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Technology and cooperation key for sustainable development in the Arctic

Technology and cooperation key for sustainable development in the Arctic

| Text and photo: Björn Lindahl

The Nordic region needs to speak with one voice and develop joint technology if the northernmost parts of Finland, Norway and Sweden want to achieve sustainable development in the Arctic, according to the report ‘Growth from the North’.

The three countries’ prime ministers commissioned the report in April 2014 and it was presented during the Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromsø, which ran between 19-23 February.

Some of the proposed areas for cooperation were: 

  • Creating a research facility focusing solely on oil spills in icy waters
  • A completely new set of Nordic regulations for energy efficient buildings which can exist in parallel with the countries’ existing regulatory frameworks
  • Joint marketing of the three countries’ Arctic areas to attract tourists

The report’s authors are Anne Husebekk, Rector at the University of Tromsø, Magdalena Andersson, governor for Västerbotten County and Risto Penttilä, Chief Executive of the Finnish Chamber of Commerce.

Joint transport plan

The political message is similar to the one found in other Nordic reports; the need to remove border obstacles, harmonise education and qualification standards and develop a joint transport plan for the Arctic areas.

All of the three countries have separate Arctic strategies, but when it comes to Arctic issues the aim should be to speak with one Nordic voice. Since all five Nordic countries are members of the Arctic Council, it should be considered the most important forum for addressing Arctic issues.

The Norwegian Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, is sceptical:

“The Arctic is Norway’s most strategically important area both nationally and internationally.”

Her centre-right government has carried forward the very active Arctic policy developed by the former centre-left government of Jens Stoltenberg during their eight years in power. The government increased spending for the Arctic areas with 574 million kroner (€65m) in its 2015 budget, bringing the total spending to nearly three billion kroner (€340.5m).  

Parallel with the Tromsø conference, Norway’s Ministry of Petroleum and Energy opened up new blocks for oil and gas exploration in the Barents Sea. For the first time since 1994 oil companies are now able to explore areas on the border with Russia and near the Arctic ice edge in the north.

LNG part of the solution

The three authors have not taken a position on oil exploration, but consider liquefied natural gas (LNG) to be part of the solution — a source for sustainable growth and energy security 

Especially if the natural gas is combined with iron ore production. 

“Today, mineral raw materials in many parts of the Arctic are processed using coal or heavy fuel oil or transported elsewhere for processing. We believe that in the future, LNG can be the energy component in mineral processing activities, creating new industry clusters and achieving considerable reductions in CO2 emissions”, the authors write.  

LNG can also be important as fuel for shipping, which is facing new and stricter provisions on sulphur emissions from the beginning of 2015.

New set of rules

The report’s authors propose a completely new set of rules for energy efficient buildings, rather than a time consuming harmonisation of construction regulations and legislation in the different countries. Above: an apartment block being built in Tromsø.


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