The High North is attracting increasing international attention, focusing particularly on energy and environment issues. The potential energy resources in the region and the fact that global climate change is most apparent in the Arctic are capturing widespread interest. Many of the challenges in the High North can only be addressed through international solutions and extensive cooperation with other countries.
The Arctic Council
The Arctic Council is the only regional cooperation body that includes all eight Arctic countries: the five Nordic countries, the US, Canada and Russia. Norway is chair of the Council for the 2006–2008 period.
As chair of the Arctic Council, Norway is putting the spotlight on climate change and integrated management of the resources in Arctic waters. Efforts relating to integrated resource management will be based on the approach set out in the white paper on integrated management of the Barents Sea–Lofoten area. With regard to climate change, Norway will utilise its chairmanship to acquire more knowledge about the global and regional impacts of the very rapid process of climate change that is taking place in the Arctic. Such knowledge is important because we will have to adapt to major changes in the future. Besides, the changes in the Arctic are a warning signal of the kind of impacts we may have to deal with in other parts of the world. The Arctic countries plan to cooperate on adaptation measures in the region.
The Barents Cooperation
The Barents Cooperation is a cornerstone of the regional cooperation in the north. The Barents region has a population of nearly six million and rich natural resources in the form of forests, minerals, oil, gas and fish.
The specific task of the Barents Cooperation is to strengthen and promote regional cooperation in a broad range of fields: the business sector, the environment, transport and communications, education and research, health, culture, indigenous peoples, the justice sector, rescue cooperation, youth issues, etc. Close ties have been established between enterprises in the Barents countries and between municipalities across national borders. The Barents Cooperation has helped to erase the old dividing lines in the north and has fostered the development of a strong people-to-people dimension.
Norway is strongly engaged in nuclear safety cooperation with Russia. Since 1995, the Storting has allocated a total of around NOK 1.3 billion for these efforts, which have concentrated on Northwestern Russia. This engagement is based on the recognition that there is a serious risk of radioactive pollution from Russian nuclear facilities and nuclear waste, and this could easily spread to Norway.
Our nuclear safety cooperation has produced good results in areas such as safe management, transport, storage and disposal of radioactive waste, spent nuclear fuel and other radioactive sources in our neighbouring areas. Norway has been invited to cooperate with the G8’s Global Partnership against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, which has strengthened Norway’s efforts in this area. The main priorities in recent years have been the dismantling of decommissioned nuclear submarines, the removal of radioactive strontium sources from lighthouses and buoys along the coast of Northwestern Russia, and infrastructure measures for the safe management and removal of spent fuel from the disused marine base in Andreyev Bay. On the basis of the Government’s Action Plan for Nuclear Safety Issues, Norway has provided considerable support for improving safety standards at the Kola nuclear power plant.