The Nordic region is surrounded by seas and the countries have a mutual interest in protecting our precious environment.
Not only do the seas serve as an important sources of food and renewable energy, they also help slow down climate change by absorbing excess heat and carbon dioxide. We also know that climate change and ocean acidification have a fundamental impact on the waters around the Nordic region, with the Arctic particularly vulnerable.
The latest United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel (IPCC) on Climate Change's Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere (the frozen parts of the planet) does not mince its words: The impact of climate change is already being felt in the seas, right in front of our eyes, and if the world fails to act now, the damage will be extremely serious.
It is still possible to slow down global warming and the effects of climate change, but the international community needs to react quickly.
“The seas of the world are interconnected, so we need to work together at regional level to halt climate change. We need to monitor our seas and record the changes. Knowledge sharing and closer coordination in the Nordic region will be effective, save resources and allow us to implement the necessary measures,” says Iceland's Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources, Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson.
The Norwegian Minister of the Climate and the Environment, Ola Elvestuen, has taken the initiative for closer Nordic co-operation on the oceans and the climate. At their meeting on Wednesday, the ministers signed a new declaration to work more closely together. The sea is also a top priority for the Icelandic Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers 2019, the programme for which focuses on pollution from plastics and microplastics.
The declaration expresses the ministers’ deep concern about the findings of the latest UN special report, and emphasises the importance of more ambitious global partnerships on the climate and the sustainable management of the seas.
The seas as carbon storage
The ministers stress the importance of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the marine industry and promoting offshore renewable energy. They also highlight the need to safeguard marine ecosystems and use them for natural carbon storage, and they point out that setting up interconnected marine conservation areas and ecosystem-based management are important prerequisites for making our marine ecosystems more robust and for combating climate change and ocean acidification.
Working together and the circular economy are part of the solution
The nations of the world need to cut their greenhouse gas emissions if global warming is to be halted, and this is reflected in three of the most important documents on Nordic co-operation: The Declaration on Nordic Carbon Neutrality signed by the prime ministers in Helsinki in January 2019; the prime ministers’ new vision of the Nordic region as the most sustainable region in the world, and the declaration signed by the PMs and Nordic CEOs for a Sustainable Future.
A tangible and in-depth follow-up on these three documents was another a key item on the agenda for the meeting on Wednesday.
The ministers also discussed the role of the circular economy in solving the climate issue and the economic benefits it might bring to the Nordic countries. The ministers decided to launch a study of the potential inherent in a circular economy and the measures needed to make it happen.