In his address to the Finnish Climate Summit in Helsinki in mid-June, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö called on the Arctic Council to have ‘a first ever Arctic Summit’ in order to tackle black carbon emissions in the polar region, noting that there is no time to wait on climate change.
Climate change, he stressed, is not only an environmental matter, but it has direct implications for questions of peace: Peace as the absence of war, peace within societies, and peace with the environment.
Climate change has an impact on all three. If we fail to make peace with the environment, domestic and international conflicts are likely to follow. If we allow global warming to proceed, it will quickly turn into a hard security issue as well. Rising sea levels and extreme weather events can lead to wars over territory and resources. Migration will grow dramatically, as some areas become uninhabitable.
Moving further, he underlined the implications associated with black carbon emissions in Arctic’s fragile environment, accelerating the melting of the sea ice. As the current chair of the Arctic Council, Finland is pushing to reduce the emissions of black carbon in the area.
Unlike the long-term impacts of CO2, black carbon has immediate effects…This creates a negative feedback loop, making climate change even faster. But the positive side to the story is that our action can also have an immediate impact. If we are able to cut down black carbon emissions – for instance from maritime transport, from old-fashioned power plants and from flaring in oil and gas fields – we will make a significant contribution to combating climate change in the Arctic. And saving the Arctic is essential in saving the globe.
In view of these, Mr. Niinistö advocated the first ever ‘Arctic Summit’, bringing together the heads of state and government from the eight members of the Council: the United States, Russia, Canada and the five Nordic states.
A firm high-level commitment to reduce black carbon emissions in the Arctic would be welcome news for the environment. And it would also benefit the other key themes I have touched upon here: peace, a sense of community and trust. Success is not guaranteed, but the potential rewards are high. For the sake of our common future, we must not leave a single stone unturned.