On Thursday 9 February, President Niinistö and Governor General Simon visited Rovaniemi to participate at a panel discussion on the impacts of climate change in the Arctic. The event took place at the Arktikum Science Centre. The theme was discussed from various perspectives such as the environment, the residents of the area, and livelihoods.
The Rector of the University of Lapland Antti Syväjärvi gave his opening words, highlighting the importance of the role that the University of Lapland and UArctic in Arctic research: "Our university, the northernmost university in European Union, is focusing heavily on Arctic research and Arctic networks. Our university hosts the International Secretariat of the University of the Arctic and we have a strong profile on Sámi research".
In his opening speech, President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö underlined the significance of the city of Rovaniemi and the University of Lapland in environmental Arctic cooperation: "The fact that we meet here, in Rovaniemi, is a sign of the importance of this city for our common Arctic endeavors. On environmental Arctic cooperation, the Rovaniemi process of the late 1980s and early 1990s paved the way for the establishment of the Arctic Council in Ottawa in 1996. On scientific cooperation, as we have many times heard, the University of Lapland here plays a central coordinating role among Arctic universities and research institutions". The President talked about the innovative solutions for carbon capture and storage. He pointed out that the Finnish and Canadian research and business communities could work even more closely together in this area. "As an indirect result of Russia’s war of aggression, green transition projects in the Northern regions have accelerated. These projects can create much needed opportunities, jobs and wellbeing. Obviously, the pressures they put on nature, natural resources and the indigenous people have to be assessed carefully. The bottom line is: if we do this right, the Arctic could become the region with a competitive edge to pilot new technologies and new solutions. I cannot think of better partners than Finland and Canada to roll up their sleeves and start working together on this", Niinistö said.
The Governor General of Canada Mary Simon gave her speech next. Referring to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Madame Governor General called for collaborative effort among Arctic states to move forward with Arctic issues at hand: "This crisis, and the ensuing instability, is pushing countries like ours to find different ways to move forward on Arctic issues. It forces us to think creatively about solutions, as Arctic nations and as leaders in renewable energy and sustainability. It reinforces that ours must be a collective and inclusive effort, including governments, scientists, Indigenous peoples and everyone who lives in and cares for the North. We all have a responsibility for the world we create, so we should all have a voice".
Mary Simon served on the Board of UArctic from 2003 to 2009. She was president of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (now Council) from 1986 to 1992, Canada's first Ambassador of Circumpolar Affairs from 1994 to 2004, Ambassador to Denmark 1999-2002, and President of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami from 2006 to 2012.
The opening speeches were followed by a panel discussion, moderated by Dr. Johanna Ikävalko, Director of the Arctic Centre at the University of Lapland. Speakers in the panel were Mr. Tuomas-Aslak Juuso, the President of the Sami Parliament, research professor and a member of the UArctic's Thematic Network on Herbivory, Bruce Forbes from the Arctic Centre, and Canadian Climate Change expert and a member of the UArctic's Thematic Network on Northern Tourism Dr. Jackie Dawson.
Watch the recording of the event down below: