Among the first and hardest hit by the consequences of global warming are those of us who live in the North. If we reach the Paris Agreement goals of a two-degree increase in temperature, in the North it will mean six to eight degrees. A 3.2-degree increase could possibly mean an average rise of over ten degrees in the North.
It is therefore essential that we step up our efforts. We need dramatic cuts in the emissions of greenhouse gases, and we need them fast. Time is of the essence, and our climate commitments must be of fundamental importance when we plan for the future.
As a total percentage of the seven billion people on the planet, only few of us live in the High North – in total, we number just over four million. We may not be so many, but we are no less important than anyone else, with the same needs, responsibilities and rights as people elsewhere. Global warming is a global problem. It was not created in the Arctic alone; therefore it cannot be solved in the Arctic alone.
That said, the eight member states of the Arctic Council together with its thirteen observer countries and the European Union are responsible for 80 percent of global emissions. Maybe it is easier for 21 countries to agree to cut emissions than for 200 countries.
For me, it is obvious that science plays a central role in how we are going to face and tackle this crisis. People do not understand well enough what this is about – we need education. We do not know enough about what is happening – we need research. We do not know enough about the consequences, either for people or for nature. And we do not know enough about how to adapt to the changes.
Let me end with the good news: we know what the problem is, we have the technology to fix it, we can afford it, and there is still time. All we need is the political leadership.
COP26, the United Nations Climate Change Conference, will be held in Glasgow in November 2021. It is paramount that the countries reach an agreement to fulfil the goals from the Paris Agreement. I dare the Arctic Council members, the observer states and the European Union to take a leading role. I expect you to show the rest of the world how to solve the challenge – for the best of the people in the Arctic and elsewhere.
Adapted from Eirik Sivertsen’s speech at the meeting of the Council of UArctic in Stockholm, Sweden in September 2019