The 2022 theme of Arctic Frontiers, Pathways, reflects on the choices the Arctic is facing when addressing pressing global challenges.
The urgency for action will be discussed in terms of pathways to economic development, sustainability, climate action, security, stability, and respect for science in decision-making. The scale spans from national to global policies, from corporate strategies to regional actions and Indigenous perspectives, emphasizing the need for broad stakeholder engagement and partnership.
Below is a description of the different Big Picture sessions at the 2022 Arctic Frontiers Pathways conference.
What characterizes Arctic policies in a constantly changing landscape? Is multilateralism still our preferred path in the Arctic when facing global challenges? Will the large overrun the small? Can we balance sustainable development in the Arctic if we don’t have a common vision for the region?
The global framework is currently characterized by increasing tendencies favouring nationalism and protectionism, concerns related to hard as well as soft security, the division between international, national, regional, and local interests and the challenges of informed decision making in a world where science is no longer automatically trusted by all.
This high-level session seeks to discuss global development trends, their impact on the Arctic, and discover what is needed for the region to continue along the path of collaboration, stable management, and sustainable development.
Pathways to Sustainable Finance
The Arctic is a region with abundant renewable energy options, and one with a long track record of sustainable industrial development. But the Arctic is also diverse, characterized by unequal levels of development across the pan-Arctic region.
Countries all over the world have used fiscal stimulus packages in response to the Covid-19 economic crises to promote policies linked to environmentally sustainable growth. This tendency was observed already before the outbreak of the pandemic. One of the tools in this building-back-better kit is the European Union’s taxonomy for sustainable activities which will affect companies well beyond European borders.
This session seeks to draw attention to the role of the finance sector and see how financial mechanisms may influence the Arctic on its pathway to green transition.
Are the metrics used by the financial sector to drive investment behavior a one-size-fits-all approach, or should we have Arctic-specific definitions for ESG (environment, social, governance) metrics? Is the greening of investments and the EU’s taxonomy a “golden ticket” for the Arctic and the region’s development?
What are its impacts on remote Arctic communities relying on industrial development? What are the implications of recent announcements that financial institutions are steering clear of investments in Arctic oil and gas development? Can the fear of public push back slow the Arctic development? How will the emerging green finance trends balance the need for social sustainability?
Pathways to Sustainable Use of the Ocean
We need our oceans to meet growing demands for food and resources. Climate change increases the unpredictability of the oceans’ capacity to provide. This session focuses on our use of the ocean in a changing climate, the rapid growth of ocean-based industries and the need to think long-term sustainability.
How can innovation in business operations and technology ensure the sustainability of the blue economy? Could artificial intelligence help make predictions? Will these new developments stimulate innovative ocean-based business?
How will the blue economy feed the growing population and at the same time contribute to the green transition? Is it possible to do more with less? What kind of impact will a blue economy have on the Arctic communities? Researchers, Indigenous representatives and the business community will share their perspectives on the recent developments and discuss coexistence and future opportunities.
Pathways for Arctic Infrastructure
As a region characterized by vast spaces and remoteness, finding the business case for infrastructure development in the Arctic has proven challenging.
The large distances, fierce weather and minimal ground infrastructure turn space infrastructure into an important arrow in the quiver of Arctic decision makers, when seeking opportunities in the modern and technology adept Arctic. Due to the orbit of many of the satellites, the Arctic provides the most effective location for ground stations. This has led to an extensive development of suited ground infrastructure in the region.
This session will concentrate on the ground and space infrastructure important for the living conditions for the Arctic inhabitants. This includes climate monitoring, telecommunications and navigation, but also the possibilities of creating high technology jobs in the Arctic.
Can the digital transformation, accelerated by the pandemic and paired with improved connectivity provide pathways to the future for remote Arctic communities? What are the societal benefits of such development, and can it offer a solution for the demographic trends highlighting outmigration which characterize so many of our Northern communities? Or will we face the danger of increased inequalities between digital peripheries and well-connected centres?
Pathways to Energy Transition
Are there ways of avoiding the Arctic squeeze?
The green transition is central to building back better after Covid-19. Simultaneously, estimates for 2021 show an expected surge in global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions driven by coal demand. A carbon neutral Nordic region alone would need to increase their current electricity production by 75 percent to meet the additional demand for power.
Development of renewable energy sources calls for access to area, critical minerals, and new technology. Are we able and willing to meet the ambitious Covid-19 economic recovery goals in a sustainable manner?
In terms of energy, the Arctic is characterized by its abundance in some regions, but sparsity in others. This diversity carries over into the types of energy sources utilized by our industry and communities, while recognizing that access to affordable energy sources is a daily challenge for some.
This session seeks to discuss the role of the Arctic in the future of energy development, and the ways and means forward. There are many pathways towards a net-zero future, which can include emerging technologies such as carbon capture, storage and utilization, conversion of carbon dioxide into stone, as well as the increased use of renewables.
What are the implications of global net-zero emission targets for the Arctic? How well are the different parts of the pan-Arctic region prepared to utilize their potential? What are the implications of the energy transition for our communities?
The global discussion about the Arctic is a constant balancing act between the will to preserve and the need to develop. Targeting net-zero emissions is a global goal with varying time frames. Industry-driven technological development is likely to play a crucial role in the development. While climate change is a pressing global challenge, the reality on the ground in the Arctic is characterized by competing local and regional challenges.
How can the people of the Arctic seize new opportunities, or do we risk that the global transformation bypasses the Arctic? What will future generation of the Arctic inhabitants live from? How do we ensure that the Arctic is competitive now and in the future?
This high-level session seeks to discuss the role and position of the Arctic in a constantly changing landscape of development, security, climate, socio-economic factors and geopolitics. What are the push and pull factors from a regional perspective, and how well do our national strategies and international action plans respond to them? Leaders representing policy and industry, as well as thought leaders will discuss whether the Arctic will be at the centre of future development, or play a peripheral role.
Julia Seljeseth email