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The green transition needs public support

| By Björn Lindahl, Editor-in-chief

The green transition and Greenland. Are the two linked? The election result which turned the power balance upside down on the island was influenced by a controversial mining project. It promised an abundance of rare earth materials needed for lithium batteries that are used in electric cars and wind turbines.

The Narsaq mining project could provide 10% of these materials according to Greenland Mining, who had won the right to mine them.

It could have been a positive story for the green transition. But the Greenlanders did not want it. They were worried about the high levels of radioactive thorium, a byproduct which they feared could pollute the area for thousands of years. 

As a result, the pro-mining Social Democrat party Siumut lost its government power for the first time since 1979, when Greenland got its autonomy. Opposition parties IA and Narsaq have now formed a coalition government.

What we can learn from this is that the green transition cannot be carried without the support of the people and workers. That was also the theme for a trade union conference organised by the Council of Nordic Trade Unions NSF and German DGB, an umbrella for eight trade unions.

Europe is facing a historic transition, pointed out Jytte Guteland, a Swedish Social Democrat MEP. What started as a coal and steel union is now to become a fossil-free union.

The Nordic Council of Ministers has also made the green transition one of its three main goals going forward towards 2030. We all depend on this transition to succeed, but there will be winners and losers. Swedish Skellefteå is among the winners. Before Northvolt has even finished building their first battery mega factory there, a German carmaker (read VW), with help from German state guarantees, has ordered batteries for 300,000 EVs.  

No other country in the world has a larger proportion of EVs than Norway. 20% of all cars in that country are now fully electric. This has an effect not only on car retailers. Garages with only EVs do not have to worry about exhaust and Norway has started getting dedicated EV repair shops where the time spent on each car is much lower, since the design is much less complicated. We have looked at what is happening to petrol stations – or could we already start calling them energy stations?

We have also dived deep into – or at least waded in the beach zone of – what researchers call the blue forest – the seaweed growing along the Nordic coasts which has turned out to play an important role both for CO2 storage and as a raw material for food and medicines. Linnéa Sjögren is an enthusiast who wants to increase the use of seaweed, while also protecting it and spreading knowledge about it. Research with support from the Nordic Council of ministers has seen the blue forests mapped for the first time

We also write about another kind of mapping – within the construction industry, where the Nordics want to develop methods for how to assess the climate footprint of building materials throughout their life cycle. This would cover production, installation, use and finally decommissioning. 

The Nordic Council of Ministers also supports research into new technology which will give people with physical handicaps greater opportunities in the labour market, as well as research into how to reduce sexual harassment and assaults at work. This is a particular problem in the care sector since perpetrators can be colleagues, bosses, patients or even patients’ family. ”Tölum saman” is the rallying cry from a project run in Akureyri in Iceland. 

We talk to each other in all kinds of Nordic settings, but should we use what is sometimes called “blandinavian” or should English be our common language? 

“Both Finns and Icelanders can feel like outsiders in a room where you are expected to speak Scandinavian. The same goes for Greenlanders and Sami, and also many immigrants,” points out Johan Strang, Associate Professor at the Centre for Nordic Studies at the University of Helsinki.


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