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Address Kuupik Kleist Arctic Council 7 Meeting 2011

By Premier of Greenland, Kuupik Kleist. On behalf of Denmark, Faroe Islands and Greenland


The Seventh Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic Council
Ministerial Roundtable
May 12, 2011

Thank you Madam Chair.

Ladies and Gentlemen

In my brief intervention, I would like to address key challenges, opportunities and the priorities of the Arctic Council going forward as far as Denmark, including the Faroe Islands and Greenland, is concerned.

Basically, it is hard to imagine the future without the reality of the Arctic Council at all. The bottom line is that the Council will grow in significance in the years to come, mainly because the Arctic knows no artificial boundaries like the nation-state borders we adhere to today. In this sense, the world will have great expectations of the Council in the future.

Just like climate change presents challenges when it comes to adaptation, all peoples in the Arctic has to adapt economically as well.

For us, it is important to stress the right to develop our own resources, living as well as non-living resources. We are well aware that there are risks involved and we need to address those risks. We are not here to destroy the environment we live off – we have to be responsible guardians of this Earth. We do not see development and environmental protection as two opposite goals. It is not about neither this nor that. The challenge for us here in the Arctic is to combine what could be interpreted as opposing goals into complementary solutions.

We must together ensure that activities take place without causing unnecessary risks to our joint Arctic environment. It is of paramount importance to prevent catastrophes as well as accidents from happening, and therefore we must seek to deploy, and continuously develop, the best available technologies and the best environmental practices in order to reduce the risks to the lowest possible level. However, whenever humans are involved in activities, potential risks are associated. Therefore it is also of paramount importance that we prepare for a worst case scenario across the Arctic.

Therefore, speaking of offshore oil and gas drilling, the Greenland Government believes that there is a compelling need to establish an international mechanism for liability and compensation for oil pollution damage resulting from offshore oil exploration and exploitation.

It is our recommendation that we should try and pave the way for the establishment of an international fund that can provide financial security for clean-up activities and compensation in connection with oil pollution from these activities. It is also a cornerstone in our proposal that the oil industry should contribute to provide the financial basis for such a fund.

Greenland continues to acknowledge our national responsibility to ensure that oil companies operating in Greenland seas are fully liable and financial robust to handle all potential commitments and liabilities pursuant to their activities. However as we have seen in so many other areas, often issues are better addressed when we collaborate to find the best solutions. This is the cornerstone of Arctic cooperation. We therefore believe that we can benefit from joint reflection and deliberation upon how this may be addressed at an international level for the benefit of peoples, states and the industry. The Arctic states and communities can play an important role in this, demonstrating our environmental leadership to the world. We will consequently put forward practical suggestions regarding the establishment of an international oil spill fund in connection with the work of the Task Force who is given the mandate of developing an instrument on Arctic marine oil pollution response.

Though focus on natural science makes perfectly sense in our political thinking and strategic planning, it is equally important to take into account what we, who depend on the health of the Arctic, see as being the most important issue. Arctic is not always about polar bears and ice. What is often neglected in the discussions is the situation of humanity in the Arctic and the conditions in which we live by.
At the last ministerial meeting, the Council has endorsed the Arctic Offshore Oil and Gas Guidelines. Oil and gas and other new economic activities are an important field of joint interest and cooperation, and we should continue to build on that.

We see an increasing need to share experiences of economic development activities in the Arctic that are of common interest i.e., mining, fisheries and mega industrial projects, in the context of the Council.

If we – together – can formulate guidelines and minimum standards for new economic activities, the indigenous peoples of the Arctic will be better off in terms of their conservation of traditional knowledge, social structures, cultural practices and, in particular, health. What is needed in general is a more balanced approach to the realities of the indigenous peoples in the Arctic.

In closing, my overall assessment is that it is essential to conserve the democratic governance of the Council in order to maintain the structure of inclusiveness and the principle of consensus decision-making. In the end, only the Council has the potential and the political will to address issues of relevance to the Arctic peoples, to take advantage of the sophisticated institutions of the member states and, not at least, to ensure that we all keep profiting of the excellent leadership of all involved with this unique council.

Qujanaq – thank you for your attention.

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