The Arctic – The Canary in the Mine

Global implications of Arctic climate change

Norsk-fransk konferanse i Paris, 17. mars 2015

- We have to commit to effective action to control climate change. The place where we can make decisive strides to that effect is Paris, at the UN Climate Conference in December, sa utenriksminister Børge Brende da han innledet på den norsk-franske konferansen i Paris.

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A Message from the Arctic to COP21

  • Last summer Foreign Minister Fabius and I visited the archipelago of Svalbard. We saw the impacts of climate change. We witnessed the melting glaciers in Kings Bay. We visited the "canary in the mine".
  • The two of us are here today as eye witnesses. Because the Arctic is "the canary" and a barometer showing the speed of global warming:
    - In 2100, the growing season at the southernmost point of Svalbard could be as long as the growing season in Copenhagen today.
    - The seas are warming. The ice is retreating. - We have lost 50 % of the ice cover in the Barents Sea since 1980.
    - The Arctic summer ice cap could vanish completely by 2050.
    - Temperatures everywhere are rising. But temperatures in the Arctic are rising 2-3 times faster than the global average.
  • Needless to say, we are facing enormous changes and challenges: in the Arctic, and globally. Unpredictable and unimaginable damage to our future development and security.
  • We have to commit to effective action to control climate change. The place where we can make decisive strides to that effect is Paris, at the UN Climate Conference in December.
  • The Norwegian Polar Institute has initiated the Norwegian Young Sea ICE Cruise project, to better understand how sea ice behaves in the Arctic. Scientists aboard the research vessel Lance have embarked on a six month study to closely monitor sea ice over its entire seasonal life cycle: from when the new ice forms in winter until it melts in early summer. The Director of the Norwegian Polar Institute will tell us more about this later today.
  • For Norway, the High North is not just at the top of the world; it is also at the top of our list of foreign policy priorities. The cooperation in the Arctic Council is an essential element of our efforts in the region.
  • The Arctic Council's comprehensive reports and scientific studies on climate change have been of major importance. They have proven beyond doubt that climate change is taking place rapidly in the Arctic, with serious and far-reaching consequences. Their conclusions have been confirmed by the latest findings of the IPCC.

(Norwegian commitments and the way forward)

  • The changes taking place in the Arctic are a call for action. They should give momentum to the international negotiations, spur the COP21 process forward, and provide an incentive for reaching a strong agreement at the Paris meeting later this year.
  • Prior to the meeting, Norway has proposed a reduction of Norwegian greenhouse gas emissionsof at least 40% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.
  • We are also engaged in other parts of the world. Mobilising climate finance is key. The Green Climate Fund will be an important multilateral channel. (Norway has pledged USD 258 millions to the Fund (2015–18).)
  • Ending tropical deforestation is crucial to keep the increase in global average temperature below the 2 degree target.


  • A century ago, two prominent scientists made major contributions to Arctic research. One was the Frenchman Charles Rabot, the other was the Norwegian Fridtjof Nansen. They were good friends, but their contributions were different. Rabot was a geographer and an ethnologist. Nansen was engaged in the natural sciences.
    Both were pioneering explorers of the High North. Both were masters at disseminating knowledge to broad audiences. And both wrote exciting books and mobilised public opinion.
  • Mobilising public opinion is precisely what we need to do today. And following in the footsteps of Rabot and Nansen, France and Norway are doing just that: setting a spotlight on the Arctic, showcasing state-of-the-art knowledge, pushing for decisive action, and leading the way towards COP21.

Thank you.

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