New drive at Arctic Circle meeting to protect the Arctic | Polarjournal
Arctic sea ice is disappearing at an alarming rate, permafrost is thawing and causing major damage to infrastructure. In order to still ensure the protection of the Arctic, the states must now step on the gas. At the Arctic Circle meeting this year, this seems to have arrived.

The importance of the Arctic is demonstrated by how many countries have now put the region on their agendas, regardless of whether they are an Arctic nation or not. This is particularly evident at the halfway point of the largest meeting on Arctic interests in the world, the Arctic Circle Assembly 2021.

What do the EU, France, the USA have in common with South Korea, Scotland and the Faroe Islands, Greenland, Denmark, Russia and the Orkney Islands? At first glance, hardly anything. But at this year’s finally live Arctic Circle Assembly, they all presented their future Arctic strategies. It was almost an eerily uniform picture, as if they had silently agreed on the same thing.. Sustainability, reduction of emissions, increased research projects and at the same time the increased involvement of the local indigenous population in finding solutions and making decisions in all projects were put on everyone’s agenda. The goal for all of them: to save the Arctic from the effects of climate change, the origin of which is no longer questioned, at least by most current governments.

The most important topic for many people in the first half of the meeting was the EU’s new, clear Arctic strategy, presented by EU Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius and in session by EU Ambassador for the Arctic Michael Mann. Image: Arctic Circle via Flickr

The EU in particular stood out this year with a lot of activity in the various plenary and working sessions. EU Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius highlighted the importance of the Arctic for the EU in his speech to the participants. “We are pushing to ensure that oil and gas will stay in the ground,” he said, explaining one of the EU’s demands in its Arctic strategy. However, these words were not well received by everyone, especially by supporters of oil and gas production. Mead Treadwell, former lieutenant governor of Alaska called the action bullying and said it would be better if the EU sought dialogue instead of putting the industry out of business. “It’s not us doing it, it’s climate change and rising temperatures that are causing it,” the EU commissioner confidently replied. Cooperation and mutual assistance are needed and the EU is ready for this, Sinkevicius continued. Everyone is invited to respond to the call, he said.

The Swiss project “Sailing in the Arctic” aims to help plug holes in the data on methane emissions in the Arctic Ocean and, at the same time, to bring people outside the Arctic closer to this region and thus promote awareness of its protection. In the picture from left to right): Ava Moll (Swiss Embassy to Norway and Iceland), Prof. Daniel McGinnis (University of Geneva), Pierre Baumgartner (artist), Manon Wagner (Fondation Pacifique), Laure Müller (Fondation Pacifique) Image: Michael Wenger

The Arctic Circle meetings consist of two main parts: the plenary discussions, where politicians and experts present visions and goals for the Arctic and then have to answer questions from the participants; and the presentations of more specific work, projects and goals by various stakeholders in smaller meetings to an interested audience. Switzerland was also involved in one form or another in both parts this year. On the one hand, the “Fondation Pacifique” presented its project “Sailing in the Arctic”, a multidisciplinary research and learning project. Further, the “Frederik Paulsen Arctic Academic Action Award” will be presented tonight. The patron Dr. Frederik Paulsen is also one of the leading figures in Swiss polar research. We will report on both in more detail.

At this year’s meeting, many countries and regions expressed their determination to play an active role in the future of the Arctic. It became clear that this work primarily involves climate protection, integration and cooperation on security issues. This was reiterated by all speakers, including Scotland’s leader Nicola Sturgeon, in the run-up to the climate summit. Picture: Michael Wenger

All in all, the course of the Arctic Circle meeting so far showed that the protection of the Arctic and the awareness that to save the region only cooperation and quick action of all participants will bring desired success. The fact that solutions can only be found with the involvement of the local population also seems to have reached the highest levels of politics. “We need to see the Arctic not from our point of view, but with consideration for how the indigenous population perceives their world,” said Heiðar Guðjónsson, vice chair of the Arctic Economic Council.

“The Arctic has made the leap from inhospitable, unknown region to the center of world attention”

Olafur Ragnar Grímsson, Chairman Arctic Circle

In addition to this awareness, the meeting will discuss much more about renewable energies, digitalization of the region, promotion of Arctic self-awareness of indigenous peoples, new and more sustainable economic models. “The Arctic has made the step from inhospitable, unknown region to the centre of world attention,” said Olafur Ragnar Grímsson at his opening speech. It is to be hoped that this statement will indeed hold true and that it will bring the same momentum to the climate summit in Glasgow in two weeks’ time to turn visions and strategies into tangible decisions.

Dr. Michael Wenger, PolarJournal, live on site

Link to the website of Arctic Circle Assembly 2021

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