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Support for Finland

1 May 2017

This article originally appeared in The Circle: Finland takes the chair. The Circle shares perspectives from across the Arctic, and the views expressed here are not necessarily those of WWF. See all Circle issues here.

Finland is preparing to take over the Chairmanship in an increasingly uncertain political situation. EIRIK SIVERTSEN says it is Finland’s job to ensure cooperation continues on climate-related challenges, and on economic and political development of the region.

ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT tasks facing Finland is to prevent any negative trends from spiralling out of control and thus undermining decades of East-West cooperation that have established the High North as a region of low conflict. While a detailed chairmanship program is presented at the Ministerial Meeting on 11th May, we already know that the Finnish Chairmanship will focus on the implementation of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as part of Arctic cooperation. As the Arctic Council’s primary mandate relates to sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic, the Finnish priorities are readily justifiable.

Arctic parliamentarians have a long tradition of defining new goals for the Arctic Council. In its efforts to improve effectiveness, the Council’s plan of strategic development has the support of the parliamentarians. But this requires the establishment of an adequate and stable budget for the Arctic Council. In the latest Parliamentary Statement, the Arctic parliamentarians outline three areas where we expect results.

Climate change has been viewed as the most pressing challenge. We annually witness how the extent of sea ice has been diminishing in the Arctic to the point that startling monthly lows rarely even make headlines any longer. At the beginning of 2017 the World Meteorological Organization reported that sea ice extent in the Arctic and Antarctic was the lowest for the month of January since satellite records began 38 years ago. Even though this was something that gained wide publicity, many failed to understand its true meaning and consequences.

These dramatic changes profoundly influence the life of the people and animals living in the Arctic. Therefore, Arctic parliamentarians will ask the Arctic Council to organize a meeting between the ministers responsible for climate to take new initiatives to reduce emissions of CO² (carbon dioxide) and short-lived climate forcers. The Council should also explore how the 12 observer countries can be more closely involved in the fight against climate change.

Global warming is not created by the Arctic’s 4 million inhabitants. The climate challenges can therefore not be solved by turning the Arctic into a sanctuary. Yet the Arctic is hit first and hardest by the impact of climate change. Every opportunity should therefore be taken to raise a strong voice to communicate the consequences of climate change in the Arctic at all relevant international meetings.

In order to meet the consequences of climate change, we must understand and support the regions and communities affected by it. We propose that the Arctic Council support development of national, regional and local climate change adaptation plans in the Arctic, including ongoing work on building resilience. Arctic Parliamentarians strongly advocate the need for economic development in the Arctic. The Arctic is not a wildlife sanctuary, but a home for more than four million people. We are obliged to ensure the opportunity for sustainable economic development for all people living in the Arctic. Requisite standards for Corporate Social Responsibility – CSR – should be established for companies doing business in the Arctic Region.

In the two decades it has existed, the Arctic Council has been a success. Due to innovative ways of governance and the ability to meet new opportunities, it has become the most important international body for governing the Arctic. Now that we have celebrated the Council’s 20th anniversary, we need to look ahead. To secure continued development and success in the years to come, we propose holding an Arctic Summit involving the heads of state and governments of the Arctic Council member states, as well as the heads of the Permanent Participants who represent the Indigenous peoples of the circumpolar Arctic. As Arctic parliamentarians, we will continue to work for the interests of the inhabitants of the Arctic, and welcome all initiatives of the Finnish chairmanship that support the well-being of the people living in the Arctic.

EIRIK SIVERTSEN is a Norwegian Member of Parliament for the Labor Party. He Chairs Norway’s delegation to the Arctic Parliamentary Cooperation and the Standing Committee of Arctic Parliamentarians.

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