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Historisk arkiv

Klimaendringene i et polarperspektiv

Historisk arkiv

Publisert under: Regjeringen Stoltenberg II

Utgiver: Utenriksdepartementet

Beijing, 30. januar 2008

På det norsk-kinesiske klimasymposiumet under sitt Kina-besøk snakket utenriksminister Jonas Gahr Støre bl.a. om klimasamarbeid i et Arktis som blir varmere og våtere, et havnivå som stiger og et ozonlag som blir tynnere.

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure for me to be here in Beijing, and to have the opportunity to talk to you about climate change from a polar perspective.

The Arctic is getting warmer and wetter; snow, ice and permafrost are melting; ocean levels are rising and seawater is becoming less saline and more acidic; the ozone layer is thinning and ultraviolet (UV) radiation is increasing.

In the south, the Antarctic Peninsula has experienced a spectacular retreat and collapse of ice shelves over the last several years, followed by a marked acceleration and thinning of glaciers that had previously been held back by the shelves.

Developments in our polar regions are both a serious warning and a call to action. In the Arctic, climate change is happening twice as fast as elsewhere on the globe. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) fourth assessment report leaves no doubt that this serious and increasingly rapid change is man-made and can only be halted if we act swiftly.

To use an image from the fossil fuel industry, the polar region plays the role of the canary in the coal mine. We can no longer ignore its call as it has been underlined by the Intergovernmental Panel, the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA) and the great communicator on climate change, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Al Gore.

There is a growing international consensus that climate change is the greatest challenge of our time.

The outcome of the Climate Change Conference in Bali – despite its weaknesses – demonstrates this consensus. I am pleased to have had in-depth discussions on how to meet the climate change challenges with Chinese leaders during my visit to Beijing. We are in this together – and we can achieve a lot by working side by side.                                                 

Ladies and gentlemen,

Norway is a polar nation. Our cultural identity is closely linked to the polar region.

We have a particular responsibility for the Svalbard archipelago – this northernmost part of Norway - and the adjacent sea areas. This is one of the most vulnerable areas in the world with regard to the impacts of climate change. We take this responsibility very seriously. Preserving ecosystems and ensuring the sustainable use of resources are core principles of all Norwegian legislation and policy in this area.

The Arctic Ocean stands on the threshold of significant changes. The rapid melting of the ice cover will have severe implications for vulnerable ecosystems and economic activity.

Firstly, Arctic climate change will alter the flora and fauna of the region. This will have serious consequences, not least for indigenous peoples. Traditional reindeer herding and the way of life of these peoples will be harder to sustain.

Secondly, Arctic climate change will affect the distribution and migration patterns of fish stocks. This could have significant effects on commercial fisheries. Some stocks may move from areas under the coastal jurisdiction of one state to areas under that of another. Others may remain in areas outside the jurisdiction of any state, which could impede sound fisheries management and lead to uncontrolled harvesting.

Thirdly, melting ice will affect maritime transport in the Arctic. Navigation periods will be extended and new shipping routes opened up. Less sea ice could also make it possible to exploit petroleum and other natural resources in new areas.

The fate of the polar bear stands as a symbol of our success or failure in meeting these dramatic changes. The polar bear depends on the ice to catch food. As the ice melts, it has to swim ever greater distances in the open sea to reach new ice floes. It is therefore more likely to starve. The stress of climate change is also making the polar bear more vulnerable to other threats, such as environmentally hazardous substances and habitat loss due to human encroachment.

In a way, the polar bear can be seen as a litmus test of our ability to fulfil our responsibilities – both towards the global ecology and towards coming generations.

Ladies and gentlemen,

At the moment, good news seems hard to find.

Recent observations indicate that we may be underestimating the pace of the changes in the Arctic. Climate change appears to be a self-reinforcing process and we do not know what the precise outcomes will be, neither in the Arctic region nor on a global scale.

What we do know is that climate change will have a number of serious consequences for ecosystems and livelihoods in the Arctic.

But the changes will also reach far beyond the Arctic.

The melting of the Arctic ice cover will have ramifications for the climate in regions thousands of kilometres away. For example, it is likely that the Asian monsoons, crucial for the livelihoods of millions of people, will be affected. Rapid changes in the Arctic are significant not only for the survival of the polar bear but also for humans in other regions.

We know that it is the South that will be most adversely affected by climate change. Hundreds of millions of people could face water shortages, famine and coastal flooding as the world warms.

The fact that the greatest costs of global warming will be borne by the poor, who have the least responsibility for the current state of affairs, also makes climate change a central issue of justice and ethics in world politics today.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We must act now, we must act together and we must act on the basis of thorough knowledge and deepened understanding of the processes taking place.

The Arctic Council is a key institution for dealing with Arctic issues, and Norway is currently chair of the Council.

Recently, China applied for permanent observer status to the Arctic Council. I welcome this decision by China. Both our countries have borders with the Arctic state Russia, and the Arctic Council will provide an arena for exchanging views and developing joint actions in the years to come.

Major challenges in the Arctic such as climate change and high levels of environmentally hazardous substances and heavy metals are caused by activities outside the Arctic. Therefore, effective countermeasures for protecting the Arctic environment also have to include non-Arctic states.

The Arctic Council is now preparing new joint scientific studies of the retreat of sea ice, the melting of the Greenland ice sheet and the reduction of permafrost and snow cover. These are major Arctic developments with important global consequences. I am confident that the studies will provide valuable input both to the UN Climate Change Conference in 2009 and to the fifth assessment report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, due in 2013.

A similar focus on climate change is being directed to the Antarctic. At the last Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting it was decided that climate change in the Antarctic would be included as a new item on the agenda.

We need new, solid documentation and assessments of the significant changes that are taking place.

The Svalbard archipelago serves as a natural laboratory for research in the field of polar influence on climate change. The international community is showing increasing interest in utilising the scientific infrastructure in Svalbard, and we are pleased to have eminent Chinese researchers working there. The first Chinese Arctic scientific research station, Chinese Arctic Yellow River Station, was founded in July, 2004, in Ny-Ålesund. The station conducts research in the fields of meteorology, glaciology, marine ecosystem, the environment and weather patterns in polar regions. Like for the stations set up by other countries in the same area, the basic construction work and public services  has been provided by Norway. The station will be a multi-discipline research base, which will play an important role in improving the level of Chinese Arctic research and enhancing international exchange and cooperation.

Climate change knows no borders and we are therefore dependent on researchers without borders to guide our way forward.

Initiatives such as the International Polar Year 2007-2008 are vital for shining the spotlight on polar research. The International Polar Year is likely to be the largest international research collaboration ever undertaken. During this period, more than 200 projects involving thousands of scientists from over 60 nations will examine a wide range of physical, biological and social topics. There are National Polar Year Committees in many of the 60 states taking part in this joint effort, including Norway, China and Russia.

We believe that this extraordinary initiative will significantly increase our knowledge about the Arctic and the Antarctic. It is just this kind of innovative initiative that is needed to keep us up to date – and well prepared for future developments.

Ladies and gentlemen,

With the impacts of climate change being played out in our own neighbourhood, there is growing recognition in my own country of the urgency of dealing with these challenges now.

Norway wants to play a leading part in the international effort to “bend the trends” that are changing the global climate.

Let me sum up the three targets we have set ourselves:

Firstly, we aim for a 30% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020. Two-thirds of this reduction will be made in Norway.

Secondly, by 2012 – the end date of the first Kyoto commitment period – we aim to reduce our emissions by an additional 10% on top of our initial Kyoto Protocol commitments.

Thirdly, looking further ahead, our overriding goal is to make Norway carbon-neutral by 2030.

These ambitious goals show that Norway stands ready to take its share of the global responsibility to safeguard the Earth for future generations.

A broad set of measures – political, economic and technological – will be needed to reach these goals. The purchase of greenhouse gas emission units under the Clean Development Mechanism will be important in this respect. In fact, Norway’s first investment under the Clean Development Mechanism was agreed on in December last year, and the certified emission reductions will come from a Chinese hydropower station in Guizhou.

Norway has found that environmental regulations and taxation can spur technological innovation and make business more – not less – competitive in world markets.

We will need a major push for new technologies. Rapid technological progress is vital for achieving sustainable development.

We also have an obligation to assist other countries by transferring technology and dedicating resources to making new technological advances.

China is making its own efforts to reduce emissions. You have set ambitious targets for increasing energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy. Indeed, the President of Worldwatch Institute, Chris Flavin, has predicted that China will become a world leader in all forms of renewable energy in less than three years.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Norway is an oil and gas producing country. With the emergence of climate change as an urgent global political priority, the Norwegian Government has signalled that it will be at the forefront of efforts to mitigate the negative effects of oil and gas production. We have set ourselves a two-pronged target: to strengthen Norway’s role as a provider of both energy security and climate security.

On the one hand, we are striving to produce more of the fossil fuels that the world will need in the decades to come. On the other hand, we are seeking to be among the most advanced and committed nations when it comes to minimising greenhouse gas emissions from the production and consumption of fossil fuels.

This may look like a paradox.

At any rate it is certainly a dilemma. But Norway’s dilemma is also the world’s dilemma, and it must be dealt with as such. The relevant questions are not whether measures should be taken, but rather what kind, how much and when.

The Norwegian oil industry has demonstrated an ability to apply new technology to achieve cleaner or more sustainable production. It will have to continue along this path if we are to succeed in developing a full-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) facility and thus help to “decarbonise” the global energy mix.

Moving towards Copenhagen in 2009 we must ensure that we craft the next climate agreement in such a manner that it involves both the developing world and the rich countries. To do so, however, the rich countries must meet the twin challenges of cutting our own emissions while at the same time helping developing countries to grow along a less carbonintensive path than the one we have followed. 

Norway greatly values the fruitful bilateral cooperation with China on environmental issues that has existed for more than 10 years. Strengthening this cooperation is one of the main priorities outlined in the Norwegian Government’s new China Strategy, which was launched in August last year. I believe that a strengthened dialogue on climate change would be of benefit to us all, and with the signing of the Framework Agreement on Climate Change by Vice-Chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission Xie Zhenhua and myself on Monday, we have taken a big step forward.

Addressing climate change will require close cooperation and dialogue with friends near and far. Agreements like the one just concluded between Norway and China are among the best guarantees of positive and beneficial developments in the years to come.

Together we will shoulder our responsibility for the generations to come – not only in China and Norway, but worldwide. I believe we have the capacities and the resources and the will to do just that.

Thank you.

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