Search Results for Tag: Norway
Politics and Science
The four hours (increasing daily) of daylight here are fascinating. The snow and the sky turn so many different shades of blues and pink, it’s tempting to stand outside and watch the show.
Of course Arctic Frontiers continues inside, so a quick photo session in the lunch-break has to suffice.
There are actually 3 different elements of this conference. The first two days were policy,the rest of the week science, with a parallel International Polar Year meeting taking place. People keep saying it would be great to bring the politicians and scientists together even more and have the ministers and commissioners here all week. To some extent, I think that’s true. Then again, the scientists need their own forum to discuss technical stuff. Some of them told me they were getting impatient with the politics, although they know governance is a key issue for the future of the Arctic.
Somehow, I don’t think the fact that we feel governments are too slow to take action to drastically reduce emissions would change much even if the ministers and commissioners could sit through all the science conferences. The information about the speed at which the Arctic is melting has got through to the politicians. The trouble is the changes we will have to make to our lifestyles and the slow rate at which we’ve been developing alternative technologies. The Norwegian ministers here said quite clearly Norway, for instance, will continue to depend on fossil fuels in coming decades and try to reduce emissions using new technologies like carbon capture and storage (still at experimental stage!)
We have to reduce our energy consumption and drastically increase our use of renewables. I’d say there’s a concensus here on that amongst scientists and politicians here.
One young German scientist said to me last night everybody who understands the science and the situation should just take a stand and support the call for a moratorium on any further exploitation of oil and gas in the Arctic. Now that would be a fine thing. But what about commercial interests? Sigh.
DateJanuary 22, 2009 | 4:06 pm
Carbon capture as ticket to keep drilling?
Yesterday evening and in the course of the day I had so many interesting talks it’s hard to know where to start.
Heidi Sörensen is Norway’s deputy environment minister and she seems to be really passionate about her job and the urgency of tackling climate change.This is just based on my encounter today.
Being a politican must sometimes be frustrating when things can’t move as fast as you would like them to – and you feel the future of the world is at stake.
In view of the extent to which the Arctic is already melting, she argues for rapid adaptation as well as mitigation. There was a lot of discussion about her government’s insistence on carbon capture and storage as the way to make sure Norway can keep on using and selling its oil and gas while reducing emissions, given that this is in the experimental stage. Quite a few experts here expressed doubts. She is confident that the technology will work – and reasonably fast, although she accepts that there could still be problems. Of course this would allow Norway to exploit the rest of the oil and gas thought to be there in the Arctic. But the Minister also actually said the Greenpeace moratorium idea was worth thinking about.Well, well.
Our venue today.
At the moment I’m listening to a Canadian speaker, who is presenting figures on the huge extent of Canada’s Arctic territory. As he says, it seems amazing Canada has no northern University and no Polar Institute. Good luck to those who are trying to change that.
He finds Tromsö amazing, with such an infrastructure so far north and a renowned university.
Meanwhile Siegfried from Germany has visited the blog and wonders if there will be insights here into what way the new Obama government will go in terms of climate protection.
Well, there is no quick answer to that here, but expectations are certainly very high that a new President Obama will be a positive influence and have the USA sign up to an effective post-Kyoto agreement, and to several other international conventions essential to protecting the Arctic, which the previous administration kept out of.
DateJanuary 20, 2009 | 3:26 pm
What about a non-national ecosystem-based governance system for the Arctic?
This is the 3rd of these Arctic Frontiers conferences, and there is a very impressive collection of people attending from all the sectors involved with the Arctic. Politicians, indigenous representatives, scientists, students (the conference venue is after all the world’s northernmost university), business and industry, ngos and research organisations, and even the military. It’s a great opportunity to catch up on the latest issues, research results and policies, projects and make contacts.
Tromso has traditionally been a “gate to the Arctic“ for explorers. Today, it is still one of the most important departure points – and centres of knowledge and expertise on Arctic issues.
At one point I was sitting next to a senior manager from a major technology company, discussing climate change with an activist from an ngo. He said this is an ideal forum for him to make contacts – and to talk to stakeholders in the region and find out about their concerns and requirements. It’s fair to say all points of views are represented.
One of the major themes in today’s presentations and discussions has been the decision-making or governance issue with regard to the Arctic, against the background of climate change – which is no longer being questioned by any sceptics here. The Norwegian Secretary of State from the Foreign Ministry Elisabeth Waalers, who stood in for her Minister who’s gone down with ‘flu, is convinced existing bodies, such as the Arctic Council, are sufficient to govern and regulate the use of natural resources, she says we just have to implement existing regulations better. The EU is taking a strong new interest in the Arctic, and Joe Borg, the Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, put the case for greater involvement and a coordinating role. One argument is the importance of climate change and the Arctic for the planet as a whole.
I had an interesting talk with Per Berthelsen, the Minister for Finance and Foreign Affairs of Greenland Home Rule. He has no objections to the EU having observer status on the Arctic Council, but stresses they and other “outsiders” should listen to the views and concern of the indigenous peoples who are at home in the Arctic.
The USA, as mentioned in a recent entry, came out with a new strategy in the last week of the Bush administration. The US speaker here, Jim Slutz, was in a strange position, speaking on these issues on his last day in office. Russia will probably publish a strategy soon, but the deputy minister of Natural Resources and Ecology here made no secret of his country’s interest in getting at new oil resources.
Of course WWF and Greenpeace are here to remind us all that climate change is more than just a new opportunity to exploit natural resources. They are sceptical about existing mechanisms being enough. Lindsay Keenan from Greenpeace Sweden told me he sometimes had the feeling people haven’t learnt anything from the mistakes of the past, as there is too much talk of further exploitation of positive effects of climate change rather than proposals for action to tackle it. . Greenpeace has floated the idea of a 50-year moratorium on further exploration in the Arctic, given the background of climate change – i.e. the opposite of what industry and other players are planning. Sounds like a great idea to me – but I can’t say I’m optimistic about its chances of being implemented. But as Prof. Oran Young from the Bren School of Environmental Management, Uni of California, reminded us, we all have to do our bit to stop the Arctic discussion sliding into a “big game” for “big politics” and argue for a non-national, eco-system based approach to governance.
I could write a lot more but will leave you with this summary for the moment and open my ears to some more information, while I have the chance.
DateJanuary 19, 2009 | 2:54 pm
The Age of the Arctic?
The Ice-Blog will be coming to you from Tromsö in Norway from Sunday onwards.
I’m looking forward to the “Arctic Frontiers” conference, entitled “The Age of the Arctic”.
Arctic Frontiers conference website
It will be interesting to hear how the states with Arctic territory and the EU see the future of the region – and how they plan to safeguard the environment while at the same time trying to lay claim to the natural resources they’d like to access.
It seems there are influential people who think climate change is nothing more than a great opportunity to open up oil and gas reserves previously inaccessible.
US President Bush made a point of presenting a new Arctic Strategy (15 years since the last US one)in his last few days in office, stressing the country’s intention of securing greater influence. Critics say it’s based too strongly on military and economic interests. And the USA is not alone there.
Let’s hear what the parties have to say in Tromsö in the coming week.
DateJanuary 16, 2009 | 3:28 pm