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The Arctic is confronting enormous challenges and hardships, and it also remains on the threshold of a new era of possibilities. The ice is melting faster than ever. This fact has already affected and in the future will have major consequences for the population, plants and animal life.

Just take a look at Greenland where the vanishing ice is forcing polar bears into densely populated areas where they forage for food and often end up losing their lives because they also are a great danger to humans.

As the ice disappears, the hunters’ opportunities to find food also disappears in the areas that have been their hunting grounds for many generations. Both humans and animals are forced to adapt to the unfortunate consequences of global warming. At the other end of the scale, some may point to the opportunities of global warming, such as new transportation routes for shipping, that also may increase tourism and business.

The paradox is that while the Arctic in recent years is affected by global warming more than any other region, the Arctic is also becoming the centre of the worlds attention when it comes to energy resources and raw materials. Again, just look at the attention Greenland is receiving from the international big business industry. Many would like to get their hands on the treasures hiding in the Arctic underground.

“We must keep an eye on climate change and hope that its impacts will be as minimal as possible. We in the Nordic countries must take the lead and aim for a climate neutral society. Furthermore, it is important to ensure that those areas that open up as the ice melts are protected as far as possible from malicious activities such as destructive oil drilling,” says Karin Åström.

“As the Northeast Passage opens up the vessels transport increase. It is very important that we have safe ships and are well prepared for any accidents. It is also vital that the people now living in the Arctic can continue to live there even with the climate changes. We must create the conditions for a vibrant Arctic where we can maintain and develop the unique way of life that the people of the region have.”

It is of great importance that the Arctic countries reach agreements that govern how the Arctic will respond to the world’s attention in the future. This applies to how we use our natural resources, how the residents of the Arctic should be respected, and how we can protect the Arctic from increased exploitation.

“Interest in the Arctic is increasing and I am sure that it will continue to increase. Right now, relatively favorable winds are blowing and my impression is that there is an increased interest on the climate issue.

Unfortunately, so too does interest in the extraction of oil and gas that now becomes more readily accessible. I think all countries in the Arctic will see the value in the unique environment and increase their resources to try to protect and carefully develop the region. It is of great importance that we also secure fishing in the Arctic so that those who live in this region can continue to work in this industry.”

“Nordic cooperation is also needed in an Arctic context. We have a good tradition of cooperation in most areas, regardless of political orientation. Hopefully, this approach is something we can take with us into Arctic cooperation. For the Nordic Council, it is good that we are talking with a common and clear voice. The members of the Nordic Council have in many areas a common understanding of the Arctic, although I would prefer that the issue of extraction of natural resources associated with climate change be given a higher priority.”

Swedish Karin Åström (S) is the elected president of the Nordic Council and a member of the Swedish parliament, Riksdagen, where she is also chair for the Swedish delegation of the Nordic Council.

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