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17.01.2023 14:22 Umhverfis-٫ orku- og loftslagsráðuneytið

Ávarp Guðlaugs Þórs Þórðarsonar umhverfis-, orku- og loftslagsráðherra á Arctic Circle Abu Dhabi Forum - Ávarpið er á Ensku

Ladies and gentlemen,

I send my greetings to you from the high North. In our part of the world at this time of year, we look forward to gradually brighter days and we tend to be in an optimistic mood.

It is easy, however, to feel a bit gloomy about the global situation in early 2023. War has returned to Europe after decades of absence of major conflict. We see great instability in global economic and energy affairs. And the world has yet to get firmly on the path towards sustained decarbonization that we need in order to avoid a climate catastrophe. This state of affairs will be assessed at a global stocktake at the upcoming Climate Conference, COP28, in the United Arab Emirates. Some might claim that it shows the shortcomings of multilateralism and international cooperation.

That would be very wrong. We need more international cooperation and dialogue, not less. We did make progress at COP 27 in Egypt, by putting greater emphasis on dealing with adverse impacts of climate change. We should build upon this progress at COP 28, and engage in a frank and constructive dialogue at the global stocktake. The energy crisis has strengthened the resolve of most countries to move towards clean and sustainable energy. Adaptation to climate change calls for increased global and regional cooperation, as changes in natural systems require governments to work together, across borders.

In the years 2019 to 2021 I had the honour of chairing the Arctic Council, a forum of eight Arctic States and representatives of indigenous peoples from the region. The Council also has numerous observers – states and organizations – that contribute towards its work. Despite many differences, the mood in the Council was positive and workmanlike. We accomplished a lot during Iceland‘s two years of Chairmanship, including milestones regarding adaptation to climate change and tackling plastic pollution. In this, we benefitted from decades of increasing cooperation and solid achievements.

These achievements remain, despite the current hiatus in the formal work of the Arctic Council. The Council has created and nourished networks of cooperation, that continue to operate. This makes Arctic communities, and the region as a whole, more resourceful and resilient in the face of momentous change, as warming is three to four times more rapid in the High North than the global average.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Arctic model of cooperation holds lessons for regional cooperation in other regions of the world and arguably in particular for the Third Pole region.

I would like to mention briefly some elements of successful regional cooperation in the Arctic. The Arctic Council was not designed from scratch, but builds on prior collaboration in the field of science and environmental protection. This gradual evolution allowed for trust-building and a culture of dialogue and understanding. It also helped the Council to build on a solid foundation af facts, monitoring and expert assessments. The inclusion of indigenous peoples in the work of the Council was not only the right thing to do, but has positively contributed to the work and outcomes. Governments must take responsibility for multilateral bodies such as the Arctic Council, but involving civil society, communities, science and business enriches the work and deepens cooperation.

The impacts of climate change call for increased regional cooperation. The Arctic is a textbook example – it is impossible for small and dispersed communities to tackle monumental changes alone. The Third Pole is another example. The challenges faced in the massive mountain-ranges of Asia are momentous and unprecedented; as well as in the densely populated lands that rely on the water sources of the Third Pole.

There is a need for coordinated monitoring and assessment of environmental change. There is a need to study best practices and disperse lessons learned. There is a need for increased cooperation – to pool resources and increase resilience to change.

There is a need for cooperation within regions, but also between regions. We can learn from different approaches and best practices. I have followed the Third Pole dialogue for some time with interest, as it has many similarities with the Arctic. If I may, allow me to propose that a session in this dialogue will be convened in the Arctic, as a continuation of the dialogue today at the Arctic Circle Abu Dhabi Forum. The focus can be on what we can learn from each other. Iceland would be happy to host such a session, prior to and in preparation for COP 28.

I leave this thought with you, and wish you a productive dialogue in Abu Dhabi.

Thank you,


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