For seven days in August this year seven Ministers of the Environment, one US Assistant Secretary and one UN representative swam in the Arctic freezing water, traveled from Longyearbyen to Ny-Ålesund on board a research vessel, and slept in basic accommodation in northern Norway on the islands of Svalbard. They came from South Africa, China, Iceland, England, Russia, Sweden, Denmark and Canada to talk about polar environmental issues.
Børge Brende, the Norwegian Minister for the Environment and the host of the trip, wrote in his invitation to his colleagues: “After the Johannesburg Summit, we are all facing the task to find new and effective ways to tackle the world’s growing environmental challenges. To get a thorough discussion on these issues, and in surroundings that will give us both new knowledge and a new perspective, I have the pleasure to invite you, together with a group of our colleagues, to a study tour to the Svalbard Archipelago.”
The tour gave the Ministers an opportunity to study the consequences and combined effects of global emissions on the Arctic ecosystems and to informally discuss possible responses that could be made at the international level. The Polar Environment Times features some of the Ministers thoughts and ideas on these issues.
The ministers who went to Svalbard included Irina Osokina (Russia), Xie Zenhua (China), Mohammed Valli Moosa (South Africa), David Anderson (Canada), Elliot Morley (the UK), Lena Sommestad (Sweden), Hans Christian Schmidt (Denmark), Siv Friðleifsdóttir (Iceland), John Turner (the USA), Klaus Töpfer (UNEP) and Børge Brende (Norway).