Foreign minister: Arctic issues vital concern for Estonia

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Eva-Maria Liimets. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Arctic issues, including environmental concerns, have prominent importance for Estonia, foreign minister Eva-Maria Liimets says.

Speaking at an online seminar, or webinar, Wednesday which both focused on the Arctic – Estonia is in the process of applying for observer status on the Arctic Council – and marked 100 years of diplomatic relations between Estonia and Norway, Liimets said that: "As a country with an Arctic coast, Norway is a major scientific power in the region, and we would like to learn from and cooperate with the country in this field.

"Estonia is currently applying for observer status on the Arctic Council to contribute to the sustainable development of the Arctic," Liimets added, during her statement which can be viewed in the video of the entire event, below.

Environmental issues are particularly key, she went on, according to a foreign ministry press release.

"Scientists are observing, interpreting and analysing rapid change in the Arctic," Minister Liimets said.

"Their message is clear: Climate change is the challenge of our time, and nowhere is this more obvious than in the Arctic. We can only get enough data to keep up with and adapt to change in the Arctic through joint measures and international cooperation. The Arctic ecosystem is vulnerable and it is the task of concerned countries to listen to scientists and work together." 

Taking part in the webinar, Audun Halvorsen, state secretary of Norway's foreign ministry, noted the importance of cooperation in Arctic research in adapting to climate change and developing new technologies which will contribute to creating both sustainable jobs and the required values.

The matter goes far beyond the region itself, Halvorsen noted – greenhouse gas emissions worldwide are contributing to climate change and potential catastrophe there.

The joint webinar, entitled "The Changing Arctic", focused on scientific cooperation between the two countries to deal and saw introductory remarks from foreign minister Liimets and Norwegian state secretary Audun Halvorsen.

President of the Estonian Academy of Sciences Tarmo Soomere, and Norway's Ambassador to Estonia, Else Berit Eikeland, also made welcoming remarks.

Scientists taking part provided a more detailed overview of the situation in the Arctic and the impact of the Arctic climate on countries, and also presented their work and joint projects.

Ongoing projects which are relevant include Tallinn University of Technology's (TalTech) Department of Geology and the Norwegian Polar Institute's drilling and ice analysis in Norwegian Arctic archipelago Svalbard.

Professor Maarja Kruusmaa, whose MAMMAMIA project, carried out in collaboration with the University of Oslo looks at the mechanisms of ice acceleration, also took part.

The seminar also presented Estonia's Arctic research expertise in light of Estonia's bid for observer status on the Arctic Council.

The Arctic Council consists of all eight countries which have sovereignty over lands falling within the Arctic Circle, namely Canada, Denmark (via Greenland), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the U.S. (via Alaska). There are also several observer states worldwide, a group which Estonia wishes to join.

More information from the event is here, along with the video of the webinar – also clickable on the video link above.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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