Proposal - Building Bridges for a Sustainable Future in the Arctic, a Key Region in a Globalised World
Energy resources in the Arctic: a global issue in a diversified region
The Arctic is not an isolated region. Energy resources in the circumpolar North and related issues can only be dealt with, if we consider the issue of exploiting resources in this harsh and fragile environment, through a global perspective, and in a diversified way. The Arctic consists of various sub-regions, which are very different from each other, and where sea ice conditions vary notably. The region is to be understood in a global perspective because challenges of dealing with climate change are global. This is particularly relevant when it comes to energy resources. The global demand for energy is increasing, and this is combined with a decrease in production in mature petroleum provinces. An increasing world population and emerging economies like Brazil are requesting energy.
The Need for a stable Gas supply for Europe - on the way to a low carbon economy running on a renewable energy mix
If we are to stop or at least mitigate global warming, we need to rely on a stable energy mix, providing bridges into a low or zero carbon future.
- Nevertheless, renewable energies can so far only provide a part of the supply. Even in energy efficient High Tech economies like Denmark or Germany they provide only a part less than 50% of the demand. In addition the supply of renewables is rapidly fluctuating, thus the actual base demand has to be guaranteed by other, classical energy sources. Given the concerns regarding nuclear (waste and safety) and coal (CO2 footprint, including the technological and administrative cost of CCS), and more importantly the capacity of nuclear and gas to function as a flexible fast feed-in of energy when lows of fluctuating renewables require additional base supply of energy to guarantee the stability of a highly complex and thus volatile energy network, Gas is today the only option that is guaranteeing both a low CO2 footprint, and very importantly the technological possibility to start a power-plant and feed energy into the system within a matter of minutes to stabilise the network when renewables like solar and wind fluctuate due to weather conditions.
- The question whether or not to develop possible unconventional domestic resources available through the so called “shale gas revolution is highly politicised in Europe and rather unlikely to provide the necessary supply. Thus natural Gas becomes more relevant and economies have to determine in which region and in what political conditions they find reliable supplies and transport routes. This has been a major debate in the EU in the last years. Therefore, the way to a low carbon economy to which the EU subscribed requires not only investments in renewables itself, but also in reliable supply with Gas to guarantee a stable base in the energy networks.
- Given the geopolitical situation in a number of classical supply regions, and the technological opportunities with i.e. sub seabed installations, LNG and others to safely develop the vast gas reserves in the Arctic is envisaged to guarantee a stable supply with gas from the Arctic.
- Arctic Oil resources are argued to be less important in size and might prove to be costly to develop, but this will depend on a number of factors.
- Adopting a global perspective to think the Arctic appears also necessary for transportation. Due to possible shorter travel time between Asia and Europe using the Northern Sea Routes in the Arctic compared with the route via the Suez Canal, CO2 emissions would be reduced substantially.
- In addition the demand for other resources like minerals, i.e. rare earth, but possibly also fish and other ocean resources, as well as further development of international transport routes will put pressure on the Arctic Region, and present the stakeholders of the region with new challenges and opportunities in a rapidly changing environment in the Arctic.
The Challenge: Decision makers facing the complexity of multi-layered developments and interests in the Arctic and there is a need to develop a more holistic and realistic understanding between actors from the different arenas of politics, business, science and civil society
- Given the complexity in the interests of political, technological, environmental and economic developments in a rapidly changing environment in the Arctic, decision makers have to balance short or middle term interests with long term consequences. In particular in a region of dramatic changes, both challenges and opportunities are involved and require a sound understanding, not only of natural science facts, but of the different mind-sets of Arctic actors from politics, business, science or civil society.
- These actors that will impact the development of the Arctic – in the energy development sector as much as in others – work often in separated arenas, thus the differences in language, in the mind-set, in the planning horizons and in the overall pre-conditions of their actions, result in a very specific perception of the Arctic and sometimes unbalanced, and thus complicate the cooperation among the spheres of politics, business and science.
The solution: Building Bridges for a sustainable Future of the Arctic, as a key region in a globalised world
- This means creating a cooperative network, a platform for connecting actors. Investing in science and technology is paramount. We need to know how to operate in the most secure way in the Arctic. Yet science in itself is not enough. What is the procedure that transforms knowledge into action? Between science and decision-making there are a considerable number of steps.
- The EU ARCTIC Forum has successfully worked, in the last years, to build a better understanding between European and Arctic actors, to create a functional interface between the spheres of political decision-making, corporate leadership and science.
- Improving the existing framework of governance or cooperation is a continuing process through which conflicting or diverse interests may be accommodated and co-operative action taken. Priorities are different if the Arctic is viewed as: a frontier/ a laboratory /a homeland/ wilderness. A framework of regulation and governance is already well established but needs to be improved given the challenges ahead.
- An essential mean is to establish connections between actors from science/business/politics/civil society, to get a better understanding between them and produce concrete outcomes i.e. in terms of standards, agreements and regulation. All relevant actors have to be considered, including indigenous peoples, which themselves have various positions regarding exploitation of energy resources, and not all of them benefit from hydrocarbons industries and mining, as much as traditional or local activities.
- Precisely, the EU ARCTIC Forum is operating as an inter-connector, and a translator between different spheres, between different mindsets and visions of the Arctic. This is a realistic step-by-step project organising meetings, conferences, connecting and creating the conditions for outcome. Politics do not think in 100 years or 50 years often not even 10 but in 4 years time, thus political decision makers need the input and experiences of the various actors of businesses, sciences and the local people of the Arctic. The key assets of such a connecting interface of connection consist in the knowledge of both networks of all actors and understanding of complex procedures.
The solution: Building Bridges for a sustainable Future in the Arctic, in a globalised world
Investing in science and technology is paramount. We need to know how to operate in the most secure way in the Arctic. Yet science in itself is not enough. Decision making processes in politics and business, that transform knowledge into action, are complex and sometimes conflicting.
An essential mean is to establish connecting bridges and interfaces between actors from science/business/politics/civil society, to get a better understanding between them and produce concrete outcomes i.e. in terms of standards, agreements, regulation.
The EU ARCTIC Forum serves as a specific policy interface on Arctic matters between EU institutions and Arctic actors, and helps bridge the spheres of politics, science, civil society and businesses with interests in the Arctic. The EU ARCTIC Forum provides an opportunity for European and Arctic stakeholders to address priorities and challenges in politics, society, science and business, to participate and contribute to high-profile political and economic debates and crucial decision-making processes.