Arctic Frontiers was held in Tromsø. The sun returned after two months, and 'sun-day' was celebrated during the conference.
The Arctic is a window to the future
- We reap what our forefathers have sown, and what we sow will be reaped by the generations to come. This perspective must be our premise when discussing development in the Arctic. The Arctic is a window to the future.
These were the words of Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers Dagfinn Høybråten at the conference Arctic Frontiers – Humans in the Arctic held in Tromsø on 19‒24 January 2014. Politicians, researchers and representatives of trade and industry converged to discuss the present and the future of the Arctic – with a particular focus on the roughly four million people living in the region. Some 1 400 participants made their way to Tromsø, where conditions showed the winter Arctic from its best side: clear weather and ‑10°C with a backdrop of the Northern Lights.
Balance is key
NordForsk was in attendance at the conference to promote the coming Joint Nordic Initiative on Arctic Research, “Responsible Development of the Arctic – Opportunities and Challenges – Pathways to Action”, to be launched this summer. We spoke with Salve Dahle, Chair of the Arctic Frontiers steering committee, who had this to say:
- I am very pleased with the conference. We were joined by large, interested delegations from around the world who have clearly found Arctic Frontiers to be a valuable meeting place. If I had to single out the speaker who made the greatest impression on me, it would be Professor Sean Strain of the University of Ulster and his lecture on mercury in the fish we eat. His point is that even if there is mercury in the fish, eating it still offers plenty of benefits, so we need to find a good balance. That is true for many Arctic issues – the region is evolving and we need to find sustainable balances. Remi Eriksen (Executive Vice President of DNV GL Group) also brought up a similar point in his talk by asking: How safe is safe enough?
No one can say exactly what is needed to ensure sustainable development with respect to Arctic residents. This is why a research initiative is so important. Aleqa Hammond, Prime Minister of Greenland, called for a general demystification of the Arctic, so that we can see the region’s real challenges. Her point resonated among the conference participants.
Mr Dahle adds:
- It was also eye-opening to hear Prime Minister Hammond. She did a good job of clarifying the challenges Greenland faces in diversifying its industrial base to increase state revenues. This includes mining and offshore activities in a harsh and fragile Arctic environment.
Denmark strengthening Arctic research
NordForsk asked Erik Vilstrup Lorenzen, Senior Arctic Official of Denmark and representative to the Arctic Council, about how much priority the Council is giving to research.
Mr Vilstrup Lorenzen replied:
- Research is a very high priority, because research underpins all the thematic areas and working groups of the Arctic Council. Research is the essential foundation for ensuring economic development for inhabitants of the Arctic while safeguarding the environment. There is a major need for research, and it is therefore a high priority of the Arctic Council.
Denmark’s Arctic ambassador continues:
- Denmark has just taken a new step to strengthen coordination of Arctic research by establishing the Forum for Arctic Research under the auspices of the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Higher Education, which aims to enhance coordination and generate more knowledge. It is a signal of the priority given by the Government to efforts in this field. In the Arctic Council and around the world, the Nordic countries are known for their knowledge and concern about the climate. So our voices carry weight.
NordForsk will be announcing funding for cross-disciplinary research on Arctic issues later this year, Responsible Development of the Arctic – Opportunities and Challenges – Pathways to Action. At this point, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland and Greenland are participating along NordForsk.
Keep updated on the launch of the Programme via NordForsk's newsletter.
Text: Linn Hoff Jensen
Photos: Salve Dahle, Norden.org, and Linn Hoff Jensen