Kiribatia and the EU

Arctic: Speech by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell at the Arctic Frontiers conference

Brussels, 02/02/2021 - 17:00, UNIQUE ID: 210202_10
HR/VP speeches

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Ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues,

Thank you for inviting me to address this year’s Arctic Frontiers conference.

It is a timely moment to discuss how to “build bridges” in this important region, and the European Union’s engagement in Arctic matters is key for our foreign policy in many ways.

Firstly, we believe that a safe, stable, sustainable, peaceful and prosperous Arctic is important not just for the Arctic itself, but also for the European Union and actually for the whole world.

Secondly, the European Union is in the Arctic and we have both strategic and day-to-day interests in Arctic matters.

Thirdly, we believe that the Arctic is a key example of why we need multilateral cooperation. Of course, the Arctic States hold the primary responsibility for tackling issues within their territories, but many issues affecting the Arctic regions can only be - or more effectively - addressed through regional or multilateral cooperation.

Many of these issues are of fundamental relevance for geopolitical dynamics, for wider security concerns and for climate change – which regardless of the current [coronavirus] pandemic remains probably the biggest global challenge that humanity is facing.

On security, there is a lot of attention on hard security issues and on great power competition for resources. We believe that most tensions in the Arctic are primarily linked to geopolitical global posturing. On the other hand, Arctic safety and security issues are relevant, but must be seen in a broader context.

On climate change, it is clear that this the biggest threat the Arctic is facing.

Temperature increases are double global averages: an additional 2-3 degrees Celsius globally becomes 5-6 degrees in the Arctic. As a consequence, the melt of ice and the thaw of permafrost is already happening and it is accelerating.

Clearly, climate and energy issues are security issues that affect environmental security, health security and social security – all dimensions of security. All of these can be addressed through national measures combined with international cooperation. National measures will not be enough.

This is why, under our flagship programme - the European Union Green Deal - the EU is pushing hard to reform our internal policies and to reach effective multilateral agreements to achieve a transition from high carbon-based economies. We aim to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

But we also know that the European Union of 27 Member States only accounts for a little bit more than 7% of global emissions. We want to work with all our partners around the world, and not least the Arctic States, to reach the aims of the Paris Agreement. Because even if, by some miracle, we manage to get rid of all 7% of our emissions tomorrow, the problem would be the same. We need to engage the rest of humankind, to lead by example, to engage as much as we can, but knowing that we alone cannot solve the problem.

Those living in the Arctic regions, in particular the indigenous people and the younger generation, know best why this is relevant and how important and difficult it is to balance these aims with the retention of jobs and benefits from economic activity in their regions.

The European Union wants to work with our partners to achieve a robust balance between the need for precaution and preservation of the environment, of resources and of culture, and the desire to use and economically develop the Arctic regions and their resources to the benefit of local inhabitants and the green transition.

To conclude, allow me to recall that the European Union is updating its Arctic policy this year, in which we will focus on three key aims:

Firstly, to preserve the Arctic as a region of peaceful cooperation;
Secondly, slow the effects of climate change;
and thirdly, to support the sustainable development of Arctic regions to the benefit of future generations.

Thank you for your attention. Stay safe and I hope that this year’s Arctic Frontiers conference will contribute to “building bridges” and to building a robust future for the Arctic.

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