Historical archive

Opening speech at the workshop “Arctic Coastal Zones at Risk”

Historical archive

Published under: Stoltenberg's 2nd Government

Publisher Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs

The Minister of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs, Helga Pedersen made the opening speech at the workshop “Arctic Coastal Zones at Risk”. The workshop was held at the Norwegian Institute of Air Research in Tromsø 1 October 2007. The workshop is organized jointly by The Arctic research organizations IASC (International Arctic Science Committee) and AMAP (Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme), together with LOICZ, the Land-Ocean Interactions in the Coastal Zone research project and the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change IHDP.

by the Minister of Fisheries- and Coastal Affairs Helga Pedersen

City of Tromsø 1 October 2007

Good morning and welcome to Norway and to the workshop “Arctic Coastal Zones at Risk” set in the Arctic town of Tromsø.     

The fact that coastal zone management is looked upon with broad interest in the international scientific community, is clearly demonstrated by the participation in this symposium. This is truly positive for the future increase in coastal zone science.  

The climate on our planet is changing. A change which is primarily caused by human-caused emissions.  

Last spring Newsweek magazine presented a climate change scenario in which our areas along the North Sea would become the new Costa del North. Even if we northerners often crave the warmth of the sun, we find this scenario not comforting, but horrifying. 

And there is no time to loose! 

The problems we face are many. They are diversified and complicated. And they need action and intensive scientific focus.  

The climate is becoming less stable, more volatile and warmer. Seasons are arriving at different times as normal variations are increasing, glaciers are receding and sea levels are rising. It is likely that extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and more severe.  

This frightens us, but we still believe that there are actions we can take to curb negative climate change. 

The arctic area is rich in natural resources, not least the rich fisheries of the North Sea and the Barents Sea. But nowadays the Arctic area is undergoing some of the biggest changes on earth. We can see it in our everyday life, for instance when it rains in January. 

My Government proposed new actions for combating climate change through a report to the Norwegian parliament, the Storting, in June this year.  

Norway is to be carbon neutral by 2050, which means that all remaining emissions will be set off against emissions in other countries. We will improve Norway’s commitment under the Kyoto Protocol by 10 per cent, and by 2020 we plan to cut global emissions of greenhouse gases by the equivalent of 30 per cent of our 1990 emissions. Therefore, the climate perspective must be a part of everything we do – in the transport sector, in the fisheries – and in the field of research. 

The Norwegian position is that we must avoid a temperature increase above 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels, a position we share with the EU. If we fail to meet this goal, we might lose control of the evolution of climate change. We must therefore work on many levels, and it will be essential to provide financing and incentives for mitigation and adaptation.  

The most important task right now is to develop a new, more comprehensive international agreement on climate. 

The Arctic, formerly a region marked by the cold war and East-West tensions, has become a region of cooperation. Arctic communities and settlements are largely based on the use of natural resources. Traditionally these were activities such as hunting, fishing and reindeer herding.  

However, the importance of the area’s yet-to-be exploited resources is growing in the Arctic. Together with fisheries, the exploitation of oil and gas represent or will represent the major basis for the regional economies. This growing economic activity represents significant possibilities for Arctic societies, but also challenges.  

Both terrestrial and offshore petroleum developments are spreading to new areas of the Arctic. New economic activities may provide an important basis for welfare and economic growth. It is therefore vital that all resource exploitation is planned and carried out in a sustainable and safe manner in order to ensure the sound coexistence of all human activities beneficial to Arctic society. They include fisheries, mining, maritime transport, and petroleum activities. 

I would like to highlight a tool for cross-sectoral management when several sectors are involved: Norway has developed a management approach that increasingly takes into account the significance of healthy and productive ecosystems as a long-term basis for economic development. The Norwegian “Integrated Management Plan for the Barents Sea”, which was launched in the spring of 2006, is based on the ecosystem approach. It aims to ensure a balance between petroleum development, increasing maritime transport, the exploitation of marine resources and the need for environmental awareness and protection in the Norwegian part of the Barents Sea. In addition it is important to look at the onshore impact of offshore activities. 

Climate change is not only an environmental issue; it has clear economic and social consequences – as environmental issues tend to have. 

Here in the Arctic, indigenous people depend on natural resources, and will therefore be more vulnerable to climate change than many others. For those who rely on fishing and hunting in coastal areas, the melting of the summer ice will lead to the end of a vital part of their culture. Indigenous peoples are perhaps the ones with the most to lose from climate change. They may have the least capacity to adapt to its effects, despite having contributed the least to causing the problem in the first place.  

The fourth assessment report to be finalized by the IPPC this year, shows that the warming of the earth’s climate system is undoubtedly caused by human activities. Climate change is already having significant impacts in certain regions — particularly in developing countries — but not least in our region – the Arctic. 

But what is caused by humans, can be changed by humans!   

The reports give reason for optimism despite all. They show that the problem can be addressed and that solutions are affordable. Economic assessments indicate that the cost of inaction will exceed the cost of taking action. This was also underlined at the high-level meeting convened by the UN Secretary-General in New York last week. 

I hope the result will galvanize political will for the Bali Conference this December so that a new global climate agreement can be negotiated and enter into legal force by 2012. 

The high level of greenhouse gasses is caused by local emissions that cause global problems, but adaptations will have to be tailored at a local scale.  

Work on adaptation is seldom accomplished through stand-alone efforts that are separate from other policy areas. On the contrary, effective national adaptation strategies must be integrated into countries’ economic, social and governance systems and firmly embedded in domestic policy planning across the board. 

The climate changes will have an effect on Norway’s responsibility for maritime infrastructure. We have therefore included a new topic in this work – namely looking at the effects of a possible higher ocean level and higher waves caused by climate changes. 

The International Polar Year scheduled for 2007 to 2009 will afford scientists, the public and managers an opportunity to increase public awareness of the relationship of the Arctic to the rest of the world and to engage the upcoming generation of young scientists in polar research.  

When a difficult problem ends on a politician’s desks, solid scientific advise is of the utmost importance to us in making a decision.  

The fact that Norwegians live so close to the sea explains our concern about the impact of humans on the marine environment. We therefore have a long scientific tradition in studying the various aspects of marine pollution and how pollution can be regulated and reduced. This scientific data will now be valuable in the work that lies ahead of us. We have no time for assumptions. We must all call for action – both regionally and globally.  

You have three days of hard work ahead of you and hopefully good scientific discussions. I look forward to seeing the outcome of this workshop as I believe the arctic coastal zone will be vulnerable to the effects of climate change – changes that have already started. 

Let me conclude by again wishing our guests a nice stay in Norway and Tromsø. Thank you for your attention!

Arctic Coastal Zones at Risk, workshop 01-03 October 2007, Polar Environmental Centre, Tromsø