On 12 January, over 100 people met at the Finnish Embassy for the Playing it cool conference in order to exchange on the future of the Arctic region. Civil servants and experts in the Arctic issue from Finnish and French organizations, as well as corporate representatives and diplomats, took part in the event. The speakers highlighted the importance of a diversified cooperation, of sustainable development and innovations in the development of the region.
The key words for the Arctic: cooperation, environment and technology
In his welcoming speech, the ambassador Teemu Tanner, insisted on the cooperative nature of the Arctic, despite geopolitical tensions linked to the region. Indeed, cooperation was the main theme of the conference. In his conclusion, at the end of the morning, Philippe Zaouati, a member of the high level expert group on the sustainable financing by the European Commission, found that the solution to the polar challenges was a diversified cooperation between stakeholder groups.
France, known for its polar and space experience, is an important partner for Finland, who sent its first satellite into space last year. Maurice Gourdault-Montagne, secretary general, and Didier Ortolland, deputy manager of the law of the sea, of waterways and the poles at the ministry of Europe and foreign affairs, said that Arctic cooperation was also essential for France, Observer State of the Arctic Council
France and Finland share common concerns on the environment and climate issues. Indeed, collaboration for protecting the environment and natural resources has shown results. The rules of the international laws of the sea, for example, have been recognized as being useful and they are respected, the last development being the conclusion in November 2017 of an agreement on the fishing prohibition in the central area of the Arctic Ocean.
Harri MÄKI-REINIKKA from the Finnish committee of the Arctic consultation reminded that « the struggle against climate change and new technologies go together”. The severe conditions and the fragile ecosystem in the Arctic demand technologies which meet the highest standards. However, it is possible to expect radical climate changes by developing solutions such as Cleantech and Greentech.
In the future, the polar know-how will become more and more crucial with the expansion of commercial activities in the Arctic region. According to Jari Gustafsson, secretary general of the ministry of economy and employment in Finland, the know-how and the long history of coopeation in the North are among Finland’s advantages. Finland plays the role of the “middle man” between the east and the west, while developing practical solutions for the Arctic trade.
The Finnish Arctic know-how put forward
Pekka POKELA, commercial director at Gaia Consulting, presented the Team Arctic Finland activities. This organisation is in charge of promoting the Finnish Arctic know-how and it works as a contact between investors and suppliers. This single window which gives access to technologies and know-how enables the creation of new products, services and growth opportunities.
Finland aims at gathering within the Arctic Economic Council the states as well as the companies interested in the development of the Arctic region, whatever their geographical location. The first LNG ice breaker in the world, the Finnish Polaris, is the result of such a cooperation.
The Finnish company Wärtsilä supplied the Polaris machinery. Guillaume De Roys, general director of sales at Wärtsilä France, presented in details the company’s activities. Wärtsilä is one of the many Finnish companies which have a long experience of the severe conditions in the North and whose know-how will be more and more sought after in the future.
Practical solutions to the polar challenges
A round table, moderated by Mikaa Mered, expert-appraiser on the Arctic for the European Commission, ended the conference. One of the topics debated by the participants was how to cope with the challenge of sustainable development in the Arctic exploitation.
Philippe CHARLEZ from SciencesPo and INSEAD noticed that the solution to the emissions issue was either to decrease the emissions or to replace the actual power sources by other less polluting ones. A close link between the energy policy and the exploitation of the Arctic region exists. According to Timo Rautajoki, general director of the Chamber of Commerce in Lapland, there is a remarkable investment potential in the North. Following the Arctic Business Forum estimate, €3.5 billion will be invested in Lapland in the next five years. In addition to tourism, investments will be made in energy and transport facilities, among others. It is important to ensure that investments be directed to companies complying with the principles of sustainable development.
According to Mikael HILDÉN of the Finnish environment centre, the solution to climate change will come from the combinaison between technologies and institutions. The application of new technologies won’t be automatic. We have to start with local experiments which will lay the foundations for larger scale projects. The political action will follow once the success of these experiments is proved
In order to face climate challenges, the potential issues must be taken into account. Satellite images are an indispensable tool to observe the Arctic. According to Isabelle Duvaux-Bechon form the European space agency, satellite technology is also used to enhance navigational signals in the Arctic Ocean.
The increase of maritime traffic in the Arctic is already on the agenda. Jean-marc Aubry from Technip FMC said that this French company was the first in 2015 to experiment the North-East passage for the transport of huge components for the building of a new LNG plant, from Asia to Siberia. This innovative approach towards logistics made this large building project possible.
Hervé BAUDU from ENSM underlined the importance of new rules and of the training of the crews to face the growing number of ships dedicated to ice navigation. The IMO Polar Code, which entered into force in 2017, meets these challenges. It includes mandatory provisions related to the protection of the environment and safety measures for ships sailing in the Arctic area.
The Arctic event gave participating companies the opportunity to make contacts and exchange ideas. New solutions to the Arctic challenges keep being developed. Finland, as the Arctic expert, is the brainchild of this progress. “If it works in Finland, it works everywhere!”. The Finnish Embassy organized the conference in partnership with The Polar Cluster.
Written by Laura Kuusela, trainee at the Embassy of Finland in Paris, photos Nora Klami