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Arctic Circle 2015

The circle continues

Most would agree that Arctic Circle is here to stay. The question is where is it heading?
Where’s the Arctic?

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iAbout Press releases

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This is the first of three reports from Arctic Circle 2015.

Please see our other reports:
- Ready, fire, aim
- Reporting live from around the circle

We were also busy on Twitter during the event.

December’s UN climate summit and the involvement of non-Arctic places in the region took centre stage during the opening day of the 2015 Arctic Circle in Reykjavík on Friday, as François Hollande, the French president, told the gathering that the outcome of the Paris meeting would be vital to the future of the North.

“What happens in the Arctic is not the product of your own decisions in the Arctic. What happens in the Arctic is the product of emissions from the global South,” Mr Hollande said during an energetic address.

His comments were made to an audience of 2,000 people from 50 countries attending what has become the largest annual gathering focusing on Northern issues.

SEE RELATED: What happens at the Arctic Circle

There was little surprise that climate would be high on the agenda of the three-day conference. In previous years, the effects of warming temperatures on the Arctic was an underlying element of discussions ranging from oil exploration to public health.

This year, however, the topic is playing an even larger role; Arctic Circle is one of the last major gatherings dealing with the region before the Paris summit, and on Friday it proved to be the dominant topic, both inside and outside the main auditorium.

The need for non-Arctic states to play a role in the region was an issue that has been addressed by a number of the speakers who had taken the stage before Mr Hollande, including Monaco’s Prince Albert and Angus King, an American senator.

Like Mr Hollande, these speakers made it clear that even though they respected the sovereignty of Arctic states over their territory, the issue of climate change was a global responsibility that required international action.

“It is because of the climate change that the Arctic has emerged as an issue,” Senator King said.

SEE RELATED: Future of Arctic not as smooth as it appears

Involvement by non-Arctic places in the region in issues such as climate and resource development was a hotly contested issue during the two previous Arctic Circle gatherings. In contrast to those gatherings, however, there appears to be growing acceptance amongst representatives from Arctic territories that they can play an important role in the development of the region.

“We cannot and do not want to build a wall to keep people out of the Arctic,” Okalik Eegeesiak, the president of ICC, a group representing the interests of Inuit in Russia, Alaska, Canada and Greenland, said.

She noted, however, that despite the emerging economic opportunities, Arctic communities remained mired in social problems such as suicide and substandard housing. Addressing those problems will require outside resources, but, Ms Eegeesiak underscored, when it came to the problems facing the region, the solutions were best found locally.

“Many well-meaning people feel they can protect the Arctic better than the Inuit can. But, when the Inuit contribute, we all benefit,” she said.

The Arctic Journal is in Reykjavík covering Arctic Circle. If you are here, feel free to look us up. Kevin McGwin, one of our staff writers, will be taking part a panel on Saturday about media perceptions of the Arctic. If you aren’t here, keep an eye on for daily reports. We’ll also be active on Twitter. Follow the hashtag #ArcticCircle2015.