børge Brende's speech at the Arctic Frontiers 2016 conference in Tromsø 25 January.

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Foreign Minister Børge Brende at the Arctic Frontiers 2016 conference. Credit: Pernille Ingebrigtsen/Arctic Frontiers 2016

 

  • As economic and political influence moves East and South, many eyes are increasingly turning to the North too.
  • With good reason.
  • Abundant natural resources, new trade routes and increasing human activity are bringing new opportunities. New doors are opening.
  • This has triggered increased international interest in the High North.
  • Norway is a leading Arctic nation.
  • Unlike most other Arctic nations, Norway has for centuries maintained a strong presence in the North.
  • As a nation we are and have always been dependent upon income generated in North.
  • Today 10 per cent of Norway’s population live north of the Arctic Circle.
  • 80 per cent of our sea areas are located north of the circle.
  • Norway intends to play a major role in defining the future direction for the Arctic.
  • Our vision is clear.
  • The Arctic should remain a safe and peaceful region.
  • A region of international cooperation based on international law.
  • A region where development is sustainable and where there is a sound balance between commercial and industrial expansion and environmental concerns.
  • The Arctic Council is an integral part of our vision.
  • The Arctic is changing and changing fast. Human activity and international interest are growing.
  • The Arctic Council is therefore more important now than ever before.
  • Celebrating 20 years of cooperation this year, the Council is nothing short of an international success story.
  • Under the US chairmanship, the Council has been strengthened as the principal forum for addressing Arctic challenges.
  • Why has it been so successful?
  • The main reason is that all Arctic countries have understood that they cannot deal with regional challenges individually.
  • Joint commitment and international cooperation are essential for safe, clean and sustainable development in the region.
  • This has been an incremental process; this has been an inclusive process: People are talking to people. Capitals are talking to capitals.
  • Indigenous groups are a cornerstone of the cooperation.
  • Although the Arctic countries are very different, they have found common cause on global issues such as climate change and environmental hazards.
  • The Arctic Council working groups have shown that the Arctic is the region where climate change is happening most rapidly.
  • These efforts have drawn international attention to climate change and its impacts.
  • At the same time, we have been wise enough not to overburden the agenda of the Council.
  • We have avoided divisive issues.
  • The council has concentrated on policy shaping, rather than policymaking.
  • This is the only international forum where representatives of the indigenous peoples sit at the same table as representatives of states.
  • I believe that this is one of the reasons for the Council’s success: The ability to build consensus on sustainable development among all key stakeholders.
  • The Arctic Council is a role model for regional bodies around the world: It is a framework for generating knowledge, and promoting stability and predictability based on respect not only for international law, but also for each individual state.
  • Where do we go from here? Where do we see the Arctic Council 20 years from now?
  • I am optimistic.
  • The Council has proved to be willing and able to adapt. It has maintained relevance as the world around it changes.
  • The nature of cooperation in the Arctic Council has changed as the region has developed.
  • 20 years ago the main task of the Council was promoting environmental protection. Today it is the leading forum for cooperation on a wide range of Arctic issues.
  • Working within the Arctic Council, the Arctic States have shown that they can respond to new challenges by establishing binding cooperation.
  • This is made particularly clear by the negotiation of legally binding agreements.
  • On the initiative of the Arctic Council, the Arctic states have negotiated agreements on search and rescue and on oil spill preparedness and response.
  • These are important examples of how members are shouldering their responsibilities.
  • Looking ahead, I believe this ability to adapt will be essential in order to preserve the dynamic character of the forum.
  • More and more actors have become involved during these two decades.
  • At the ministerial meeting in 2013, countries far away from the Arctic were granted observer status.
  • The observers make substantial contributions to our shared knowledge of changes in the region.
  • Over the next 20 years, we want to integrate the observers more closely into the Arctic Council.
  • The Arctic states have also agreed to put economic development more prominently on the agenda.
  • This is clearly reflected in the establishment of the Arctic Economic Council.
  • I have high ambitions for the Arctic Economic Council.
  • I hope it will play an important role in setting up a robust regime based on knowledge and innovation for industry cooperation in the Arctic.
  • I hope it will put us in a better position to deal with the challenges and seize the opportunities in this dynamic region.
  • I hope it will play a key role in addressing the topic of this conference – how to strike a balance between industry and environment?
  • Recently, the Arctic Council Indigenous Peoples’ Secretariat relocated from Copenhagen to Tromsø.
  • This will consolidate Tromsø as the foremost center of excellence in Arctic matters.
  • Having the IPS in the same location as the Arctic Council reflects the inclusive nature of the council itself – it will be win-win for all parties involved.
  • I am confident that this move strengthens the relevance of both entities.
  • COP 21 was a success. A breakthrough and an important step in the right direction.
  • Last year I had the pleasure of hosting a visit by the UN Secretary General and the French Foreign Minister to Svalbard. I believe that the message from the Arctic both inspired and informed the Paris agreement.
  • Now we must translate declarations from Paris into action.
  • Climate change is a global problem, a result of global neglect, but there are few places where the consequences are as obvious as here in the Arctic.
  • Temperatures are rising 2–3 times faster than the global average.
  • The snow is melting at record speed. The sea ice is vanishing rapidly.
  • Our oceans are under threat. The warming climate will have a serious impacts on marine life in the Polar Regions.
  • Climate change causes seawater to absorb more CO₂, leading to ocean acidification. Ecosystems are changing rapidly in response to climate change.
  • Species that previously had a more southerly distribution are moving northwards.
  • Mackerel, for instance, is no longer restricted to warmer waters. It has found its way to Svalbard.
  • We see signs that new species may replace traditional Arctic species. But we know too little about how these changes will develop.
  • More knowledge of the impacts of climate change on the Polar Regions is of crucial importance.
  • Norway will remain on the forefront of developments in Arctic science.
  • The ocean is Norway’s past, it is our present and it is our future. The importance of the oceans and especially Arctic waters cannot be overestimated.
  • Norway has been a maritime superpower for generations. We have always been a nation of seafarers and fishermen.
  • We have harvested the ocean’s resources for more than 10 000 years. We want to continue to do so for the next 10 000 years.
  • Norway’s sea areas are seven times the size of our land areas.
  • Some 80 percent of our ocean areas are north of the Arctic Circle.
  • Almost 90 percent of our export revenues come from sea-based economic activities and marine resources.
  • The Arctic holds considerable potential for future generations, but we must respect its environmental limits.
  • Norway will work systematically for blue-green growth in areas ranging from maritime security through offshore petroleum, renewable energy, shipping and marine resources to environmental protection, ocean management and R&D.
  • If you want to put just one label on Norway, allow me to propose that of Norway as a future-oriented maritime power, investing substantially in a future of blue-green growth.
  • It is not enough just to use the Arctic; we must use it wisely. We must remain on the forefront of scientific research, so that we can make sound decisions.
  • This will make it possible to avoid an Arctic bust after the Arctic boom.
  • Sustainable research-based management and growth are essential if we are to avoid further pressure on vulnerable Arctic ecosystems.
  • Arctic waters include some of the world’s most productive sea areas, supporting rich biodiversity. The Barents Sea is home to some of the world’s largest commercial fish stocks.
  • The Arctic oceans are also some of the best managed in the world. In the Barents Sea, science-based management and cooperation with Russia have ensured that we can enjoy high and sustained annual yields.
  • This year, the total quota for cod stock has been set at nearly a million tonnes – a historically high figure.
  • If we manage to find a good balance between commercial interests and resource use on the one hand and environmental concerns on the other, the Arctic will reward us generously.
  • In 2015, the value of Norway's seafood exports was 9 billion USD. Our exports have doubled in 10 years. We export to 143 countries.
  • Globally, Norwegian seafood provides 36 million meals every day.
  • This is an impressive figure. But only a tiny proportion – 2-3 per cent – of global food consumption comes from the oceans.
  • The potential global market for seafood is almost unlimited.
  • Norway intends to capture its fair share.
  • The Arctic contains significant oil and gas reserves. But in order to extract them, we have to overcome technical, ecological and economic challenges.
  • Lower oil prices may have an impact on the pace of the development of new resources in the Arctic. However, market fluctuations are nothing new. We must take a long-term view.
  • Norway is the second largest supplier of gas to the European market – meeting 20 per cent of the demand. We play a major part in ensuring European energy security.
  • Natural gas has a key role to play in reducing CO2 emissions.
  • Gas emits 50 per cent less CO2 than coal when burned. It represents a bridge to a low-carbon energy future.
  • Gas will have a prominent place in the European energy mix for many decades to come.
  • Norway's energy production powers much of Europe; it can also power development in the Arctic. But we must work smarter, safer and more efficient to lower the costs and risks in production.
  • There have been oil and gas activities in the Norwegian Arctic for several decades. We have taken a gradual approach.
  • Thanks to stringent requirements and strict regulation, the Norwegian oil and gas industry has one of the cleanest environmental footprints in the world.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions from the Norwegian continental shelf are considerably lower than the international average for offshore production.
  • At the same time, we have managed to boost energy development without harming the interests of other crucial industries, such as the fisheries.
  • Technology development in the petroleum industry is a priority for the government.
  • The aim is to develop new technology to address the technological challenges and lower the costs of offshore petroleum activities, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve safety and environmental standards.
  • As the ice retreats, the Arctic countries will no longer be divided by ice, but connected by oceans.
  • The sea will become a highway, not a barrier.
  • It will open up new opportunities for trade and transport, mining and minerals, oil and gas, renewable energy, and research and education.
  • We used to describe travel between Europe and the United States as ’crossing the pond’ – also known as the Atlantic.
  • In reality, the shortest route between the two continents is across the North Pole, from Alaska to North Norway.
  • It is the Arctic Ocean, not the Atlantic, which is the ultimate short cut.
  • These days it might be more fitting to say crossing the pole rather than crossing the pond.
  • These new regional opportunities are of course also important to the other Arctic states, our neighbours around these cold shores.
  • We all want to reap the benefits as the Arctic opens up, but we must do so in a responsible way.
  • As we have strong traditions in this region: Cooperation, not confrontation, is our route. The one we must stick to.
  • It is a privilege to be in Tromsø to celebrate not only the Arctic Council, but also 10 years of Arctic Frontiers.
  • The conference has emerged as a leading arena for Arctic discussions.
  • Economic growth is stronger in North Norway than the rest of mainland Norway.
  • This looks set to continue.
  • The Government’s goal is for North Norway to be not only one of the most innovative regions in Norway, but also one of the most innovative in the world.
  • The prosperity of this region is a result of many factors. Internationally, the Arctic has been a haven of international cooperation and respect for international law.
  • The rest of the world is experiencing turbulent times, but the Arctic has remained an oasis of tranquility.
  • The dangerous road of confrontation and conflict has been avoided. The principal actors have seen the benefits of win-win.
  • At the same time, Norway has established close cooperation between public decision-making bodies and the private sector.
  • Similarly, we have forged close links between science and business. Our ambition has been to lead the way, developing and testing innovative solutions that will allow us to harvest Arctic resources sustainably.
  • Innovation, network building and technological development are the keys to success in the Arctic.
  • Our common goal must be to ensure that continued growth in the Arctic does not come at the expense of the Arctic environment.
  • So far, we have been successful.
  • We have the collective mindset and the institutional set-up that will allow us to succeed in the future as well
  • Jointly. Together. In cooperation.
  • When established, the overall objective of the Arctic Council was to ensure a sustainable future for the people living in the region.
  • Thinking ahead, we must make sure that the people of the Arctic and their well-being remain the overriding concern of the Arctic Council 20 years down the road.