Jokkmokk Winter Conference 2014

The theme of the conference this year is Make it happen: Eco-mobility of the North. David Cooper, Toronto, set the scene with an inspiring talk on sustainable transport in Canadian cities.

Today (day 2 of JWC) started with Lidia Suokko presenting the Green Highway project and the vision to create a fossil-free transport corridor (by 2030) from coast to coast between Trondheim in Norway and Sundsvall in Sweden. In 2012 the Zero Rally – a climate car rally race – took place on the Green highway.  There is a Green highway Buyers guide for electrical and plug in hybrid cars for those of you who are thinking of getting a green car. Or why not an electric tuk-tuk instead of a car?

Lassi Heininen, University of Lapland in Finland – has talked at the conference many times before. This year Lassi talked about challenges and possibilities in transport and mobility in the circumpolar North. Last year 200 ships passed through the Atlantic-Arctic Pacific Ocean corridor, but traffic is due to increase as the Arctic ice is melting. Choosing the north sea route vs the Suez canal saves distances up to 50%, which means saving of time, fuel, money and environment. An ”Arctic paradox” – a challenge for sustainability and “Ecomobility”, says Lassi. The big challenge, Lassi says, is how to show to decision makers that the price is too high for exploiting the arctic. We need a school of critical geopolitics!

“Lessons from previous generations” was the topic of the talk by Josefina Lundgren Skerk, Swedish Sami Parliament. Driven by her passion for nature, environment and human rights, Josefina was one of a group of 16 people to ski to the North Pole last year. The group wanted to draw attention to the problem of exploitation in the Arctic. We got the here her inspiring story. Josefina wishes we would stop valuing nature as a resource to be exploited.

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After her talk, Josefina took part in the panel discussion together with the politicians Jonas Sjöstedt (Party leader Left party Sweden), Jonas Eriksson (MP Green party Sweden), Helena Lindahl (MP Centre party Sweden) and Johan Johansson (MP Moderate party Sweden). First question from Anna Hövenmark was “Will the Norrbottnia railway be built, and if so when?” The panel more or less agreed that it will be built, but the opinion on when it should be built varied. Jonas Eriksson would build it next year whereas Johan Johansson didn’t see it as a priority.

Road traffic is not bearing its’ costs today. Sjöstedt says reducing long distance heavy traffic through taxation and investment in railways is important. We have to dare to do it otherwise we will fail, he says.

However, as Lindahl said, in rural areas we will always be dependent on cars and hence the discussion has to be about fuel as well. Eriksson added that the big problem is car driving in the cities not the few cars in the rural areas. Nevertheless, we in the rural parts also want to reduce our carbon footprint and be less dependence on fossil fuel. The discussion then went on to mines and Arctic exploitation.

In the afternoon we were divided up into workshops and the day ended with a presentation of the history of the conference and Wolfgang Mehl presenting the results from the NNCC project, which JWC has been a part of.

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