Published Monday, 09 March 2015

IEEP supporting the cross-Atlantic dialogue on Northern sustainable development  

A high-level International Symposium on Northern Development took place in Québec City from the 25 - 27 February 2015. The symposium was co-chaired by the Québec Government and the Nordic Council of Ministers, in collaboration with Université Laval. The symposium brought together over 400 participants from both sides of the Atlantic representing policy- and decision-makers, academia, indigenous people, and business and industry. The primary objective was to discuss and share experience on sustainable development issues in the North with a particular focus on the Arctic region.

IEEP’s Marianne Kettunen was one of the Nordic experts invited to present at the symposium and in addition, to attend a breakfast roundtable meeting hosted by the Premier of Québec, Mr. Couillard, the President of Iceland, Mr. Grimsson and the Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers, Mr. Høybråten. Marianne’s contributions included providing information on the role of ecosystem services and natural capital in supporting the Green Economy as well as adopting nature-based solutions for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

The symposium marked the start of a new era of collaboration between the northern regions of the Atlantic, supported by a high-level declaration of intent for cooperation. The symposium revealed that the Nordic countries and Québec region share multiple challenges: identifying responses to climate change; conserving and sustainably using natural capital while at the same time securing the livelihoods and wellbeing of indigenous people. Understanding how healthy and well-functioning ecosystems underpin socio-economic wellbeing; including the role they play in mitigating and adapting to the impacts of climate change. This provides an important basis for truly sustainable development of the two Nordic regions. Furthermore, working with the indigenous peoples is vital to ensure that socio-economic progress also creates value for the local population and does not jeopardise their natural environment.

In addition to initiating a cross-Atlantic dialogue on issues of common concern, one of the key objectives of the meeting was to support the implementation of Québec’s strategy for the sustainable development of its northern regions. This strategy, called the Plan Nord, aims to establish a socially responsible and environmentally sustainable framework for the development of northern Québec, including the Arctic areas. The plan envisions spending $80 billion in investment over the next 25 years to expand the mining sector and to develop energy resources. At the same time, a half of the northern Québec territory is to be set aside for non-industrial use by 2035. This area is foreseen to be reserved primarily for environmentally responsible tourism, environmental protection, biodiversity conservation, and the acquisition of scientific knowledge. Consequently, understanding the role and value of natural capital within the territory covered by Plan Nord seems crucial for the future development of the region.