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Arctic city will be #EuropeanCapitalOfCulture

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The city of Bodø in Northern Norway won the bid to become European Capital of Culture for 2024. "We look forward to presenting the magic of Arctic culture and forging new cultural connections," said the Mayor of Bodø, Ida Pinnerød.

"This is a fantastic and important further step towards creating an even more exciting and diverse city and region, and not least towards getting impulses to make it attractive for people to live here and also to visit us here in the north," Pinnerød added.

In The Arctic for the first time

Nordland County has played an important role supporting the work to promote Bodø’s candidacy and the application with a title which speaks for itself: 'Arcticulation 2024'.

"This is the first time that a city north of the Arctic Circle has become European Capital of Culture. I think the very fact that Bodø is located in the Arctic part of Europe has triggered a lot of interest," said County Government President Tomas Norvoll. He added that even though Bodø has been chosen as European Capital of Culture, other towns and villages in Nordland County will also be included in the project.

Indigenous people dimension

Norvoll is also very proud of the clear indigenous people dimension in Bodø 2024.

"I believe that no other cities have ever marked this so strongly as us. The Sami Parliament representing Norway’s indigenous people wholeheartedly supports Bodø’s and Nordland’s work to become Capital of Culture. I feel sure that Bodø 2024 will succeed helping the birth of exciting cultural projects in the crossover between Sami and European culture," Norvoll added.

Win-win situation

"We have without doubt plenty of exciting and new things to contribute to our European friends, as well as being able to receive new and important impulses from abroad. The point is to create things with others, so that this will be a Culture Capital year that is important both for the people of Bodø and Nordland and also for the broader European public. Now the work starts in earnest to create this magic in 2024," concluded Norvoll.

Read the application 'Arcticulation Bodø2024'

Short film about the application

Information about Bodø

Arctic

#Arctic policy: EU opens consultation on the future approach

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On 20 July, the European Commission and the European External Action Service jointly launched a public consultation on the way forward for the European Union's Arctic policy. The consultation will enable a broad reflection on the EU's Arctic policy in the face of new challenges and opportunities, including the EU's ambitions under the European Green Deal. The consultation seeks input on the strengths and shortfalls of the existing policy, with a view to possibly preparing an updated approach.

High Representative/Vice President Josep Borrell said: “The Arctic is a rapidly evolving frontier in international relations. Climate change is dramatically transforming the region, and increasing its geopolitical importance, with a number of players seeing new strategic and economic opportunities in the High North. We must ensure that the Arctic remains a zone of low tension and peaceful co-operation, where issues are solved through constructive dialogue. The European Union must be fully equipped to manage the new dynamics effectively, in line with our interests and values.”

Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius said: “What happens in the Arctic, does not stay in the Arctic. It concerns us all. The EU must be at the forefront with a clear and coherent Arctic policy to tackle the challenges in the years ahead. Drawing on a wide spectrum of expertise and opinions through this consultation, will help us in preparing a strong strategy for the region.”

The consultation will help to:

i) Re-examine the role of the EU in Arctic affairs;
ii) revise the three priorities of the current Joint Communication on An integrated European Union policy for the Arctic, and the actions thereunder, and;
iii) identify possible new policy areas to be developed.

Fighting climate change and its impacts and protecting the environment are key objectives for the region. Promoting sustainable development in the Arctic to the benefit of those who live there, including indigenous peoples is another priority for the EU. To that end, continuously improving our knowledge of the changes happening in the Arctic region, as well as identifying sustainable responses, is essential. Science, innovation and strong support for multilateral cooperation underpin the EU's approach to the Arctic.

Background

The EU's Arctic policy has been updated regularly since it was first outlined in 2008. The EU's current Arctic policy is set out in a Joint Communication from 2016. In December 2019, the Council has invited the Commission and the High Representative to continue implementation, whilst initiating a process in order to update the EU Arctic Policy. The current policy centres around three priorities: climate change and safeguarding the Arctic environment; sustainable development in and around the Arctic; and international cooperation on Arctic issues. The public consultation launched today is open until 6 November 2020.

More information

Joint Communication on An integrated European Union policy for the Arctic

 

 

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#Nornickel - Latest accident highlights perils of industrializing the #Arctic

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Just weeks after the worst industrial accident ever to hit the Arctic region unleashed 21,000 tonnes of diesel from one of Norilsk Nickel’s thermal power plants on a large swath of the surrounding Arctic wilderness, the mining giant has claimed that the lion’s share of the spilled fuel has been collected. The company, according to its president Vladimir Potanin – who’s also Russia’s richest man, worth over $25 billion - is now trying to figure out how to dispose of the pollution without further harming the environment, writes Colin Stevens.

But we shouldn’t celebrate just yet—Nornickel’s pronouncement that “most” of the fuel has been collected should be taken with a grain of salt, particularly given the company’s history of covering up accidents. Siberian authorities and environmental groups alike have warned that the industrial disaster would likely take years to fully clean up and that measures implemented by Nornickel would “help collect only a minor part of the pollution”. What’s more, floating dams intended to control the leak were either “ineffective or installed too late”, meaning that the spilled fuel managed to reach Lake Pyasino, a major source of water in the region.

Even if Nornickel has now managed to stop the contaminated water from flowing out of Lake Pyasino into the Pyasina River and, almost inevitably, into the Arctic Ocean, the spill has already caused untold devastation to the sensitive Arctic environment and left dead birds and fish in its wake. It’s also left us with two principal lessons: that Nornickel hasn’t changed its spots after a long history of environmental mismanagement, and that the industrialization of the Arctic may have ruinous consequences for the far north’s unique ecosystem.

Par for the course for Potanin’s Nornickel

The recent accident, compared to the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster, may have exceptionally severe consequences—but it’s just the latest example of Nornickel playing fast and loose with environmental safety. The firm, built on the backs of gulag prisoners, has earned Norilsk a reputation as one of the world’s most polluted cities as Nornickel’s smelters have sent clouds of toxins billowing across the Arctic. Unsurprisingly, life expectancy in Norilsk is significantly below average.

In 2016, meanwhile, the mining giant spent days denying reports of an incident—even while the nearby Daldykan River had turned blood red. After pitiful attempts to brush off the situation—including ludicrous claims that the vermilion colour was due to naturally-occurring clay in the river—Nornickel finally admitted that one of the filtration dams at its Nadezhda plant had sent iron slurry overflowing into the waterway.

Despite occasional pledges to clean up its act, Nornickel has shown little genuine commitment to reducing its environmental footprint, something which the recent oil spill has highlighted. Infuriated by the accident—and by a catastrophic two-day reporting delay, in which Nornickel employees tried to repair the leak themselves rather than informing authorities—Russian president Vladimir Putin didn’t hesitate to lay the blame directly at the door of the firm’s billionaire owner, Vladimir Potanin.

Potanin, who has run Nornickel for the past 25 years, has built his fortune thanks to the company’s generous dividends. According to documents, in 2020 alone he received almost $1.4 billion, on top of a $90 million salary. At the same time, investment in the company’s Soviet-era equipment has stagnated, with over 70% of the plant’s facilities being outdated. The last revamp occurred in 1972, while the mining and metallurgical complex in Norilsk  itself was built in the late 30s.

As one independent director at Nornickel explained to the FT, ““They don’t want to invest in modernisation, they try every which way to block even the most reasonable initiatives from the state.” He joins a chorus of voices from within the top rungs of the company’s  board demanding that more money be invested in staving off such accidents – so far, their calls have not been heard by Potanin. Moreover, Russia’s environmental watchdog had warned the mining giant back in 2016 about problems with the tanks. Officially, the collapsed tank was decommissioned to undergo a major refurbishment, but in reality, the company never stopped using it—something which Russian investigators believe may constitute criminal negligence.

For one official at the WWF, it should have been obvious to Norilsk management that “you have to replace metal oil containers over the course of 40 years”. The firm’s management, however, is headquartered in Moscow rather than on the ground in Siberia, calling into question their visibility on day-to-day issues, while reports claim Potanin manages the company either from his Moscow mansion or his home on the French Riviera. His lack of experience in the metals and mining sector before gaining a controlling stake in Norilsk Nickel in the 1990s’ notorious loans-for-shares scheme has also been fingered as one reason why the firm has been slow to modernise creaking equipment.

It’s no surprise that calls for Potanin to step down have multiplied in recent weeks, with generous media coverage dedicated to his high flying personal life, which includes a small fleet of private jets bought on the company dime.

What lessons for the Arctic?

The oil spill— which may cost Nornickel and its owner Vladimir Potanin $1.4bn —is likely to impress new urgency on Russian industrialists to audit crumbling infrastructure and put better environmental protection plans in place. But it should also be the catalyst for wide-ranging discussions about the extent to which the Arctic, a vital and largely heretofore unspoiled region, is being industrialized.

This March, the Kremlin published a 15-year masterplan laying out its ambitions to develop the polar region. At the centre of it was the development of the Northern Sea Route. The passage, which takes advantage of newly ice-free waterways to skirt Russia’s Arctic coast, has seen explosive increases in traffic in recent years as it cuts 40% of the travel time between Europe and Asia versus sailing via the Suez Canal. Other priorities outlined in the comprehensive scheme include building gargantuan nuclear-powered icebreakers to crack open year-round shipping lanes, offering tax rebates for drilling for fossil fuels and encouraging people to settle in the Arctic region.

Russia’s not alone in finding the Arctic a tempting target for industrialisation, with its convenient waterways and mineral-rich soil. Back in 2008, the European Commission’s first Arctic policy argued that the region’s environmental vulnerability was no reason not to exploit it, including by drilling for hydrocarbons. The European institutions now pay more lip service to protecting the far North’s fragile ecosystem, but still seek out economic opportunities in the Arctic.

The images of a sea of fuel making its way towards the Arctic Ocean in the wake of Nornickel’s latest accident have shone a fresh spotlight on the perils of putting profit over protecting the Arctic environment. How many more accidents will it take to convince policymakers to revamp their Arctic policies?

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Ice melting in #Antarctic could triple sea level rise of previous century: study

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Toronto skyline is seen with floating ice on Lake Ontario in Toronto, Canada. (Xinhua/Zou Zheng)

The scientists believe that the Antarctic would now become the biggest factor in sea level rise, writes Brussels Diplomatic.

Within this century, ice melting in the Antarctic alone could cause the global sea level to rise up to three times as much as it did in the entire last century, the Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research (PIK) has announced.

“While we saw about 19 centimetres of sea-level rise in the past 100 years, Antarctic ice-loss could lead to up to 58 centimetres within this century,” said lead-author of the study Anders Levermann from the PIK and Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) in New York.

According to the PIK, other factors that would lead to a further rise of the sea level were the thermal expansion of the ocean water under global warming and the melting of mountain glaciers which had caused most of the sea level rise so far.

Ice and snow are seen on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada. (Xinhua/Zou Zheng)

The scientists believe that the Antarctic would now become the biggest factor in sea level rise, according to the study published in the journal Earth System Dynamics of the European Geosciences Union (EGU) on Friday.

“The Antarctica factor turns out to be the greatest risk, and also the greatest uncertainty, for sea-levels around the globe,” said Levermann.

Assuming a scenario with constant greenhouse gas emissions, a “very likely” range of sea level rise in this century caused by Antarctic ice melting would be between 6 and 58 centimeters.

If greenhouse gas emissions were to be “reduced rapidly”, the range would only be between 4 and 37 centimeters, according to the study.

The Antarctic ice sheet has the potential to raise global sea levels by tens of meters. “What we know for certain,” said Levermann, “is that not stopping the burning of coal, oil and gas will drive up the risks for coastal metropolises from New York to Mumbai, Hamburg or Shanghai.”

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