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 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 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.
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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