The Arctic Circle Assembly commenced in Reykjavik today. Prime Minister Bárður á Steig Nielsen gave the following speech.
Dear colleagues – ladies and gentlemen
I am delighted and honoured to be here. This is a unique and important event. It highlights that the challenges we face are not only Arctic, but also global.
By including a multitude of stakeholders from outside the Arctic this event also reminds us that collaboration is important if we are to be part of the solution.
I was invited to speak about the role of the Faroe Islands in the “new” Arctic.
Sadly, Arctic news these days are rarely good news. The challenges are many, and they are diverse.
The climate crisis is the primary challenge faced by my generation of world leaders.
Nowhere on the planet is that crisis as evident as it is here.
As an ocean nation, dependent on nature for survival, we too bear the brunt of climate change. The sense of urgency to act is stronger than ever before.
But we have several forums dedicated to agreement and action.
I was here when the Arctic Council agreed on its first strategic plan for the Arctic in May of this year.
The United Nations Conference of the Parties will begin in a few weeks. I will be there in person, and I am both eager and hopeful that results can be achieved when we gather in Glasgow for that critical event.
This Arctic Circle Assembly is another forum where we can share ideas and where we can bring about effective action.
The new Arctic also presents us with geopolitical challenges. An increasing number of states and actors try to assert their political and economic influence on this region.
Our vision for the Arctic is one of peace, prosperity, and cooperation.
Governance must build on the fundamental principle of the rule of law.
Dialogue must prevail. Compliments to Iceland for working towards such dialogue through this formidable platform of cooperation.
It is vital that we look for the balance between building economic prosperity on the one hand without compromising our environmental capital on the other. Placing equal value on growth and maintaining a healthy environment is not mutually exclusive. They are mutually supportive.
So, we will create value for our society, without damaging the ability for future generations to do so.
The business community shares this vision. In September, a group of Faroese companies launched The Faroese Sustainable Business Initiative. This involves a commitment to follow scientific recommendations to reduce their emissions by at least 50 per cent before 2030.
The resourcefulness shown by our business community is a clear indication that growth can happen and should happen despite aiming for a greener future.
Earlier this year I established The Forum for Sustainable Growth. It includes people who represent the political system, unions, employers, municipalities, and business interests. The goal is to preserve Faroese welfare and way of life, but to do so in an environmentally sustainable way. Our definition of real growth is simple: unless economic growth is sustainable, it should not be considered growth at all.
The forum has identified six areas with potential for sustainable growth. One of them is the green transition, which is critical in the pursuit of a sustainable future.
Renewable energy sources are abundant in the Faroe Islands. Strong wind, consistent ocean currents and tides.
With an existing network of hydropower from mountain streams and lakes, and from an increasing number of wind turbines, converting other sources of natural power into affordable green energy is a top priority.
Our challenge is to provide a secure supply of electricity, while using fluctuating energy sources, such as wind and water.
Numerous projects are ongoing: solar power, biogas production, offshore wind energy, power to X, pump storage battery systems and tidal energy.
These projects show that the Faroe Islands can provide an ideal setting for “small-but-full-scale” testing before new ideas and technologies are scaled up for larger markets.
The proportion of green energy on the national grid is growing, soon providing up to 65 per cent of total electricity production. The goal is 100% renewable energy by 2030.
We want to be the tip of the spear. Innovative green and blue solutions can be tested and developed in the Faroe Islands. We have already been a testing ground for energy solutions, but we want the green transition to go far beyond energy production and consumption.
What about the ways we export and import goods? What about digitization? What about tourism? In every form of activity there is potential for sustainable development. This is the central idea behind the Forum for Sustainable Growth.
Food is vital to all human life. The Faroe Islands is a significant food producer. And so, we are compelled to be smarter and greener in our production, export and import of food.
We discuss these issues at our side event “Food security in a regional perspective” on Saturday at 5.30 PM. I invite you all to join us there.
The ambition to strike the balance between building thriving communities and supporting a healthy environment also compels us to cooperate. The Faroe Islands have participated in the Arctic Council since its establishment in 96.
We contribute to scientific and environmental work in Arctic matters, such as monitoring and assessment reports on climate change, human health, pollution, gender equality and living conditions.
Central to our strategic work is to advance strong partnerships across the circumpolar region and beyond with everyone committed to a sustainable Arctic.
We seek economic cooperation because economic drivers for sustainability have an enormous and untapped potential.
We look for scientific cooperation because it is the most effective way to smart solutions.
We welcome cultural partnerships because understanding each other and our different ways of living helps us build strong lasting relationships.
And we seek political partnerships because diplomacy and bilateral relations are critical to all of the above.
I want to thank the Arctic Circle for this platform.
Thank you to President Ólavur Ragnar Grímsson for the invitation.
I applaud you for setting up this event, despite the difficulty in gathering a host of people from different parts of the world under the same roof.
Together, we can all be part of the solution.