Official visit to Iceland: Arctic Circle Assembly
Ladies and gentlemen,
When I was 19, right after high school, I joined the Navy. And while studying navigation at in the Naval Academy I became very interested - or more interested - in maps, and the way they are projected. I find this map of the Arctic fascinating. Because projection matters.
When we change our perspective, it enables us to see the world from a different angle. A change of perspective helps us identify with others – and immerse ourselves in their view. Changing the perspective redistributes power and position. This is vital for progress, for development – and for solidarity.
This particular map presents an image that differs from the view of the world many of us have (The Crown Prince shows an image of a world map with the arctic at its centre).
This particular map is of great importance not just to the 4 million people who inhabit this area. It is important to all of us. Because the Arctic is, in a way, the thermometer of the world. Here, the consequences of climate change are evident. And this map is a compelling image of our interconnectedness as a global community. Both east-west and north-south. Because – when ice melts in the north, the sea level rises in the tropical south.
I have seen this for myself – on journeys to Tonga, Samoa and Fiji in the Pacific – and when crossing the Greenland Ice Sheet this summer.
Right now, at this point in history, what happens in the Arctic is more important than ever. That is why I am honoured to be here at the Arctic Circle Assembly today – this crucial and influential platform for discussing Arctic issues.
In my country, Norway, the Arctic is above all a place where people live and work. Where the traditional Sámi way of life coexists with modern society. Where discussions are focused on education, job opportunities and how to build a vibrant society in the north for the future. Where we seek to find the right balance between people and nature—We are still working on that by the way….
The Arctic is full of opportunities, but we are also facing some great challenges.
We know that climate change causes loss of biodiversity and ecosystem degradation. The Arctic is warming at an alarming pace. Spawning patterns are changing. Some plant and animal species are at serious risk. What we are witnessing is not due to activities mostly taking place in the Arctic itself, but elsewhere in the world.
What we choose to do at the national, regional and global levels to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions will benefit life in the Arctic and its natural environment. This is our common responsibility.
Sustainable ocean management is vital to mitigate the effects of climate change. In order to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals, the world must produce more from the oceans. But we can only do this if we manage and protect the oceans better. We need to bring the oceans back into balance.
At the global level, the High-level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, co-chaired by the Prime Minister of Norway and the President of Palau, has shown that we can build an ocean economy where effective protection, sustainable production and equitable prosperity go hand in hand.
The Panel’s action plan identifies measures needed to achieve sustainable ocean economies based on scientific studies and sound knowledge. Key to this is that all coastal and ocean states establish integrated and sustainable ocean management plans.
At the regional level, a Nordic ministerial declaration was signed in Oslo in August. It presents bold ambitions for advancing the green transition and a sustainable ocean economy in the years to come.
The essence is this: We need people in the Arctic and we need to strike the right balance between protection and development. To mitigate climate change – and to ensure both the protection and the development of the Arctic - we must continue our efforts to achieve the green transition.
I am optimistic about the opportunities green innovation and technology offer. Advancing the green transition and expanding our knowledge of the Arctic will require stable, long-term and ambitious investments in science and research in the north. It will be critical to develop the green energy and green shipping sectors.
Research activity in the Arctic is a cornerstone of Arctic cooperation. Norway has facilitated international polar research in Svalbard for more than 50 years. At the Ny-Ålesund Research Station, more than 20 research institutes from 11 countries are conducting long-term research and monitoring activities. Scientists are working together to gain greater understanding of the environment, climate, oceans, biological diversity, and meteorology.
As I mentioned, I was lucky enough to be a guest of our Greenlandic friends earlier this year. I was fortunate to participate in an expedition organised by the University of Tromsø, The Arctic University of Norway. The objective of the expedition was to raise awareness and disseminate knowledge about polar history and research in the Arctic.
I want to invite you now to come with me to a day in the middle of Greenland, on the Ice Sheet. This particular morning is an incredible morning. It is beautiful, sunny, and in every direction there is white ice and snow as far as the eyes can see. Under my skis there are three kilometres - 3000 metres of ice. It cannot get any vaster.
And as I am standing there I am profoundly struck by how important research and science are. Because – without science, how can any of us understand the impact our way of living has on the ice sheet in Greenland – and on the planet, on the lives of billions of people? It is research that enables us to connect the dots. And this research is crucial not only for the Arctic region, but for the rest of the world as well.
I am confident that the UN Decade of Ocean Science 2021-2030 will give us more of the knowledge we need.
The Arctic is a diverse region, but we have succeeded in finding common solutions to enable us to coexist sustainably in the north. Multilateral cooperation is still needed to address current cross-border challenges.
Over the years, we have established effective forums for multilateral cooperation in the Arctic, such as the Arctic Council and the Barents Euro-Arctic Council. We have also put in place a sound legal framework, including the Law of the Sea. The Arctic is a well-regulated region.
Today, geopolitical tensions are making cooperation more difficult. But the challenges we are facing are no less urgent. We must maintain our shared focus on safeguarding biological diversity and promoting valuable scientific progress in the Arctic.
The work is of value far beyond our regions. What is being done in the Arctic matters to the entire world. That is why we need to maintain the structures for cooperation in the Arctic. Norway looks forward to assuming the Chairmanship of the Arctic Council from 2023 to 2025.
The Arctic is beautiful and vulnerable. It is rich in resources and untamed. It is busy urban life and it is vast landscapes. But we cannot afford to romanticise the Arctic. Its wellbeing is critical for our existence.
I am glad to know that today, this community has gathered here from across the world, united by its commitment to this unique part of the planet. I have high hopes for what the discussions will bring and what we can achieve together.
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