Addressing challenges with integrated policy (34)
Climate change affects all areas of the globe, some parts more than others. The Arctic is such an area. Problems must be dealt with, but there might also be opportunities to seize. Norway has developed an integrated policy for the Arctic, using resources in a sustainable way, furthering the international legal order and international co-operation.
By Torbjørn Holthe
The High North is Norway’s number one foreign policy priority. On Nov. 18, 2011, a White Paper, The High North-Vision and policy instruments, was released to present a coherent, long-term Norwegian policy. The Norwegian government’s High North policy is based on four overriding objectives listed below:
―Ensuring peace, stability and predictability
―Ensuring integrated, ecosystem-based management and sustainable use of resources
―Strengthening international cooperation and the international legal order
―Strengthening the basis for employment, value creation and welfare throughout the county
Previously, there were few countries or major economic actors outside the region that were engaged in Arctic areas. This is changing. We now see that an increasing number of Non Arctic actors – North American, European and Asian – are interested in new transport routes, access to resources and knowledge about climate change, the melting ice and changes in the marine. They are also focusing on building their expertise and capacity in those fields.
Norway is facing challenges as well as opportunities when it comes to safeguarding its own interests and take part in developing the future in the High North and the Arctic. This article touches upon a few topics related to the High North policy of the Norwegian government.
The Arctic Council
The Arctic Council was established in 1996 as a forum for circumpolar cooperation throughout the Arctic. Initially it was a forum for environmental cooperation, and has since been expanded to include sustainable development as well.
This cooperation is increasingly focusing on climate change and the serious impacts it may have in the Arctic. Today, cooperation with the Arctic Council encompasses shipping, integrated management of resources, oil and gas, tourism, education, research, health and economic and cultural issues in addition to climate change and the environment. The Arctic Council is the only circumpolar body and the leading political body for Arctic issues.
Norway has systematically sought to maintain and further develop ties with countries outside the Arctic region throughout a series of High North dialogues. Korea has been an ad hoc observer since 2008 and is now actively seeking to be a permanent position along with Japan, China and the European Union.
Norway expressed its support for Korea’s application for permanent status at the Arctic Council during the first bilateral consultation on the High North held in Seoul on May 9 this year. The final approval will be made at the council’s ministerial meeting in May 2013.
Law of the Sea
In recent decades, important issues concerning jurisdiction in the Norwegian Sea, the Barents Sea, and the Arctic Ocean that affect Norway have been clarified.
For all practical purposes, the outstanding issues concerning maritime delimitation of areas under Norwegian jurisdiction have been resolved. Norway is the first of the Arctic states to have had the outer limits of its continental shelf clarified in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The emphasis on the applicability of the Law of the Sea in the Arctic Ocean lays the foundation for orderly, predictable relations between the coastal states, and corrected the notion that the Arctic was an unregulated area where open conflict on resources could be expected.
At the same time, it signals to the rest of the world that the coastal states are taking their responsibility seriously. One of Norway’s primary aims has been to play a part in bringing this clarification.
A new energy province
The Barents Sea seems likely to become an important European energy province. How rapidly it will develop and how important it becomes will depend on market conditions, technological developments, the size of any commercially viable discoveries of oil and gas, and how fast renewable energy sources are developed.
The development of oil and gas activities must also be weighed against considerations of other industries and interests within the framework of integrated, ecosystem-based management.
Oil and gas delivered from this region can improve European energy security and make an important contribution to global energy supplies and at the same time provide a basis for developing industry and services in North Norway. This has important economic and foreign policy implications.
In Norway’s contacts with other states and foreign commercial interests, issues related to access to energy and energy security will become increasingly important both in themselves and as part of foreign and security policy.
Environmental standards, technology and the protection of particularly valuable areas, and emergency response systems will be especially important as will opportunities and challenges related to the development of technology for Arctic waters.
New Sailing Routes
At some point in the future, ice may no longer be a barrier to transport between Asia, North America and Europe through the Arctic Ocean. There is no immediate prospect of year-round shipping in these waters, where harsh weather and ice will continue to cause difficulties.
But even today merchant ships operating under normal commercial condition are using the Northeast Passage to cut travel times and costs. There is reason to believe that the volume of shipping will increase. Russia will face a number of challenges in connection with traffic along a coastline where little infrastructure has been developed.
Norway will have to deal with the risks involved in increased traffic along its coast, but will also have opportunities to provide services for these ships.
In the near future, however, transport to and from Russia and petroleum-related activities are expected to account for most of the increase in transport volume. Increasing activity will make it necessary to develop cooperation between Norway and Russia on improving the safety and efficiency of maritime activities.
These developments will have geopolitical consequences. Countries such as China, Japan, Korea and Singapore are showing interest in the possibilities of using Arctic sea routes, and a new window of opportunity is opening up for cooperation and exchange with these countries.
This will give considerable room for developing expertise, infrastructure, and networks that make spin-off effects in Norway more likely. Shorter transport distances and lower prices may improve the competitive position of Norwegian actors in Asian markets while reducing environmental pollution as well easing the access to European markets for Asian actors.
All these trends combined will increase the strategic importance of Norway’s coastline and port capacity. Growing activity may increase the need for regulation in the northern sea areas due to related impacts, including environmental considerations, and may have implications for search and rescue capacity and oil pollution emergency response system.
In conclusion, Norway is taking a leader role in the field of knowledge and a responsible actor and partner will continue to develop Norwegian centers of expertise in key strategic areas, demonstrate to the world that Norway is a preferred and responsible partner in the North.
More importantly, Norway will continue to exercise sovereignty in a consistent and predictable manner and ensure compliance with fundamental principles of international law and respect for the special rights and responsibilities of coastal states while taking environmental risks into full consideration.
The Norwegian environmental organization Zero has driven two hydrogen-powered cars from Oslo to Monaco without bringing extra fuel. Observers had said the feat, undertaken in Hyundai Motor cars, would be impossible to achieve.
Zero’s Marius Bornstein and Bj rnar Kruse (shown in the above photo) were sun-bathing by the Mediterranean after the 2,260-kilometer-long drive. After five days of travel, they finally rolled up in Monte Carlo. They had managed to drive from Oslo to the Mediterranean without a support vehicle or extra fuel supplies.
A fuel cell driven hydrogen car is basically an electric car in which fuel cells convert hydrogen into electricity. In essence, one could say that the car comes with its own electricity-producing power plant. Yet, the best part is that the only thing coming out of the exhaust is pure water.
In Norway, Hydrogen-powered cars are also eligible for the same user-incentives as electric cars. Hence they are exempt from normal car tax and road tolls, can use public transport lanes, and be parked free of charge in public car parks.
Few countries can boast of more hydrogen-filling stations than Norway.
Amb. Torbjørn Holthe studied law at University of Oslo and began his public career at the Norwegian Ministry of Justice in 1979. He moved on to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1982 and spent a number of years overseas, including Lagos, Madrid, New Delhi and Rio de Janeiro. Amb. Holthe was the ambassador for Caribbean Affairs from 2008 before coming to Korea as the envoy in November 2011.