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COMMENTARY: A Nordic perspective on the Arctic

Hanne Fugl Eskjær, Roy Eriksson, Hlynur Gudjonsson, Jon E. Fredriksen & Urban Ahlin
Delegates from across the Arctic gathered in Whitehorse this week. (Arctic Arts Summit/Facebook)

Hanne Fugl Eskjær, Roy Eriksson, Hlynur Gudjonsson, Jon E. Fredriksen & Urban Ahlin

The Arctic Arts Summit, hosted this year in Whitehorse, will showcase and provide an excellent forum for discussion of Arctic arts and culture in a relevant, timely, and progressive way. The summit also promises to highlight the similarities and close ties shared between Arctic nations. As Nordic ambassadors, we are happy to be in the Yukon for the 2022 Arctic Art Summit.

We collaborate regularly with Canada on important Arctic issues such as climate change, sustainable economic development, and Arctic security. However, as noted in each of our countries’ national Arctic policies, we also work collaboratively to promote and protect northern and Indigenous culture. For this reason, we are fully supportive of the themes covered by this year’s Summit, which include, among others: language, heritage and identity; environmental sustainability; circumpolar collaboration; and artistic activism.

With respect to shared ties and ways of life between Arctic nations and peoples, Indigenous peoples across the north in particular share a longstanding history of interborder travel. For example, the Inuit in Greenland and Nunavut, which now share a land border on Tartupaluk/Hans Island, have travelled between and across the regions for over 4,500 years. Moreover, northern Scandinavia is home to the Samí people, who share a culture and languages that span multiple national boundaries. We believe more than ever that these interconnections and shared ways of life should be promoted and protected.

The geopolitical and climactic circumstances that bind us even closer together today require even closer multilateral efforts between Arctic nations. As the region is warming at three times the global average, we need to press forward with the Green Transition and invest in sustainable economic development for land and ocean-based economies alike. To this end, the Nordic countries have been paving the way by proving that climate action can work hand-in-hand with economic growth and job creation.

We have also put science-based research cooperation at the centre of our policies. A collaborative approach to research is our best bet to gathering a better understanding of the deep impact that climate change plays in the region and addressing cross continental issues like permafrost thaw. Sharing data and participating in collaborative research efforts also positions us to better support the sustainable cultural, social, economic, and commercial development of the Arctic.

The transition to ‘net zero’ will not be easy, especially in more remote areas of the Arctic, but the shift has already begun, and related long-term investments have already proven to be beneficial to northern people and the local environment.

In Norway, on the Svalbard archipelago, hundreds of solar panels and windmills have been installed to provide clean energy to the people who live in the region and reducing the dependence on coal as an energy source. Currently 70 per cent of Greenland’s electricity is being produced via renewable sources, and in 2021, Greenland approved two new hydroelectric projects, which is expected to increase the green coverage to 90 per cent by 2030. Denmark is reaching its ambitious carbon goals through several means, including by constructing the world’s first energy island, that will serve as a hub for off-shore wind production. In Sweden, revolutionary processes such as HYBRIT (Hydrogen Breakthrough Ironmaking Technology) and H2 Green Steel will eliminate nearly all CO2 emissions from steel production processes and are positioning Sweden as a leader in the production of green steel. In Finland steps have been taken to fulfill the most ambitious goal of being carbon neutral by the year 2035 and, as this is progressing so well, the next goal is to become carbon negative by the year 2050. Due to investments made over the preceding decades, Iceland already produces 100% of the energy required for their electricity grid and household heating through hydro-electric and geothermal power sources. Last, but not least, here in the Yukon, the territorial government has also committed itself to the transition, having announced an $80 million investment in its 2022-2023 budget to address and adapt to climate change. This is news we greatly welcome.

These projects and many others have been and will continue to be fundamental for expanding the potential of northern communities and peoples and for attracting green investments and partnerships into the Arctic. All this while also growing jobs and bolstering Arctic economies.

Finally, with respect to geopolitical concerns, like Canada, the Nordic countries wish to see the Arctic remain an area of low tension. We regard the area as well regulated by international law; however, the potential threat from conflict outside the Arctic itself cannot be ignored. Russia’s unlawful and indefensible attacks on a democratic neighbouring country has made cooperation with the Russia Federation in the Artic Council and other sub-regional organizations impossible, and it has required each of our countries to strengthen our national defense and security capabilities.

In this context, Nordic countries will continue to cooperate closely with Canada to address the challenges posed by this disruption to global peace and security, and international norms. Similarly, we will continue to collaborate and share Nordic knowledge and expertise with Canadian stakeholders at federal, provincial, territorial, and local levels related to climate resilience, social welfare, telecommunications, housing, critical infrastructure and security in the Arctic. By working, together with our allied international partners, Indigenous leaders, scientists and experts, we know that we can find the best solutions to our common goals and challenges.

As we look to the Arctic Arts Summit, we are excited to learn from all the artists, local leaders, officials, and activists from around the Arctic region and to witness how the power of art can make us reflect and refocus on the important tasks ahead of us to sustain and protect the Arctic’s people and fragile environment.

Hanne Fugl Eskjær is an Ambassador of Denmark, Roy Eriksson is an Ambassador of Finland, Hlynur Gudjonsson is an Ambassador of Iceland, Jon E. Fredriksen is an Ambassador of Norway and Urban Ahlin is an Ambassador of Sweden. All five are visiting Whitehorse for the Arctic Arts Summit.