| Brussels, Belgium

Research is key to sustainable development of the Arctic

Fridtjof Fossum Unander - Photo:Yngve Angvik, Mission of Norway to the EU
- Norway’s goal is to be a leading research nation in and for the Arctic and northern areas, said Fridtjof Unander, Executive Director of the Division for Resource Industries and the Environment at the Research Council Norway. Photo: Yngve Angvik, Mission of Norway to the EU

On 26 June, the Mission of Norway to the EU together with the Research Council of Norway invited stakeholders in Brussels to discuss how Norway, as one of the leading countries in Arctic research, can contribute to EU's overall ambitions.

The Arctic provides homes and livelihood for many Norwegians. Some 10 % of Norway’s population live north of the Arctic Circle. This is a greater proportion than in any other country in the world.

Climate change is particularly pronounced in the north, and Arctic temperatures are rising faster than the global average – more than twice as rapidly as the world as a whole over the past 50 years. Sea ice thickness has declined by 65 % from 1975-2012, and ecosystems are changing.

Research shows that the Arctic Ocean could be largely free of sea ice in summer as early as the late 2030s.

- To safeguard biodiversity and at the same time provide a basis for sustainable use of resources, research and participation by different stakeholders is crucial. A sustainable development in the Arctic will require international collaboration, and the EU is an important partner for Norway in the North, said Eirik Nestås Mathisen, Minister Counsellor at the Norwegian Mission to the EU.

Eirik Nestås Mathisen

For both the EU and Norway, Arctic research is a high priority. EU's Ambassador at Large for the Arctic, Marie-Anne Coninsx, called for broader involvement:

- The challenges facing us requires international cooperation, also with non-Arctic states. It needs to be inclusive, she said.

New research strategies

The newly published Ny-Ålesund Research Strategy for the Arctic region also functioned as a backdrop to the discussions. Ny-Ålesund represent a key site for observing effects of the warming that is occurring, and for undertaking research regarding how such changes influence the region and the globe.

- Norway’s goal is to be a leading research nation in and for the Arctic and northern areas, said Fridtjof Unander, Executive Director of the Division for Resource Industries and the Environment at the Research Council Norway.

- The Research Council of Norway provides funding, and aims to strengthen knowledge and encourage sustainable management and industrial development in the North.

The close connections with EU's future research priorities in the Arctic was highlighted. The EU is a major contributor to Arctic research under Horizon 2020 and aims to continue its support under Horizon Europe.

- There will be a lot of funding, but it will have to be in line with overall priorities, said Sigi Gruber, Head of Unit at the European Commission.

Marie-Anne Conninx emphasized the need for an updated Arctic strategy from the EU side:

- Changes are happening fast. An updated EU strategy for the Arctic will be needed in the near future. We have to do more to secure a peaceful, sustainable, innovative and well-connected Arctic, she said.

Panel debate