Historical archive

The Arctic: Major Opportunities – Major Responsibilities

Historical archive

Published under: Solberg's Government

Publisher Ministry of Foreign Affairs

High North Diplomatic Forum, Oslo 15 January 2014

State Secretary Bård Glad Pedersens speech at the High North Diplomatic Forum at the Fram Museum in Oslo on 15 January 2014.

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Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for coming to this event at the Fram Museum today.

  • I look forward to discussing the major opportunities and major responsibilities in the Arctic with you.

Fridtjof Nansen’s vessel Fram is on display here in this building.

  • From 1893 to 1896 it was caught in pack ice as Nansen attempted to harness the east-west current of the Arctic Ocean to reach the geographical North Pole.
  • The expedition provided new knowledge about the ocean currents, ice properties, Northern lights and biosphere of the Arctic region.

Nansen’s methods are still valid.

  • The Norwegian research vessel Lance will be frozen in pack ice during the winter of 2015.
  • This expedition is being funded by the Norwegian Government, with international participation.

In the Gjøa building you will find information about today’s High North activities.

  • The exhibitions clearly show that Arctic knowledge is developed through international cooperation.

I am pleased to share the main elements of the Government’s High North efforts with you here today.

  • 10% of Norway’s population lives north of the Arctic Circle.
  • One-third of our land area, and
  • 80% of our sea areas are north of the Arctic Circle.
  • For many people in Norway, life in the Arctic is everyday life.

There are huge differences within the area we call the Arctic.

  • On the subarctic east coast of Canada, far south of the Arctic Circle, icebergs are passing by.
  • Most of the Norwegian Barents Sea, far north of the Arctic Circle, is ice free all year.
  • But still, the environment is harsh; it is cold, and it is dark during the winter months.
  • I believe our experience of the Arctic in Norway is relevant for other countries and other parts of the Arctic.

Today there is great interest from non-Arctic actors, both in Europe and in Asia, that would like to take part in the development of the Arctic region.

  • Even with such extensive interest from so many actors, there is still a considerable degree of consensus that exists at these high latitudes.
  • There is a growing interest in knowledge and resources, but there is no race for the Arctic.

The Arctic Council is the most important arena for discussing our common challenges.

  • The observer states to the Council – both old and new – contribute to this work, and their involvement is on the Arctic countries’ terms.
  • The observers play an important role by bringing their expertise to the Arctic Council’s working groups.

The Arctic is not Antarctica. The Arctic is an ocean surrounded by nation states, as opposed to a continent surrounded by sea.

  • The United Nations Law of the Sea applies here.
  • There are very few unresolved jurisdiction issues in the Arctic.
  • There is agreement and a will to solve remaining disagreements.

Increasing levels of activity in the Arctic make it even more important to increase our knowledge of how to create opportunities for new and established industries in a growth region.

  • Investments in education and research are essential for employment opportunities, a competitive business sector, sustainable industrial development and increased knowledge of the causes and effects of climate change.
  • The Government aims to strengthen the links between research and business.

In this year’s budget we have increased funding for programmes to enable a greater degree of innovation and research within companies.

  • We wish to increase the global competitiveness of local industry. Labour will not be cheap in Norway. But we have abundant resources, and Norwegian industry can be competitive by using expertise, experience and technology.
  • Research-intensive local industries also provide more interesting employment opportunities for the local population, along with the major international companies that are now increasingly setting up office in North Norway.

Important areas for future development include

  • oil and gas and the supply industry;
  • fisheries and aquaculture;
  • the mineral sector;
  • maritime industry; and
  • tourism.

Climate change is occurring at an alarming rate

Climate change defines future developments in the Arctic in terms of access to resources and transport routes.

Melting of the Arctic ice cap has global implications:

  • It increases global warming, accelerates sea level rise and could change weather patterns throughout the northern hemisphere.
  • The only responsible way to approach Arctic climate change is by limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

Mitigation efforts must be stepped up and we must work towards a global climate agreement at the Paris summit in 2015 that puts us on track to achieve the 2 ºC target.

  • An average global temperature rise of 2 ºC means a temperature rise of 4 ºC in the Arctic.

It is in the Arctic that we will see physical changes first – changes that will have serious consequences for the whole world.

  • The Arctic is a barometer of global climate change.
  • Research in this region is crucial for understanding changes that are taking place in other parts of the world.

This is why Norway has invested heavily in research capacity on Svalbard.

  • The research community in Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard, offers a unique opportunity for international scientific cooperation in the Arctic.
  • In the Arctic we are facing a paradox: One the one hand, global warming is alarming – and bad news for all of us. On the other hand, the melting ice cap is opening up new commercial opportunities.

In 2010 there were only four transit voyages of the Northern Sea Route between Novaya Zemlya and the Bering Strait.

  • In 2013 the number of transits passed 71.

An ice-free Arctic could shorten distances between the North Atlantic and East Asia by about 40 %.

  • However, most current reports indicate that the Northeast Passage will continue to be only a supplementary route for certain types of products.

The main increase is expected to be in traffic to and from petroleum activities in Arctic waters, rather than in transit traffic.

Almost all the maritime traffic in the Arctic today (80 % of the summer traffic and 90 % of the winter traffic) is in Norwegian waters.

Norway is a coastal state.

  • We have jurisdiction over large sea areas.

Let me use an example to illustrate how we take responsibility for ensuring safe shipping in these cold waters.

  • Together with Russia, we have taken the initiative for a mandatory ship reporting system for the Barents Sea under the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
  • This has increased safety in the region.

Another example is the on-going work of the IMO to develop an international code of safety for ships in polar waters.

  • Known as the Polar Code, it will increase safety in both polar regions.

Improved maritime emergency preparedness, safety and response are the key to meeting increased activity in the High North in a responsible manner.

  • The Search and Rescue Agreement that the eight member states of the Arctic Council signed in 2011 entered into force last January.
  • This is an important milestone; it was the first binding agreement negotiated by the Arctic Council.
  • This agreement was followed up by the second legally binding instrument when the Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response was signed in Kiruna last May.

This important work is continuing in the Task Force that is developing an Arctic Council action plan for oil pollution prevention.

  • It will be presented at the next Ministerial meeting in 2015.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also funds several other projects in the field of emergency preparedness and safety.

  • Recently we funded a project called “Maritime Preparedness and International Partnerships in the High North” at the High North Centre in Bodø.
  • In collaboration with national stakeholders and scientists from Greenland, Iceland and Russia, this project will analyse the organisation of the emergency preparedness system in the High North.

Another good example is a project at the University of Tromsø called Circumpolar Emergency Medicine.

  • The distances in the Arctic are often vast, and hypothermia after an accident is a real threat.
  • The scientists in this project are working on guidelines for keeping patients alive long enough to reach a hospital in time to survive hypothermia, for instance after a shipwreck.
  • Scientists from Russia, Sweden, Finland and the USA are contributing to the project.
  • The project group aims to establish cross-border cooperation on this type of emergency medicine in the Barents region to save lives in the event of major accidents.

A third project that the Ministry has recently decided to support is an innovative project on search and rescue in the High North, called SARiNOR.

  • The maritime industry is working with other key stakeholders to reduce the risk of accidents and to enhance rescue capacity in the maritime industry.



According to the US Geological Survey, about one-fifth of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas resources may be located in the Arctic.

  • The share of fossil fuels in the energy mix will remain substantial for many years to come, even with a 2º C scenario.
  • As the cleanest of the fossil fuels, natural gas can and should play a central role in a low-carbon future.

Some have advocated that the Arctic should be closed to further commercial activities.

  • We believe that it is possible to manage economic activities soundly so as to ensure environmental protection and sustainable development.
  • With high environmental and safety standards, Norway has developed a successful petroleum industry that allows for coexistence with sustainable fisheries.
  • Furthermore, the Norwegian authorities set strict limits on emissions to air.

Emissions of greenhouse gases from the Norwegian continental shelf are significantly lower than the international average.

  • CO2 and NOx taxes have contributed to the development of technology and CO2-efficient production.

The challenge we face is to meet the climate challenges while being able to provide a growing global population with the energy needed to support development and a way out of poverty for all.

  • The International Energy Agency calls for the use of more renewable energy and less coal.
  • Oil and gas will remain important for decades to come.
  • With large oil and gas fields around the globe reaching the end of production, no one should underestimate the challenge of finding and producing the oil and natural gas that is needed within the 2 ºC scenario.
  • CO2-efficient production of oil and gas from the North of Norway can be part of the solution.

With new commercial opportunities come major responsibilities.

  • In 1989 the Northeast Arctic stock of cod was at an all-time low.
  • Today it is estimated to be ten times larger than it was 25 years ago.

This would not have been possible without the close and constructive fisheries cooperation between Russia and Norway.

  • The results of this cooperation are literally being harvested by the fishermen.
  • The catch value of the fish resources managed by Russia and Norway alone corresponds to more than two billion dollars.
  • This is an example of good cooperation between countries. It is also an example of how different industries, like petroleum and fisheries, can coexist.

To conclude:

Common to our approach in all of these areas – climate change, new sailing routes, energy, and resource management – is the need for responsible action based on knowledge.

Without knowledge we cannot carry out the tasks before us.

  • Nor can we fully understand the complexity of the Arctic.

Research and science will be essential in developing solutions for the Arctic in the future.

  • Developing these solutions is in our common interest.
  • It is our joint responsibility – not only of the Arctic states, but of all who claim a stake in developments in the Arctic.

The goal is to seize the opportunities and ensure sustainable management of nature and its resources in the Arctic.

Thank you.