Nordic Action for Safe and Sustainable Arctic Communities
The geopolitical situation and climate change has prefound effect on the Nordic countries and the Nordic cooperation. This year’s Arctic Frontiers Conference in Tromsø, Norway, focused on Global Actions –…
The geopolitical situation and climate change has prefound effect on the Nordic countries and the Nordic cooperation. This year’s Arctic Frontiers Conference in Tromsø, Norway, focused on Global Actions – Arctic Reactions and Nordic Energy Research’s CEO Klaus Skytte participated in the session “Nordic Action for Safe & Sustainable Arctic communities” together with stakeholders from the Nordic and Arctic regions.
The Nordic region is an integral part of the Arctic region and the cooperation in the Nordic Council of Ministers and the Arctic Council aims at the same overall goals: sustainable development, biodiversity, sustainable ocean management, civil resilience, and preparedness. The session “Nordic Action for Safe & Sustainable Arctic communities” brought different perspectives on the Arctic region together to find common ground for further development and cooperation.
The Arctic region offers great opportunities
The Norwegian government is a strong advocate for developing the opportunities of the far north as the potential of natural resources are high, explained State Secretary Anne Marit Bjørnflaten, Norwegian Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries. “The cold north is hot in more ways than one”, she pointed out, and the Nordics complement each other in terms of technology, expertise, trade and industry. When asked about advice for young entrepreneurs in the Arctic, Bjørnflaten as a northerner herself, highlighted the potential of the Arctic as a center for green solutions, where young people need to be “optimistic and persistent to live and thrive in the north”.
To develop the Arctic, it’s important that people want to stay and contribute to the region’s progress, according to Barents Regional Youth Council’s Chair Martin Gamst Johnsen. Instead of asking the question “how do we make people come back?”, the question should rather be “how do we make people want to live here?”. This would ensure not only housing, education, and job opportunities, but also a work-life balance in the region. Following up on Gamst Johnsen’s speech, Unni Kløvstad, Head of Department for Gender Equality, International Co-operation, Natural Resources and Culture at the Nordic Council of Ministers emphasized the increased attention towards social sustainability in their work. “A changing narrative for the Arctic presents new and enhanced challenges, but also opportunities”, Kløvstad explained. The Nordic countries’ competitiveness in a global context is essential to reach the Nordic vision of becoming the most integrated and sustainable region in the world by 2030, but so is also social sustainability.
Sustainable energy is key to the region’s development
In a world where security and energy policy are more intertwined than ever, the importance of Nordic energy cooperation is increasing. As the Nordic institution for joint energy research, Nordic Energy Research aims to promote this deeper cooperation.
Klaus Skytte, CEO of Nordic Energy Research, focused his speech on the need for strengthened energy security in the region. He pointed out that the Arctics, as well as the rest of the Nordic region, are well positioned to strengthen their energy security, but the fact that energy prices, sustainability, and energy security pulls in different directions, the so called “Energy Trilemma” stands in the way of sustainable and economically fair access to energy.
This is why we need to work together like Greenland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and Svalbard do in our Net Zero Islands network, Skytte emphasized. Each community in the Arctic is often small but together in the network they find like-minded and exchange experiences and best practices.
The rector of UiT Arctic University of Norway, Dag Rune Olsen, followed up on Skytte’s reflections, as he called upon politicians to finance networks, bringing up bridge-building between researchers, industries, and companies that can help giving power to the energy transition in the north. “We need solutions for the north, initiated in the north, and developed in the north”, Olsen said. He also highlighted the need to drive cooperation and dialogue more between east and west, and not always between north and south.
Increased cooperation in the region will benefit all
Carina Sammeli, Mayor of Lulelå in northern Sweden, emphasized that “the need to cooperate east-west is bigger than ever” following the current geopolitical crisis facing the Nordic countries. Previously, the dialogue from Luleå’s point of view has mostly been with Stockholm or Brussels but this is changing. Sammeli described how the interest in the North is steadily increasing, with the green transition being dependent on electricity from the north of Sweden, Finland, and Norway.
Kim Jørgen Andreassen from Bodø Region Development praised the work of Luleå, while also raising his concern on how the framework and conditions have changed in the Norwegian region of Nordland over the recent years. Nordland’s 100% renewable energy production, together with the lowest energy prices in all of Europe, has for a long time been attractive to investors. Continuing, he said that this goldmine has moved to their neighboring countries who have a better framework that is hard to compete with. The major challenge now is the lack of power, which leads to a lot of projects being rejected.
Moderator Hilde Sandvik asked how the creation of more hydrogen factories in the north of Sweden can make regions like Nordland even more vulnerable to which Sammeli responded that the system should be run together: “If we all do it together, we can all be the solution.”
The value of energy cooperation is especially high
Approaching the event’s last session, the focus shifted towards the future of the energy sector in the Nordics and the Arctic. Following up on Skytte’s opening question “how can further Nordic energy cooperation facilitate the combination of security, high environmental ambitions, and economic growth?”, Erling Dalberg from Troms Kraft pointed towards the interconnecting powerlines between the Nordic countries. These lines have been especially important for Norway, since the country previously had to build all the power lines by itself. “A lot of people are arguing that we keep the electricity market to ourselves. I believe that we must cooperate across our borders”, Dalberg argued.
Stein Mathisen from Varanger Kraft supported Dalberg’s perspective, saying that “the green transition has made every country occupied with themselves and their own domestic challenges”. In his view, the important issue of every Nordic country should be how to be energy sufficient, especially with climate changes and the geopolitical situation.
Photo credit: Adrian Jakobsen, Screenstory