I’m in sunny Stockholm this week, spring is here for sure and woolly hats and gloves are yet again stored away for next winter. In a grand Natural History museum not so far from where I work sit scientists, Indigenous representatives, civil society organisations and senior officials from Arctic States to discuss new alarming findings regarding the rapid changes that are taking place in the Arctic and how that will impact those that live there and the nature and wildlife that they depend on for their very survival.
For most of us, Arctic wildlife is a very nice thing to have but not a need to have; for the people that live in this region, it’s a life and death situation. The vast majority of us don’t realise the critical importance the Arctic has in our day-to-day lives, as a climate regulator or the planet’s air conditioner. Without the Arctic sea ice, life as we know it would change completely.
I am here in Stockholm to attend the Senior Arctic Officials meeting, organized by the Arctic Council, a forum very few have ever heard of but a very important body. It is here where all Arctic states, their scientists, Indigenous peoples, civil society groups, and a few observer countries discuss what’s happening in the Arctic and the future of the region. The officials attending these meetings have so far been mostly occupied with securing the rights to the resources thought to be lying deep below the Arctic sea ice, using all the different legal and diplomatic means they have.
The concerns they state over climate impacts, black carbon, melting glaciers and sea ice are in stark contrast to what these countries do elsewhere and on their home turf. In their offices at home, far away from scientific findings and living evidence of the impacts caused by Arctic oil developments and climate change, these countries do their best to avoid legally binding agreements on CO2 emission reductions while torpedoing initiatives to safeguard biodiversity on the high seas or to limit the spread of pollutants, all of which are essential to safeguard the Arctic and its wildlife.
It smacks of a double standard and I’m tired of it. In my world, rights come with responsibilities both to all of us who live now and to generations to come. These officials should be occupied with one thing only and that is their responsibility to safeguard the Arctic by committing to reduce emissions, ban new oil drilling, support a new high seas biodiversity agreement and ban toxic pollutants.
They might not listen to me but they will have to listen to us.
Frida Bengtsson is an oceans campaigner for Greenpeace Nordic.
Photo: © Nick Cobbing / Greenpeace