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10th ABF opens in Rovaniemi

Sustainable business stressed in Arctic Business Forum

10 May 2019, 03:43 ( 6 Months ago) | updated: 10 May 2019, 09:39 ( 6 Months ago)

DF Report by Natalia Nikolaeva
Speakers in a panel discussion at Arctic Business Forum in Rovaniemi on Thursday. DF Photo.

Speakers at the 10th Arctic Business Forum (ABF) highlighted the challenges posed by sustainable business, responsible use of natural resources, and developing adequate infrastructure and transportation in the Arctic.

Terming the failure of the outgoing Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting to come to a joint agreement unfortunate, the speakers, however, said the situation is stable, and the Arctic Council is continuing with its work. 

The Lapland Chamber of Commerce opened the 10th ABF in Rovaniemi on Thursday.

The forum started with a speech of Lapland Chamber of Commerce Chairman Juha Mäkimattila. He listed the main areas of business development in the Finnish Arctic, among which are mining, windmills, a bioproduct mill project in Kemi, and tourism.

Mäkimattila. also presented the checklist for new government and parliament in Finland which advises how to secure positive development of the Arctic region. The main recommendations of which go as follows: “Do not start generating new costs and taxes; improve logistics; take care of the quality of work force; continue with developing the terms and conditions of working life and business; and create positive atmosphere and environment of the coming projects.”

Lapland County Governor Mika Riipi also voiced his opinion about the outcome of the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting. The meeting ended on Tuesday without issuing the joint declaration as the United States was the lone member that disagreed with the language used in the draft declaration on fighting climate change.

 “The lack of joint declaration is a sad thing, but it’s not a disaster. The situation is stable, and the Arctic Council continues its work. Our main target is to make sure that our new government supports the sustainable development in the North. There are a lot of challenges, but also a lot of possibilities to do sustainable, environmentally friendly business in Lapland,” said Riipi.

He noted that Lapland is among the top four export regions in Finland, which is “quite an achievement”. According to the county governor, Lapland needs strong support from the EU to ensure development resources.

Canadian Ambassador Jason Tolland wrapped up the opening session by making a presentation on Canadian capabilities in terms of the Arctic. He focused the importance of building infrastructure in Canada in order to provide for a more efficient movement in the Arctic parts of the country which are rather difficult to reach at the moment.

The first keynote speaker of the day, Jari Vilén, senior advisor in Arctic policy matters to the European Political Strategy Centre (EPSC), highlighted the importance of geopolitics in the matter of environmental sustainability.

“The geopolitics is back, the superpowers are back, but they actually never left, they are just more visible now in the Arctic,” said Vilén.

He also pointed out that climate change requires both local and global actions. “We need the decisions from China, India in order to make effective changes,” Vilén told to the session.

He added, “The Chinese interest in the Arctic is an extremely important thing. If China commits itself to the Arctic, it’s an enormous possibility for us”. Vilén pointed out s thought that served as a motto to the whole session afterwards: “What happens in Arctic doesn’t stay in Arctic”.

Jan Dusik, principal adviser on Strategic Engagement for the Arctic and Antarctic at UN Environment, dedicated his speech to three main topics: climate change, pollution, and biodiversity. Dusik drew the audience’s attention to the problem of ocean acidification, saying that “more study and awareness is needed around this topic”. He also pointed out the very relevant question of plastic pollution which “has adverse economic impact”. Mr. Dusik shared the opinion about the question of mercury being “an example of an Arctic problem finding a solution on a global level.”

Heidar Gudjonsson from the Arctic Economic Council said the economic relationship between the West and the East is in a “win win situation”. “We need to trade with East as much as we trade with West – this is the way we do it in Iceland,” added Gudjonsson.

In his speech Arctic Economic Council Vice Chairman Tero Vauraste emphasised the “need for improved dialogue between business, decision-makers and regulators”.

The section about maritime transportation in the Arctic had some interesting speeches. United Shipbuilding Corporation President Aleksey Rakhmanov told the meeting about the project of the first floating nuclear power station. According to Rakhmanov, this kind of station is vital “in order to provide safety and safe harbour in case of poor weather conditions or accidents”.

Sovcomflot Senior Executive Vice President and COO Evgeniy Ambrosov talked about a number of projects of the company, including the Yamal LNG project, comprising natural gas production, liquefaction and shipping.

Aleut Corporation President and CEO Thomas Mack invited the guests at the forum to invest in the port of Adak in Alaska. The port is ice-free all year round and is located on the crossing of the North Pacific Great Circle Route and the Northern Sea Route, which gives the location a great advantage. According to Mack, the Port of Adak has housing, warehouse space and even airplane airways.

The Arctic Business Forum ends on Friday with sessions on tourism, start-ups and business in the Arctic.