Arctic life, so diverse!

If lost, there's no reverse

We came to Trondheim to converse

And now we must act


We have many a fact

Many a conservation pact

More than one protected tract-

But our future needs more


There are threats by the score

Degradation we deplore

But also new ideas to explore-

So let's start now


Our plans tell us how

Add the sweat of our brow

So our hearts can say "Wow!"-

Arctic life: Stay diverse


Henry Huntington

Trondheim, Norway

December 4, 2014

Braulio F. de Souza Dias, Executive Secretary, CBD at the Arctic Biodiversity Congress. Photo: IISD Reporting ServicesBraulio F. de Souza Dias, Executive Secretary, CBD at the Arctic Biodiversity Congress. Photo: IISD Reporting ServicesBraulio F. de Souza Dias, Executive Secretary, Convention on Biological Diversity

Plenary Address at the Arctic Biodiversity Congress

December 2, 2014, Trondheim Norway

Excellencies, distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen,

I would first like to extend my appreciation for the invitation to speak at this, the first Arctic Biodiversity Congress, being convened by the Arctic Council’s Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) working group. I am delighted to be part of this landmark event which demonstrates the importance the Arctic Council places on the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in its work. It is a great pleasure to be here among so many dedicated Arctic leaders as we work to build a path towards our shared vision of a healthy, productive and resilient Arctic ecosystem.

The furthest reaches of the Arctic have long been a frontier where only the boldest dared to venture. Similarly, the Arctic has been a frontier for scientific discovery, pushing the boundaries of our understanding of this marvelous planet. And as our understanding of the Arctic has grown, we have come to the important realization that, despite its remoteness from much of the global population, Arctic biodiversity underpins global planetary health and well-being. It contributes to the healthy functioning of the global ecosystem and underpins many of the essential ecosystem services on which we all depend.

Despite its seemingly desolate landscape, the Arctic hosts an astounding diversity of species and habitats. It represents, as a whole, one of the most unique ecosystems on the planet, one which warrants special attention by the global community. The size and nature of Arctic ecosystems make them of critical importance to the biological, chemical and physical balance of the globe.

Let us not forget, however, that humans have long been part of Arctic ecosystems, and presently the Arctic is home to more than four million people. The people of the Arctic have close ties and a special relationship with biodiversity, which is a critical aspect of their social and cultural well-being.

Sadly, rapidly expanding pressures, such as climate change, ocean acidification, overfishing, unsustainable hunting and pollution, are driving biodiversity loss in the region and compromising the critical services provided by the Arctic. The flyways of migratory birds who depend on habitats in the Arctic span the entire globe. The same applies to migratory whales who move South to breed in balm tropical waters. Arctic biodiversity must therefore be seen as a global issue that requires strategy involving actions and partnerships both within the Arctic Circle and beyond.

It is the merit of CAFF to have brought these considerations into the discussions under the CBD. The Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and its Aichi Biodiversity Targets, adopted by the Conference of the Parties to the CBD in 2010, lay out an ambitious agenda to reverse the trends of global biodiversity loss. As many of these trends are especially pronounced in the polar regions, conserving and sustainably using Arctic biodiversity is a critical aspect of achieving the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. It is therefore gratifying to see that the biodiversity-related work of the Arctic Council is drawing on its monitoring efforts to assess progress in implementing relevant Aichi Biodiversity Targets in the Arctic region. The proposed next Arctic Biodiversity Congress in 2019 would be an excellent time to discuss the success of the Arctic countries' regional progress towards attaining the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

Meeting the Aichi Biodiversity Targets in the Arctic requires tangible policy measures supported by sound science. In this regard, the CBD Secretariat signed a resolution of cooperation with CAFF in 2009, which supports improved sharing of knowledge on Arctic biodiversity in order to enhance the capacity for implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity in the Arctic.

Cooperation between the CBD and CAFF was further strengthened in 2010 when the Conference of the Parties to the CBD invited the Arctic Council to provide relevant information and assessments of Arctic biodiversity through CAFF. The information provided by CAFF, first a report prepared for the fifteenth meeting of the Convention’s Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice and subsequently the Arctic Biodiversity Assessment, are essential contributions to the efforts of CBD Parties, other governments and relevant organizations in implementing the Convention in the Arctic region. It is now critical to act on these findings and to implement the recommendations of the Arctic Biodiversity Assessment. Please count on the CBD Secretariat as a partner ready to support your efforts in this regard. Likewise, it is also important to strengthen the partnership of CAFF with IPBES, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.

A recent example illustrating the importance of the work of CAFF to the CBD comes from the Arctic Regional Workshop to Facilitate the Description of Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas, also called EBSAs, which was held in March in Helsinki, Finland in March 2014. The invaluable scientific information provided by CAFF, along with the scientific inputs from many countries and other organizations in the region, provided a strong basis for the workshop to describe eleven areas meeting the EBSA criteria. The workshop was part of a broader ongoing global effort to identify the most “special” areas in the oceans of the world. The scientific collaboration facilitated through these workshops continues to build the knowledge base on ocean biodiversity in order to inform the efforts of countries and intergovernmental organizations in taking measures to improve conservation and sustainable use of the most ecologically significant areas of the ocean. I am pleased to report that the twelfth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the CBD, held two months ago in the Republic of Korea, decided to include the 157 EBSAs described through seven regional workshops including the one for the Arctic in the EBSA repository and to submit them to the General Assembly of the United Nations.

Also in other aspects, COP 12 was an important milestone for the global biodiversity community, taking place just one year before the halfway mark of the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity. It reviewed mid-term progress towards the Aichi Biodiversity targets and outlined a path forward to meet these Targets. The fourth edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook, or GBO-4, which was launched at COP 12, provides a global snapshot of the status of biodiversity and found that, while progress has been made in many areas, enhanced efforts are needed to get us on-track to meet these Targets. Some target components, such as protecting at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water areas and at least 10 per cent of coastal marine areas, are on track to be met. However, despite the dramatic increase in responses by Parties to the loss of biodiversity, indicators suggest that the status of biodiversity will continue to decline without urgent action—for the Arctic, this means the persistence of existing pollutants and emerging pollutants posing complex problems for species (Aichi Target 8); the decline of sea ice habitat due to climate change (Aichi Target 10 on ecosystems vulnerable to climate change; 14 on ecosystem services); and the loss of traditional knowledge, as evidenced by the increasing rate of language extinction (Aichi Target 18). More specifically on Aichi Target 10, COP 12 adopted a set of priority actions to achieve this target for coral reefs and closely associated ecosystems and called for strengthening of international and regional cooperation in support of national implementation of these actions.

For Aichi Target 11, the new Protected Planet report, prepared by UNEP and IUCN and launched at the World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia, a few weeks ago, found that 15.4 per cent of terrestrial and inland water areas and 3.4 per cent of the global ocean (or 8.4 per cent of marine areas under national jurisdiction) are now protected and thereby provided further confirmation that the world is on track to meet the area component of this target. With regard to Aichi Target 12, we now have information about 483 National Red Lists spanning 113 countries as well as Red Lists for 26 regions and 45 sub-national entities and these will enhance our ability for targeted protected of threatened species and for monitoring progress towards this target. 

To speed up progress, in particular where implementation is lagging behind, COP 12 agreed on the Pyeongchang Road Map, a collection of six decisions including those on further actions to enhance the implementation of the Strategic Plan (decision XII/1); enhancing capacity-building and technical and scientific cooperation, communication, education and public awareness and the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity (decision XII/2); resource mobilization (decision XII/3); integrating biodiversity into the post-2015 United Nations Development Agenda (decision XII/4); the links between biodiversity and poverty eradication (decision XII/5) and cooperation with other conventions and international organisations (decision XII/6).

COP 12 also saw the launch of CBD Technical Series Number 75, An Updated Synthesis of the Impacts of Ocean Acidification on Marine Biodiversity. This report is the result of a major global effort to synthesize best available knowledge about the impacts of ocean acidification on marine biodiversity, a phenomenon which may be occurring faster at the poles than other climate regions. The Sustainable Ocean Initiative Global Partnership Meeting, held just prior to COP-12 prepared an Action Plan for the Sustainable Ocean Initiative 2015-2020 which was presented and launched at the High-Level Meeting in which a ministerial round table discussed ways to facilitate achievement of Aichi Targets 6, 10, 11 and 12 on marine and coastal biodiversity.

Furthermore, it is noteworthy that COP 12, upon recommendations of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, decided to use the terminology “indigenous peoples and local communities” in future decisions and secondary documents under the Convention.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is clear that there are challenges ahead. But with these challenges come opportunities; opportunities to exercise our collective will for a better future for our planet. This Arctic Biodiversity Congress represents one of these opportunities that we must take hold of. I would like to challenge the Arctic Council and CAFF to speed up and scale up actions to implement the recommendations of the Arctic Biodiversity Assessment and the commitments under the CBD and, in particular, with the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.I look forward to this week’s discussions as a step forward to achieve our collective vision for healthy and sustainable Arctic ecosystems as an essential aspect of global sustainable development.

Thank you for your attention.

Hans Meltofte, Chief Scientist, Arctic Biodiversity Assessment at the Arctic Biodiversity Congress. Photo: IISD Reporting ServicesHans Meltofte, Chief Scientist, Arctic Biodiversity Assessment at the Arctic Biodiversity Congress. Photo: IISD Reporting ServicesArctic Biodiversity Assessment - the first account of species-, ecosystem- and genetic diversity of the circumpolar North

Hans Meltofte, Chief Scientist, Arctic Biodiversity Congress

Plenary Address

December 2, 2014, Trondheim, Norway

The Arctic Biodiversity Assessment is the concerted effort during five years of 252 scientists from 14 countries including 35 lead authors from both N America and Eurasia. More than 4500 scientific papers have been referred to, and about 100 scientists have contributed as referees including that the report has been through at least 20 critical reviews. About 65 TEK contributions have been cited, and more than 2 million US$ have been invested. The team of authors have done their outmost to produce a comprehensive and correct account of Arctic biodiversity and its living conditions both in relation to the natural environment and in relation to man – historically, at present and in relation to expected future pressures. The overarching conclusion is that climate change is by far the most serious threat to biodiversity in the Arctic, and there is an immediate need to implement actions to reduce this stressor. 

Tine Sundtoft, Minister of Climate and Environment at the Arctic Biodiversity Congress. Photo: IISD Reporting ServicesTine Sundtoft, Minister of Climate and Environment at the Arctic Biodiversity Congress. Photo: IISD Reporting ServicesTine Sundtoft, Minister of Climate and Environment

Plenary address to the Arctic Biodiversity Congress

December 2, 2014, Trondheim, Norway

Ladies and gentlemen!

In May this year I visited Ny-Ålesund on Svalbard, at 79 degrees north. At this time of the year, the fjord should be covered by ice and filled with ringed seals. On the sea ice in front of the glaciers snow should pile up around the icebergs to make perfect shelter for the seals to breed.

Sadly, during my visit I only saw open water where the ice used to be. Today there is no stable sea-ice to trap icebergs and accumulate snow for making dens. As a result, the ringed seal pups are left unprotected. They become easy prey for polar bears, arctic foxes and gulls.

Ten years ago, due to warmer water, the winter sea ice almost disappeared from the west coast of Svalbard. Since then, hardly any seal pups survive their first year in this part of Svalbard.

I will not enter a discussion on whether this is due to global warming or natural cycles in the Gulf Stream – or a combination. But it certainly demonstrates how vulnerable Arctic species are to climate change.

Arctic biodiversity has been the foundation for traditional ways of life for thousands of years. In sub Arctic seas, it sustains some of the world’s most important commercial fisheries. It is also a valuable asset for tourism and recreation.

The Arctic and its natural surroundings cannot be reduced to mere economics. Arctic biodiversity is an invaluable source of inspiration and enjoyment for people in the Arctic, and throughout the world. This Congress is a key response to the Arctic Biodiversity Assessment. This landmark report of the Arctic Council was presented at the ministerial meeting in Kiruna last year. It is the result of the efforts of 252 scientists and holders of traditional knowledge.

Many of the contributors are here today. I would like to thank all of you for presenting such a timely and comprehensive high quality assessment. In a time of rapidly changing climate and expanding industrial activities, we need this solid common knowledge base to guide our actions.

The Arctic Biodiversity Assessment has established a set of recommendations for further work. Canada and Norway has taken the lead on developing an implementation plan for those recommendations. They will be discussed and developed further here in Trondheim.

Climate change is by far the most serious threat to Arctic biodiversity. This key finding is well documented in the Arctic Biodiversity Assessment. It is also backed by the latest IPCC report. This report predicts an annual mean temperature increase in the Arctic of seven to eleven degrees towards the end of this century - if effective mitigation is not implemented.

Many Arctic species risk extinction due to global warming. This risk increases as changes in climate interact with other stressors.

Most plants cannot migrate fast enough to keep up with such rapid warming. And migration to the north is blocked by the Arctic Ocean.

The expected result is that some high Arctic species and ecosystems could disappear altogether. Or they will remain only as isolated fragments, in high mountain areas or on Arctic islands.

Polar bears and other species linked to sea ice will find little comfort in the projections of the IPCC. Whithout deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions over the next few decades, a nearly ice-free Arctic Ocean in the summer is likely before 2050.

These projections also leave some hope. With a low emission path, the summer sea-ice may persist in many parts of the Arctic. This will substantially improve the odds for long term survival of polar bears, ringed seals and other ice-dependent species.

The long term fate of Arctic biodiversity depends on our abilities to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. As we speak, the twentieth session of the Conference of the Parties to the Climate Convention has just started in Lima, Peru. What I hope for when I go there next week, is a clear draft of the universal agreement to be signed in Paris next year. We also need a shared determination by all states to deliver significant contributions to build a low carbon future. Industry, academics, NGOs and others must join in to provide solutions that can turn potential into reality.

The Arctic States have a particular responsibility to ensure sustainable management of the Arctic. Mitigation is an important issue for the Arctic Council. Reduced emissions of black carbon and methane from Arctic states could slow Arctic warming. I am pleased to note that the Arctic states are working closely together in order to reduce these emissions.

If we do not succeed with mitigation, the long term prospects for Arctic biodiversity look grim. If we do succeed, polar bears and other high Arctic species have a fair chance. In both cases, we will have to cooperate to manage Arctic biodiversity, and adapt to changes as best as we can.

Climate change makes the Arctic more accessible to industrial activities. This, in turn, bring other stressors to the region. Adaptive management will not limit climate change, but it may limit other stressors.

Adaptive management requires good understanding of the changes happening now. It also requires capacity to predict future changes as a basis for planning and adaptation. As a politician, I would like to know as much as possible about the likely consequences of political decisions made today. Will there still be polar bears on Svalbard if we succeed in limiting global warming to two degrees? What about four degrees? Where will the biodiversity hotspots be in 2040? What will happen to fish stocks in the Barents Sea? How can mitigation reduce the risks?

Everyone understands that projections and scenarios are uncertain. But we need them to assess the risks of various policy options. This is the only way we as politicians can make informed decisions.

So this is my challenge to you: Try to draw pictures of the future that are relevant and useful for planning and adaptation. Pictures that show the likely future consequences of political decisions, and that are based on science.

In April next year the foreign ministers of the Arctic States will sign a new ministerial declaration in Iqaluit in Canada. Hopefully, it will set priorities for future cooperation that will promote long term conservation of Arctic biodiversity. It should reflect our common need to improve our understanding of the changing Arctic. It should also reflect how we can adapt. But first of all, it should address how we can act today to reduce the risks for Arctic biodiversity, and communities which depend on its sustainable use. I am confident that this Congress will provide valuable input in this regard.

The US priorities for its coming Arctic Council chairmanship include addressing the impacts of climate change in the Arctic, enhancing Arctic science, and responsible stewardship of the Arctic Ocean. Climate smart conservation and knowledge about Arctic biodiversity are at the heart of these issues. Advice on how to link these priorities to the work of the Arctic Council working groups should be an important output from this Congress.

The Iqaluit meeting will be important. However, the most important event for Arctic biodiversity next year will be the climate summit in Paris. We need to reduce the risk of severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts globally. By doing so, we also reduce the risk for Arctic biodiversity. We cannot afford to fail.

Thank You!  

- Tine Sundtoft, Minister of Climate and Environment, Norway

December 2, 2014

Aile Javo, President, Saami CouncilAile Javo, President, Saami CouncilÁile Jávo, President, Saami Council

Plenary Address

December 2



It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you all to Sápmi, the homeland of the Saami people. The city of Trondheim holds a special place in the history of the Saami people. It was here in Trondheim the first Saami national convention took place back in 1917 – soon hundred years ago. The Convention gathered 150 Saami delegates from the high north and to the south, and was initiated by the Saami woman Elsa Laula Renberg. The steering committee for the Convention managed to gather Saami representatives from all over Norway and Sweden, in the middle of the winter; they succeeded to receive funding from Norwegian authorities and to get a prominent keynote speaker - the head of the Labour Movement in Norway at the time (Martin Tranemæl).

Elsa Laula Renberg saw the need for the Saami people to get together to address the concerns for the Saami culture and the living conditions for Saami people. Among the issues discussed was matters concerning the Saami language and reindeer husbandry, and related to the latter also, the right to own land. These themes are still on the agenda for the Saami people today, 100 years later, even though many things have improved in our societies.

The Saami people live in four countries, Finland, Norway, Sweden and north East Russia. Today activities such as reindeer herding, fishing, hunting and gathering remain important livelihoods for the Saami culture. The traditional livelihoods are the fundament for Saami culture and the only way of life for many Saami people. While some seek an academic or another kind of career, the traditional activities remain important source for food and nutrition for all of us. In that sense the Saami culture depends on healthy and productive ecosystems and the sustainable use of its living resources.

The Saami Council welcomes all the hard work that the Arctic Council and the CAFF working group has put into the Arctic Biodiversity Assessment. The assessment provides a description of the state of biodiversity in the Arctic and of key mechanisms driving change, which makes the report valuable and important for the Saami people, as well. While we are well aware of the intents to incorporate indigenous perspectives and traditional knowledge into the assessment, we think the potential in what the indigenous peoples could have contributed with, to this kind of assessment with our traditional knowledge and understanding of biodiversity and nature - is not yet fully utilized.

Loss of pastures and biodiversity is still the largest threat for the future existence of reindeer husbandry. When developing new projects that requires change in land use, it is important that the impacts for the reindeer herding entities in question is not solely considered according to the size of the development project, accumulated effects for the reindeer husbandry should also be taken into account. The reindeer husbandry needs flexibility when facing variations in climatic conditions during the different seasonal grazing. This flexibility should not be lost. This is particularly important in the years to come, with expected impacts of climate change and the needs the reindeer husbandry have for different nature type and pastures, to remain resilient.

Today it is well documented that various kinds of new development projects leads to huge losses of pastures, because domesticated reindeer avoids disturbance. Dramatic increase in constructions of cabins, roads, hydro- and wind power plants and other developments in reindeer pastures the last decades makes these a serious threat to the future of the reindeer husbandry. Huge projects of oil and gas exploitation in the Barents Sea might have negative accumulative effects by increased construction onshore also impacting reindeer pastures. And I haven’t even mentioned the mines yet.

Calculations by the UNEP shows that if this pace of industrial development continues, traditional reindeer husbandry, with a few exceptions, will come to an end in less than 50 years. Even though huge “untouched areas” of land will still remain, essential pastures will hold so much construction that reindeer herding will not be possible, and the flexibility and resilience or the reindeer husbandry, will not exist.

One of the ABA Key Findings points out climate change to be far the most serious threat to the Arctic biodiversity and in the recommendations it calls for efforts to among other things, reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Global greenhouse gas emissions are resulting in rapid changes in the climate and physical environment of the Arctic with widespread effects for societies and ecosystems and repercussions around the world. Changes in overall temperature have resulted in unpredictable seasons and we are experiencing changing weather patterns, increasing avalanches, coastal erosion, thawing of permafrost, insecure ice-conditions and moving of the tree line. We also see changes in the distribution and migration of living resources that might require adjustments in their management. The increased accessibility of the Arctic and an increase in global demand is also boosting industrial interests in the Arctic. These are changes that have a great impact on the indigenous peoples’ homeland and traditional ways of life.

Climate change alone is not driving the environmental changes already seen in the Arctic. Globalisation and good prices on the mineral resources are drivers that make the unexploited resources in our region of interest for multinational corporations and we have seen an explosion in mining interests in our homeland. We are told it is a global demand for the resources under our feet. The impact the mining industry has on the food production and food security is little heard of by exploitive interests, and the global need for food is an argument most used by the fish-farming industry occupying attractive fish spawning grounds or fishing grounds.

In particular Norway and Sweden’s standard response to the inevitable conflict between the Sami culture and livelihoods, on one hand, and mining, on the other is that “we must find room for co-existence”.  This overlooks the simple fact that most often, there can be no co-existence between reindeer herding and mining.  Mines turns pasture areas into rock.  They block the migration paths between various pasture areas.  Reindeer cannot feed on rock.  And they cannot survive if a mine blocks their migration route. “We must find room for co-existence” become empty and meaningless words as long as Norway and Sweden do not present concrete proposals as to how co-existence between mining and the Sami culture and livelihoods is to be achieved.

In Norway, another great concern with mining is the serious plans for disposal of chemical waste on the sea floor. Even though several national authorities in their responses to these plans have pointed to the impact it will have on the water sheds and ecosystems in the fjords in question. Our concern is also the impacts waste disposal in the sea will have for the salmon that is already under heavy threat from fish farming industry having devastating impacts on the wild salmon stock.

Salmon, and other fish stocks in the fjords and in the Barents Sea is the basis for the coastal Saami culture. Knowingly harming the natural resources that constitutes the fundament of the Saami culture can soon become a question of our human rights. The government has still the opportunity to change their mind in the questions regarding waste disposal in the fjords, and invest the millions of kroner spent to investigate the technologies into developing the reindeer husbandry and local fishing industry instead, and monitoring of the north Atlantic salmon Norway has taken on the responsible for protecting.

We see ourselves discussing the same issues as the Saami people that convened here in Trondheim soon 100 years ago - the future of reindeer herding and our rights to land and participation in decision making.  While some of the stressors from the past are overcome, such as active assimilation and conscious norwegianization of the Saami children through the education system. The stressors we face today are global of nature and much more powerful calling for global actions to overcome. Saami Council look forward to discuss the Arctic biodiversity with the great crowd that has gathered here in Trondheim.

We have to be bold and ask ourselves: are we all doing our best in dealing with biodiversity and managing the natural resources in the Arctic? Is the way we are working in the Arctic Council the best we can to?  While a lot of great work will be presented here on Arctic Biodiversity during this week, we have to also see how we can do better. The Co-production of knowledge, where both traditional knowledge and science are used, where indigenous peoples and other scientist, work together on equal terms, to generate the best available knowledge to guide the decisions for a changing environment in the Arctic, for a future where the traditional livelihoods still will flourish.

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