President of the Republic Sauli Niinistö participated in the Arctic Forum and a panel discussion, held in Arkhangelsk in Russia on 30 March 2017, with Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia and Gudni Jóhannesson, the President of Iceland. The discussion, held under the heading, “People and the Arctic,” highlighted the growing threat presented by climate change.
“Tackling this challenge is crucial if we want to ensure that the Arctic remains the place it is today. But the issue is of global significance: If we lose the Arctic, we lose the whole world.”
President Niinistö pointed out that, although the impacts are currently visible in the Arctic, they will ultimately affect each and every inhabitant of our planet. “There will be enormous consequences worldwide. As the ice melts, sea levels will rise. As the ice melts, solar radiation will not be reflected back – instead its energy will further warm the water and accelerate global warming.”
The President gave a separate mention to black carbon and its single largest source, gas flaring. Gas flaring accounts for a quarter of the rise in temperatures in the Arctic region. President Niinistö views this as being akin to burning money: “For a lay man that is almost impossible to understand. In 2015 flaring amounted to almost 150 billion cubic meters of wasted gas. To put this into a perspective: this is almost 40 times as much as Finland uses natural gas annually.”
President Niinistö stated that the effects of climate change are not limited to the environment, but represent a major security threat. “It is a threat multiplier that aggravates many issues behind conflicts: famine, water scarcity, flooding, forced displacement, and so forth.”
The ratification of the Paris Climate Treaty was a big step in the right direction, but further steps are needed. “But the most important part – effective implementation – lies still ahead of us. Secondly, we need intensified co-operation across the borders to combat the challenges and to strengthen the resilience of Arctic residents”, said President Niinistö.
In addition, President Niinistö said that the Arctic must remain an area of co-operation. To ensure this, full advantage should be taken of mechanisms like the Arctic Council. Finland will begin its Presidency of the Council in May. “Also, we believe it is time to take the Arctic cooperation to a new level. Finland proposes the convening of an Arctic Summit to discuss a wide range of issues pertaining to the region and beyond. This would provide an opportunity to ensure that the Arctic indeed remains a territory of dialogue. It is our common responsibility to see that this promise and tradition is upheld in the North,” said President Niinistö.
The President has mentioned only an Arctic Council Summit. The holding of an Arctic Summit depends on whether the various parties are ready to do so and whether tangible results can be achieved.
During the Arctic Forum, President Niinistö also held bilateral meetings with President Putin and the Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende. In addition, President Putin hosted a joint lunch with President Niinistö and President of Iceland Jóhannesson.