Climate change faster on Svalbard than rest of the world, says Foreign Minister

According to the  Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide, climate change is taking place much faster on Svalbard than elsewhere in the world.

She is hosting a conference on climate change and risk management. The conference is going to be held this week in Svalbard. On Tuesday, the participants were in Ny-Ålesund, the northernmost permanent civil settlement in the world.

Søreide believes the Arctic eye group gives a good illustration of the changes that happen – albeit with a negative sign.

“You can almost see climate change while here,” says Eriksen Søreide to NTB in Ny-Ålesund.

Warming process above normal

Longyearbyen measured higher temperatures than the so-called normal continuously for 93 months. Permafrosten melts, sea ice shrinks and glaciers retreat.

Svalbard Global Seed Vault is going through major improvements to prevent melting water from entering the plant. The vault is built to protect seed from all over the world from natural disasters and war.


According to the Foreign Minister, the changes are not originating in Svalbard but are the result of emission of greenhouse gases elsewhere in the world.

Activity elsewhere globally noticed first here. This makes Svalbard unique in research. Here you can see much faster climate change than elsewhere in the world and what’s going to happen,” she says.

Risk transparency

In addition to a number of international researchers, financiers and representatives of industry have been invited to this year’s edition of the Ny-Ålesund Symposium.

They discuss new measures and initiatives in the financial industry that can turn the economy into a more sustainable direction. One example is the new requirement that companies must inform themselves about the risks they face as a result of climate change.

Both future natural disasters and tightening in the authorities ‘environmental requirements can affect the companies’ earnings. If companies are open to how they can be affected by such changes, it will be easier for investors to assess their prospects.

“Some of the financial sector is very good at price risk,” says Eriksen Søreide.

According to the European Commission, global economic losses as a result of extreme weather have risen 86 percent in ten years.

Norwegian authorities planning to drill in the Barents Sea

In addition to the fact that the Arctic temperature rise creates local challenges, it has sparked great international interest in the opportunities that open when the ice melts.

A container ship is currently on its way through the north-eastern passage north of Siberia, probably for the first time for this type of vessel. The Norwegian authorities have opened for oil drilling in the Barents Sea, where the ice edge moves northwards.

The oil that will be picked up in the Arctic in the future will help to increase the world’s CO2 emissions when burned. Environmental activists believe the oil drilling in the Barents Sea violates the Constitution’s environmental charter – but the assertion was rejected last year by Oslo District Court.

Asking about the increasing utilization of resources in the melting Arctic is a paradox, Eriksen Søreide answers ‘yes and no’. She argues that a lot of business in the north must comply with strict environmental standards.

“I think Norway is working on oil and gas in a way that is sustainable and with much lower environmental footprint than many others,” said the Foreign Minister.


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