Common Concern for the Arctic -konferenssi, Grönnlanti

Ilulissat Sports Centre, Ilulissat, Greenland


Effects of climate change and consequences of melting permafrost and glaciers on the protection and sustainable use of terrestrial living resources. Direct and indirect impacts of current agricultural and forestry policies (economic, social and environmental). Maintenance of biological diversity and use of genetic resources. Land use and management of natural resources. Impacts of industrial and radiological pollution.

Introduction by Mr Jan Vapaavuori, Finland’s Minister for Nordic Co-operation

Moderator: Ms Annika Ström Melin
Mr Yrjö Eljas Norokorpi, Area Manager, Natural Heritage Services of Metsähallitus, Finland
Ms Malin Brännström, Legal Advisor, National Union of the Swedish Sámi People
Mr Jesper Madsen, Director of Department, National Environmental Research Institute, Denmark
Mr David Stanners, Head of Programme, European Environment Agency (EEA)

Mr Jan Vapaavuori, Finland’s Minister for Nordic Co-operation:

Dear participants,

This conference is an important milestone for future cooperation in the Arctic region. The Arctic has gained new impetus in the wake of the climate change which brings about grave challenges to the very existence and wellbeing of the northern peoples.

In today’s meeting we embark on a review of policies and actions for the Arctic by mapping those areas of cooperation where both existing policies need strengthening and where new initiatives are called for. The issues which we shall be discussing are all high on the Arctic agenda. This gives our proceedings certain urgency.

Through effective mitigation and adaptation we may be able to turn threats into opportunities. Sustainable development should be our guiding principle. For that aim, more international cooperation is needed especially in the fields of sciences and research.

The Nordic region is naturally and strongly engaged in the Arctic, and all the Nordic countries and autonomous territories are represented in the Arctic. The Nordic countries have a clear self-interest in this unique and vulnerable region.

The Nordic countries, through their cooperation within the Nordic Council of Ministers, are preparing a new Strategy for Sustainable Development. In this new strategy, special attention is given to the Arctic. The consequenses of the climate change to the livelyhood of the northern peoples can be severe, and their special conditions must be taken into attention. Environmental risks can only be avoided through commitment to sustainability in all activities.

The Nordic Council of Ministers has recently also discussed a new Arctic Cooperation Program. The program aims at consolidating the work already begun on climate change and environmental toxins. The program will also include measures to preserve the heritage of the vast range of research activities that have taken place during the International Polar Year.

In the European Union context, the Northern Dimension – a common policy of the EU, Russia, Norway and Iceland – has proved to be an excellent framework for cooperation in issues relevant to the North. Now it is time to open up the ”Arctic Window” of the Northern Dimension even wider.

We highly appreciate the increasing contributions by the European Union – especially the Commission – to Arctic research and environmental protection. The forthcoming Arctic Communication by the European Commission will provide an exellent launching pad for newly intensified Arctic actions. It is natural for the EU to be closely involved in the work of the Arctic Council. For the Arctic Council to utilize the EU resources effectively and for the EU to become more integrated in the work of the Arctic Council is a win-win situation.

Finland is fully committed to environmental protection and sustainable development in the Arctic, including the Arctic Ocean. We fully acknowledge the leading role of the Arctic Council as the only circumpolar cooperation arrangement. Recognising the need for increased political dialogue among the Arctic states, coastal and non-coastal states alike, we are prepared to consider widening the Council’s agenda as long as it does not endanger the Council’s core functions.

Over the past centuries, Finland has accumulated a wide range of Arctic know-how. We have experts, in research institutions and businesses alike, in such fields as offshore technologies, maritime transport, Arctic construction, renewable energies, and waste management, just to mention a few examples. Naturally for Finland, forestry has always been one of the cornerstones of our livelihood.

The timberline forests form an important vegetation zone for every circumpolar Arctic State. They are a significant source of resources in the Arctic. On a circumpolar scale, much more needs to be done for the protection of the timberline forests. Our experience shows that more nature-oriented forestry methods are needed especially in these vulnerable areas, because biodiversity helps a forest to recover from a disturbance. Therefore, proper forestry methods are tools for both mitigation and adaptation. – Our forestry expert, Mr Norokorpi, will expand on this theme further in his own presentation.
Thank you.