19 October 2018

The Arctic Futures Initiative at the Sixth Arctic Circle Assembly
19-21 Ocotber 2018, Harpa Conference Center, Reykjavik, Iceland

The Arctic Circle is the largest network of international dialogue and cooperation on the future of the Arctic. IIASA partnered with the Arctic Circle on AFI in the Arctic Circle Assembly 2017 and held three breakout sessions during the Assembly 2018: 1) Interplay Between Science, Politics and Business, 2) Foreseen Ecological and Socio-Economic Impacts and Feedbacks, 3) Third Pole as Complex Socio-Ecological System.  

@Karen E.

@Karen E.

The Interplay between Science, Politics and Business – Experiences and Learned Lessons for the Social Relevance of Science and how to Develop New ‘Arctic Models & Standards’

There were two main themes that emerged from this session. First was the relationship between science, policy, and business. Mr. Vauraste noted that although there is collaboration between science and business, more needs to be done to make research findings available and accessible to the business community. Ms. Kirk also stressed that the interactions between science, business, and the law are very important when it comes to making informed policy, although the baseline data to do so may be missing. Dr. Nilsson also saw and emphasized the mutual benefit of closer relations between science, politics and business, though said that based on experience, building and maintaining those relations are not always easy. Dr. Exner-Pirot addressed current research priorities and stated that as most research looks at issues of climate change and the environment, more attention is needed on innovative sustainable development tools.

The second theme is closely related to the first and addressed the scale of research and policy. For example, Dr. Pelyasov suggested that although much attention has been placed on large-scale projects, governments very much need to start looking at smaller ones. Similarly, Ms. Kirk emphasized that policy development at a smaller scale can have more potential for success. Dr. Exner-Pirot applied these ideas and stated that technology has the potential to benefit rural communities for business and sustainability, but the challenge will be ensuring the technology reaches rural communities across the Arctic. 


Annika Nilsson, Senior Research Fellow, Stockholm Environment Institute; Affiliated Faculty in Environmental Politics, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden: How can Science Contribute and Benefit Politics and Business, and Should It, and Do Policy-Makers Listen Science

Alexander Pelyasov, Director, Center of Arctic and Northern Economies at the Council for Research of Productive Forces (SOPS), Russian Academy of Sciences: Science, Politics, and Business in Transportation: New Standards for the Russian Arctic Transportation

Tero Vauraste, President and CEO, Arctia Ltd.; Chair, Arctic Economic Council (AEC): How Can Science Contribute and Benefit Business, and Do Business People Listen to Science and Scientific Findings?

Heather Exner-Pirot, Analyst, University of Saskatchewan & Arctic Yearbook: Experiences and Best Practices – Innovation in the Arctic

Elisabeth A. Kirk, Professor, Nottingham-Trent University: Responding to Uncertainty in the Arctic through Science and Law

Chair: Lassi Heininen, University of Lapland & IIASA

@Karen E.

A Changing Arctic – Foreseen Ecological and Socio-Economic Impacts and Feedbacks

The speakers in this session addressed issues around research and feedbacks, as well as the need to better understand the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In particular, Dr. Lappalainen and Dr. Sørensen each stressed the importance of understanding feedbacks in the Arctic, meaning that research must make the connection between two or more issues. For example, climate change leads to warming waters that creates favourable conditions for shipping, which can then lead to an increase in pollution. In order to address these feedbacks, both presenters argued for an increase in research observation networks that can create baselines, track feedbacks, and ultimately inform policy. Dr. Tejsner further stated that environmental impact assessments must also include a social component to capture feedbacks not only for the environment, but with communities as well. This means that local governments will play an important role.

Dr. Davíðsdóttir and Mr. Page each spoke about the importance of understanding the interconnectedness and relationship between the 17 SDGs. For example, Dr. Davíðsdóttir applied a dynamic modelling system to the SDGs and found that the energy and climate goals are possibly the most important as success in these goals will affect success in the others. At the same time, progress in one goal may also have a negative consequence in another. Mr. Page furthered this position by suggesting that work in economic and environmental systems cannot overlook the effect they will have on people. To this end, both speakers stated that stakeholder inclusion is a must and that collaboration needs to occur at the local, sub-regional, national, regional, and international levels.


Hanna Lappalainen, Research Coordinator, PEEX, University of Helsinki: Land-Atmosphere Interactions and Climate Change

Brynhildur Davíðsdóttir, Professor, University of Iceland: Transitions to Low Carbon Societies Using Dynamic Modelling

Lise Lotte Sørensen, Pelle Tejsner & Torben Røjle Christensen, Associate Professor, Assistant Professor & Professor, University of Århus: New Economic Activities in the Arctic and Their Ecological and Socio-Economic Impacts and Feedbacks  

Glen C. Page, President and CEO, SustainaMetrix: Response to a Rapidly Changing Arctic

Chair: Lassi Heininen, University of Lapland & IIASA 

@Karen E.

The Third Pole as Complex Socio-Ecological System – Sustainability and Resilience

The future livelihood and well-being of the population in the Third Pole is dependent on collaboration of decision-makers from policy and business, a variety of international organizations working in the region, researchers at the science-policy interface, and naturally local and regional inhabitants. For example, Dr. Ailikun stated that while substantial achievements have been made recently by natural scientists on studying the cryosphere in the Third Pole, scientists from all disciplines are needed for co-generating together with other stakeholders evidence-based options towards sustainability to decision-makers. In support of this type of collaboration, Dr. Gyawali stated that an integrated water-food-energy nexus approach is needed for the region, essentially a holistic approach covering the whole complex terrain to prevent the vulnerable communities from being further marginalized. Dr. Moors discussed how the outcome of UN Water’s SDG 6 Synthesis Report 2018 on Water and Sanitation suggests the need for two potential pathways to be integrated: large-scale sustainable development investment with regional cooperation AND bottom-up investment with local and regional cooperation.

Dr. Fan explained that population increases in ten nature reserves in Tibet have led to conflict between development and protection of the natural environment. The extensive study presented a strategy to promote local development, reduce the poverty of herders, and protect the Tibetan culture and lifestyle, possibly through a Third Pole National Park Cluster in China. Dr. Liu argued for communication and commitment at the personal and institutional level, with trust as the most critical element of building successful partnership across sectors and scales when addressing, for example, issues such as the inability of global flood risk models to reflect local reality and needs of the practitioners.


Ailikun, Director, Third Pole Environment, Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences: The Third Pole Environment (TPE)

Dipak Gyawali, Director, Nepal Water Conservation Foundation; Academician, Nepal Academy of Science and Technology; Senior Guest Research Scholar, Risk and Resilience Program (RISK), IIASA; former Minister of Water Resources of Nepal: Interdisciplinarity and Nexus Approach at the Interface of Technology and Society: Assuring Benefits to the Marginalized

Eddy Moors, Rector and Professor, IHE Delft Institute for Water Education: Sustainable Water

Jie Fan, Professor, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences: Discussion on the National Parks Cluster in Tibetan Plateau

Wei Liu, Research Scholar, Risk and Resilience Program (RISK), IIASA: Multi-Stakeholder Partnership and Polycentric Governance for Climate and Disaster Resilience in the Third Pole

Chair: Anni Reissell, IIASA & University of Helsinki

@Karen E.

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Last edited: 13 December 2018


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