Enable Javascript in your browser for an improved experience of regjeringen.no

Historical archive

Conference on the High North

Historical archive

Published under: Stoltenberg's 2nd Government

Publisher Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Norwegian Shipowners' Association, Oslo, 4 September 2008

In his key note address to the Norwegian Shipowners' Association's Conference on the High North the foreign minister highlighted climate change, energy and new maritime sea routes as "drivers" of the Norwegian High North Policy. The Minister also commented on Norways bilateral relationship with Russia.

The foreign minister's speech was based on the following 

----------------------------------------------------

Slide: Map of the High North areas / Arctic

----------------------------------------------------

1. New developments, new opportunities, new challenges – consequences for us

  • Developments sparks increased interest in Northern Europe, but also on a wider international scale. Melting ice - new areas open up for energy production. New maritime routes for transporting energy from Norway, North-western Russia and the Barents Sea to markets in Europe and the US.
  • Increasing level of activity in the High North. Energy potential, fisheries, maritime transport. Possibilities and challenges for Norway as a coastal state. Cooperation with Russia necessary. Also, look at more comprehensive, circumpolar challenges and opportunities.
  • Makes our part of the world increasingly important. Must consider geopolitical implications. How can we translate this into greater influence?  

---------------------------------

Slide: Oil & Gas

---------------------------------

  • Possibilities: oil/ gas, both in Norway and Russia. Kirkenes the closest harbour to Shtokman. New transport routes (will come back to). Svalbard as highly important international platform for science/research on climate change
  • Challenges: Maintain high sustainable standards of the Barents Sea as clean, rich and productive marine area. Integrated Management Plan: eco-based management. Co-existence petroleum activities, fisheries and maritime transport. Large scale research programs. (Very positive development: Russia has shown interest in creating and applying a similar concept in their part of the Barents Sea). Climate change (Greenland) Safety at sea; “search and rescue”. 

---------------------------------------------------

Slide: Climate changes, polar ice melting

---------------------------------------------------

3. Melting polar ice

  • The polar ice is melting. Climate change is happening fastest in the Arctic. Affects us all. Also the wild life in the Arctic:

 ----------------------

Slide: The ivory gull (ismåken)

-----------------------

  • The number of ivory gulls living in the Canadian Arctic has been reduced by 80 percent over the last 20 years. Studies in the Norwegian and Russian Arctic assess smaller populations than previously indicated. Yesterday the Norwegian Polar Institute issued a press release raising strong concern about the pollutant levels in the ivory gull.  
  • These birds eat animals associated with sea ice and remains of marine mammals. New studies have shown high levels of pollutants causing egg shell thinning and negative health effects, posing a serious stress on the ivory gull. In spite of the fact that these species live in some of the most remote areas in the world, their existence are threatened by both climate change and pollution.
  • I would therefore like to reiterate what I have said in a number of talks about the High North: A great need for research on the developments in the High North, and particularly the consequences of climate change. From 2006 to 2007 the research money being spent on High North-related research increased by 40 percent (Research Council of Norway – 616 million kroner in 2007). Knowledge is at the core of our High North policy.

---------------------------------------------------

Slide: Climate changes, polar ice melting

---------------------------------------------------

5. The polar route

  • Melting polar ice. Dramatic consequences for the transport routes between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Container ship travelling between Rotterdam and Yokohama and able to use the Northeast Passage: will reduce length of journey by 40%. If they use the Northwest Passage, it is reduced by 25%. If they can cross the Arctic Basin directly, it will be even shorter. This would result in considerable savings at a time when fuel prices are high.
  • According to my experts, the first container ships will be able to cross the Arctic Basin in summer 2009 or 2010. If this happens, the volume of traffic is likely to increase quite quickly.
  • Have to deal with new challenges. Ex accident in an area too remote to be reached by rescue helicopter? What if a large number of container ships get stuck in the ice?


----------------------------

Slide: Barents Watch
----------------------------

  • As a coastal state we must take our part of the responsibility (or others will take it for us). We need new civilian monitoring systems that enable us to get a real-time picture of the situation. And we need new search and rescue systems. 
  • Barents Watch, a pioneering pilot project is under way (SINTEF), involving total civilian monitoring of a large sea area. Planned to be operational by 2015. May include Iceland, and Denmark, with links to the US, Canada and Russia. May later be extended to the Baltic Sea.
  • One day we may have a joint Norwegian-Russian rescue coordination centre for the Barents Sea and Franz Josef Land.
  • There will be a need for service ports in North Norway and on Svalbard.  

--------------------------
Slide: High North
--------------------------


6. The High North Strategy

  • The High North: Our most important strategic priority. Almost two years since the launching. 22 strategic elements involving many of the Ministries. Work in progress in different fields. Presence, activity, knowledge, international cooperation.

--------------------------------------
Slide: Coast Guard – Inspection
--------------------------------------

  • Already see some great results, ex in the field of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing: cooperation with Russia has reduced the illegal fishing of cod, with more than 50% in two years (from 101 000 tons in 2005- to 40 000 tons in 2007). The value of this huge reduction is equivalent to NOK 1,2 billion.
  • High North Dialogue. Further develop the active dialogues with neighbours, partners and allies on High North issues. Raise the profile of Norway’s High North Policy in regional and international fora and ensure that this is done in a coordinated manner. 

--------------------------------------------------

Slide: Map of the High North areas / Arctic

----------------------------------------------------

7.  The new political situation - Relationship to Russia

  • The crisis in Georgia. Relationship with Russia. Impacts our policy. It affects the climate of cooperation and the public debate. We must take this seriously.
  • But not appropriate to use the term Cold War. Not productive at a time when a number of international constellations are shifting.

--------------------------------

Slide: Støre vs. Lavrov

--------------------------------

  • Cooperation with Russia in the north important to us. Many important projects, intend to continue.
  • Even during the coldest parts of the Cold War, we managed to maintain cooperation with Russia on the management of joint fish stocks. In our interest to continue civilian cooperation in the north along several (all highly relevant) tracks.

----------------------------------------------------

Slide: Map of the High North areas / Arctic

---------------------------------------------------- 

8. How do we approach the new opportunities and challenges? Projects

  • Arctic Council. The only circumpolar cooperating forum for the Arctic where all Arctic states and indigenous peoples take part. Norwegian chairmanship will end in spring 2009. Proud to say that we are well underway along our main priorities: a)integrated ocean management, 
    b)climate change, and c)increased effectiveness of the work of the Council.
  • For oil production and oil transports in the North Sea there is a set of standards for health, environment and safety that are applied by companies. There are no similar set of standards for the harsh climate in the Barents Sea. No standards means in itself complications for the industry on the Norwegian and the Russian side.
  • We have, in the framwork of our High North strategy, taken the initiativ to develop a set of standards for health, environment and safety for the Barents Sea in close contact with the oil companies and Russian authorites. This process is lead by the Norske Veritas. And it has been well received in Russia.
  • A project to revitalise Nordic security cooperation, headed by Thorvald Stoltenberg, will complete its report in December this year.
  • Marine bio prospecting. One of the 22 elements of the High North strategy. A highly promising field which many countries are looking into at the moment. Norway and Sweden are developing a university-based co-operation as a follow up to the visit of Foreign Minister Bildt in June last year. Tromsø University (Norwegian Research Institute) and Umeå University. Further initiatives in this domain will follow. 

Concluding remarks:

  • We will continue the line we have been following in Norwegian foreign and security policy for the past 60 years – in other words, involving Western countries in the High North and further developing our cooperation with Russia.
  • Our part of the world is getting increasingly important and relevant. We must consider the geopolitical implications of this, - and translate greater importance into greater influence.
Go to the top