Norway’s Svalbard and climate change solutions / Columns / The Foreigner

Norway’s Svalbard and climate change solutions. Svalbard/Spitsbergen is engrained in Norwegian consciousness as the magical, mystical archipelago at the top of the world. It represents isolation, polar bears, climate change, the midnight sun, and weeks of darkness. I just experienced a week of darkness there, through attending an Island Dynamics conference exploring many of these images. Delegates from Europe and Asia convened in Longyearbyen to discuss "Local Actions in a Global Context": how small places can make a big impact on the world. Svalbard does that. Cruise ships land with more passengers than the territory's population.

svalbard, longyearbyen, climatechangenorway



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Norway’s Svalbard and climate change solutions

Published on Friday, 1st February, 2013 at 09:32 under the columns category, by Ilan Kelman.
Last Updated on 2nd February 2013 at 12:29.

Svalbard/Spitsbergen is engrained in Norwegian consciousness as the magical, mystical archipelago at the top of the world. It represents isolation, polar bears, climate change, the midnight sun, and weeks of darkness.

Longyearbyen at noon, mid-January
Longyearbyen at noon, mid-January
Photo: Ilan Kelman


I just experienced a week of darkness there, through attending an Island Dynamics conference exploring many of these images. Delegates from Europe and Asia convened in Longyearbyen to discuss "Local Actions in a Global Context": how small places can make a big impact on the world.

Svalbard does that. Cruise ships land with more passengers than the territory's population.

Moreover, an international treaty governs it, representing a unique model for the world. The archipelago is under full Norwegian sovereignty, but several other countries have access rights for resources and research.

We learned plenty about these legal, political, and logistical complexities through fascinating presentations and conversations with the Deputy Governor of the archipelago and the mayor of Longyearbyen. Small places can bring big challenges!

Then came our own talks. Academic presentations ranged from non-sovereign islands addressing or influencing international affairs, to innovation for sustainability on islands of Denmark and Taiwan.

My talk was on research from the Many Strong Voices programme about how small island jurisdictions enact disaster diplomacy. That means using disaster prevention and response for conflict resolution. In most instances, disasters are not important for solving diplomatic disagreements.

Several elected politicians from around Europe attended. We heard inspiring and pragmatic presentations and interventions based on Scotland's, Catalonia's, Basque Country's, and Flanders' efforts at achieving independence.

It was stimulating to see academics and active politicians vibrantly exchanging ideas to determine how our interests overlap. The conference was an impressive example of practitioners seeking research to adjust their actions, while researchers learned what practitioners seek in order to act.

Svalbard being an international research centre on global change and the Arctic, while navigating the realities of geopolitical games, was the perfect setting. Many political and environmental challenges plague us.

Non-sovereign governments can lead the solutions.

Dr. Ilan Kelman is a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research - Oslo (CICERO).




Published on Friday, 1st February, 2013 at 09:32 under the columns category, by Ilan Kelman.
Last updated on 2nd February 2013 at 12:29.

This post has the following tags: svalbard, longyearbyen, climatechangenorway.





  
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