Standing committe of parliamentarians of the arctic regionThe Arctic – A Barometer for Global Climate Change

The Fourth Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changes (IPCC) tells us that the Arctic is warming at almost twice the global average. The rising temperature is changing the Arctic in many ways. An area where the ice previously has hindered human activities is being replaced by open waters in the summer season. This will give way to new shipping, fishing, oil and gas, and tourism activities. These activities are either new to the area or are being considerably scaled up. How is this influencing the people living in the Arctic?

The consequences of reduced snow and ice cover at a global level give reasons for great concern. The UNEP report “Global outlook for ice & snow” gives us valuable insight to what is happening in the polar and mountain regions of the world.

Small coastal communities in the Arctic will be among those hit hardest by these changes. The culture and living conditions are threatened, and there is a great need to assist these communities in adapting to the changes.

The Small Island Developing States and the communities in the Arctic are experiencing much of the same effects of climate change. We need to cooperate and share our experiences and scientific results, especially on adaptation to the changing climate.

Over the last 15 years the Arctic cooperation has experienced a new spring. The scientists have gone from being a tool of the military presence in the Arctic to deliver important information about the Arctic environment. The indigenous peoples in the Arctic have in a successful way found their voice in sharing with the rest of the world what they think about the impacts of the global change.

The dynamic of the cooperation between the Arctic science community, the Arctic indigenous peoples and the Arctic political organisations, has been the motor in the circumpolar cooperation.

To be able to host a panel discussion in the UN on this important topic was a great honor for the Arctic parliamentary cooperation, and especially to present such a distinguished and highly qualified panel for the event. Dr Robert Corell from the Arctic science community, Ms Darcie Mattiessen representing the Arctic indigenous peoples, Ms Juliane Hennigsen from the Arctic parliamentary cooperation, and Mr. Ahmed Djoghlaf, the Executive Secretary of the UN Convention on Biodiversity, one of the most important conventions with regards to Arctic and climate change.

An important part of the panel was the intervention from Ms. Annebeth Rosenboom, Chief of the Treaty Section, Office of Legal Affairs in the UN. Included in the list of treaties for the Annual Treaty Event 2008 are treaties relevant to the International Polar Year. Signatories to the UN - treaties relevant to the Arctic and their implementation, are of paramount importance to the governance of the Arctic.

Finally I want to thank the Permanent Mission of Norway to the United Nations for their generous assistance with the practical preparations and good advises in advance of the seminar. A special thanks to Ambassador Løvald for chairing the meeting.

Hill-Marta Solberg
Chair of the Standing Committee of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region