The Arctic region is facing demographic decline and climate challenges and beyond that, economic value creation through Arctic technologies and innovations which are dependent on a transforming geopolitical context.
On April 23 the roundtable event “Arctic-2050: Mapping the Future of the Arctic” was held to analyse the economic, environmental and social prospects for the region’s development. In mapping key stakeholders, wild and beautiful stereotypes about roaming polar bears, daring discoverers, explorers and indigenes, revealed its sell-by date.
Nord University Business School and Moscow School of Management (SKOLKOVO) presented four scenarios for the development of the Arctic planned for 2050 and outlined possible options for the future depending on the pace of innovation. The four development priorities for the Arctic for 2050 describe the possible impact of intensified economic activity in the region and also analyse the threats and opportunities inherent in each option, offering recommendations for business and policy makers.
For the purpose of clarity, each scenario is associated with one of four distinctive historical periods. These periods, metaphorically applied to Arctic scenarios, can be categorized as Dark Ages, Age of Discovery, Romanticism, and Renaissance.
These scenarios are designed to shape a new agenda for sustainable development and the future of the Arctic. The participants of the event were international experts, scientists, politicians, representatives of ministries and departments, as well as business people from various countries.
Alexey Kalinin, Academic Director of the Institute for Emerging Markets Studies at the Moscow School of Management (SKOLKOVO) was leading through the roundtable event like a long term experienced TV moderator and made the online roundtable a lively and fascinating event.
The line-up of speakers was a competent mix of political and economic experts for the Arctic region. Prof. Frode Nilssen from the renowned Norwegian Fridtjof Nansen Institute gave an excellent insight into the rapid change socioeconomic changes in the Arctic region within the last decades and highlighted the huge technological, economic, environmental and social challenges for the development of the Arctic.
Nikolay Korchunov who has served as the Ambassador at Large for the Arctic Cooperation at the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) of Russia and as Senior Arctic Official of the Russian Federation to the Arctic Council, emphasized that Arctic issues include challenging topics – not only for Russia but also for the other Arctic States as well as globally. He is especially interested in matters related to sustainable development, in finding the right balance between environmental protection and socio-economic development.
Both Nilssen and Korchunov stressed the fact that for development of the Arctic region, the cooperation of those countries with Arctic regions – USA, Canada, Finland, Greenland (Denmark), Iceland, Norway, Russia, and Sweden – remains one of the important conditions.
At the end of the roundtable, Alexey Kalinin asked the speakers and the audience how they viewed the future scenario for the Arctic region. Participants could choose one of Kalinin’s four scenarios – Dark Ages, Age of Discovery, Romanticism, and Renaissance.
According to the Dark Ages scenario, the Arctic becomes a depopulated and devastated industrial site for the ruthless exploitation of exhausted fossil resources.
In the Age of Discovery scenario, fragmented environmental regulation and weak disaster response fail to slow the degradation. Natural habitats and the livelihoods of the indigenous people deteriorate amidst an accelerating climate crisis.
In the Romanticism scenario, money stops flowing to the Arctic due to strengthened institutional restrictions.
Finally, in the Renaissance scenario, nations agree to continue the exploration of the Arctic – and as with space exploration – it becomes a symbol of international cooperation and humanity’s eternal striving for progress and innovation. Governments agree on standards for doing business in the Arctic, incentivizing the use of the best available technologies, and innovating to prove that decoupling is possible.
The result of the poll was quite interesting: Almost all participants chose either The Age of Discovery or the Renaissance, which were called by Kalinin the “optimistic” scenarios for the arctic, while only two participants voted for the Romanticism scenario and none for the Dark Ages.
In times of increasing political tensions especially among the countries of the Arctic region – including USA, Russia and the EU – this round table can be seen as a positive and encouraging example for the future. Despite political tensions between world powers, the contributions and discussions took place in an harmonious and pragmatic way.
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