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A changing Arctic at Arctic Frontiers

Introduction by the Danish Minister for Equal Opportunities and Nordic Cooperation, Karen Ellemann, in the session A changing Arctic at Artic Frontiers, Tromsø January 23 2017

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Today we focus on how we in the Arctic strike the delicate balance between economic growth and environmental sustainability?



The Arctic is nothing unique in this respect – this balance is also key in our domestic policies. And it has always been a hard one. I should know. I am a former minister for the environment. However, what is unique to the Arctic is that the economic activities in this region – or in great parts of it – are expected to grow extraordinarily fast during the years to come. Therefore, we need balanced visions for both economic growth – and for the climate and environment. 



Although the commercial opportunities in the Arctic may not in the short run necessarily be as lucrative and game changing as the dominating narrative have suggested, we should not sit back and wait. In order to cope with – and get the best out of – these future opportunities, it is worthwhile already now to make sure that we always ask ourselves: Are the developments sustainable?



The consequences of the global climate changes are so apparent and visible in the Arctic. The increase in temperature is twice as big as it is in the rest of the world.  The area and the thickness of the ice cap decreases – despite fluctuations – persistently. And worth noting: this takes place in a region, which has only contributed modestly to climate change itself.



Therefore, there is no doubt in my mind that the Arctic States with the support of the international community have not just a clear interest, but also a clear obligation to contribute to striking the right balance between economic growth and environmental sustainability in the Arctic – in our own work and in our cooperation with stakeholders.



In accordance with common sense – and also in accordance with the Kingdom of Denmark Arctic Strategy – we should all be working with a clear vision of an Arctic region with more versatile business communities and diversified economies. And we should do so here and now – and not just leave it for the great expectations for future projects to form the future economy.



Bioeconomy, tourism and creative industries are the three sectors, which Nordregio in the report ”Sustainable Business Development in the Nordic Arctic” last year pointed out as the most promising. I agree! A diversification along these lines would not only contribute to a broader and more stable economic base for the Arctic economies.



Distance and connectivity is a special challenge for the Arctic. Therefore, it was very positive indeed, that the American Chairmanship of the Arctic Council decided to highlight this important barrier to economic development by focusing on telecommunications in the Arctic. Defeating Distance Digitally is by all means the most promising, most cost efficient and environmentally friendly way of doing so.



Mr. Prime Minister Juha Sipilä, the Finnish decision to focus on connectivity in the Arctic during the upcoming Finnish chairmanship is very much appreciated by the Kingdom of Denmark. We will work with you to explore the potentials of further connectivity and digitalisation.



With the establishment of the Arctic Economic Council we have furthermore got a forum for interaction between the Arctic Council and the wider circumpolar business community. The aim must be to promote future public-private partnerships enhancing the sustainable development in the Arctic.



As I started out by saying: We have to strike the right balance between economic growth and environmental sustainability. The vision must secure that the Arctic people can develop their communities, business sectors and link up to the world economy. It must protect the environment. And it must – as we also see today – bring together all actors such as governments and politicians, investors and entrepreneurs, scientists and researchers. Thank you.