“The Arctic is hot, welcome to the cold Tromsø,” said Knut Werner Hansen, Mayor of Troms County in his welcoming speech to the fully packed Polaria expedition hall as around 1,000 participants from 25 nations meet this week for the annual most important event for politicians, diplomats, scientist and other stakeholders in the circumpolar Arctic.
Arctic Frontiers has developed to be the hottest conference for discussions on the international arena addressing developments in the Arctic.
While the discussions on the future of a melting Arctic inside the conference hall are hot, the outside is still freezing cold. Participants arriving from inner Finnmark, the traditional land of the Sami reindeer herders, experienced temperatures down to minus 40 degrees Celsius while driving to Tromsø this morning.
Global warming and its consequences for people living in the Arctic are among the main issues for this year’s gathering at Arctic Frontiers conference entitled “Humans in the Arctic.”
Salve Dahle with Akvaplan-Niva is head of the steering committee of Arctic Frontiers and is especially glad to see the huge international interest for the conference.
“If we are to find good solutions for the challenges in the Arctic, we depend on playing with the nations that affect the Arctic,” says Salve Dahle to BarentsObserver.
He points to nations like USA, Russia, China and Canada. “They are key nations for the future developments in the Arctic and they all have important delegations here this week,” Salve Dahle says.
Health, environment and society and maritime traffic in the Arctic are the two focus topics to be debated.
“It is of ultimate importance that we start to recognize the contrast between two important trends in the Arctic; increased levels of toxic contamination due to the fact that the Arctic serves as a global sink for pollutants from around the globe on one side and on the other side the positive health effects of eating sea products from the Arctic,” argues Salve Dahle.
“The growing market for Arctic sea-food should of course be interested in keeping the food as clean as possible.”
Another change is that less ice in the Arctic Oceans will make the top of the globe more accessible to shipping.
“80 to 90 percent of sea traffic in the Arctic will sail through the Barents Sea, either it is transit voyages from Europe to Asia or domestic Russian shipping to Siberia along the Northern Sea Route. This will increase and it is of great importance to get in place highly needed search-and rescue services,” says Dahle.
“The only way to succeed with that is by increasing international cooperation in the Arctic.”
Salve Dahle is head of the steering committee of Arctic Frontiers.
The Barents Region has some of the last largest areas of intact natural woodlands in Europe. Scientists, bureaucrats and environmentalists from all four Barents countries cooperate on preserving the forest, but an international initiative is needed.
August 9th, the Barents Region celebrated the UN International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. The day was commemorated in several parts of the region, including Karasjok in Northern Norway and Teriberka in Northwestern Russia.