Remarks With Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere
Secretary of State
Today, we have had, I think, a first-class presentation of modern knowledge about Arctic and polar affairs from the medical research from the Polar Institute from the University of Tromso. We’ve had a generous presentation from the city leadership, political leadership of the city of Tromso, and above all, we’ve had a good time. And we had a good time because the atmosphere has been great.
And right now, we will be able to present the Tromso (inaudible), which is a milestone in the high north strategy of the government to build a meeting center of excellence and (inaudible) in Tromso. This center will be complete by 2030, and there will be some 2030 institutions. We are going to have researchers operating out of this place. And here goes – will be located in the new building – the permanent secretariat of the Arctic Council, which we both helped vote and decide last year.
So we believe that not only to understand modern Norway and the narrative of what is Norway in the 21st century, but the Arctic is really that initial interconnection. The U.S. is a leading Arctic state, as are the other council states as well, and I think we are discovering that for secretaries and foreign ministers in the decades to come, the Arctic will be key on that agenda. So I’m very pleased that we’ve had the opportunity to go deep in that and really have unprecedented time to go into very fascinating (inaudible). Norway was always a seafaring polar strategic nation for centuries. Now we can do it on the bigger screen, but it will always depend on the very brave and courageous researchers who go out in the ice. That’s the only way to provide everyone (inaudible).
Thank you, Secretary, for coming to spend time with us.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you very much, Foreign Minister, for inviting me here. As Jonas just said, I thought that the permanent secretariat for the Arctic Council should actually be in the Arctic, and I was, therefore, very proud and committed to supporting Tromso as the new home of the Arctic Council. And it only adds to the importance of the role that this city is playing as the world increasingly looks to the north. And I also want to acknowledge the other academics and researchers who have made this facility, and the Polar Institute, the university, so many of the other affiliated groups and individuals who are committed to enhancing our understanding of the Arctic and helping to educate all of us as we increasingly make decisions that will impact the Arctic.
The United States and Norway are closely coordinating to ensure that the Arctic Council is a important and is the key place where nations gather to chart the future of the Arctic. We were very pleased to sign the first agreement that came out of the Arctic Council last year on the search-and-rescue responsibilities in the Arctic. We’re working on a new agreement to deal with oil spills and other emergencies. But there’s a big agenda that has to be addressed in a very deliberative but intensive way.
Now back in the United States, the Obama Administration is pushing hard to ratify the Law of the Sea Convention, which has provided the international framework for exploring these new opportunities in the Arctic. We abide by the international law that undergirds the convention, but we think the United States should be a member, because the convention sets down the rules of the road that protect freedom of navigation, provide maritime security, serve the interests of every nation that relies on sea lanes for commerce and trade, and also sets the framework for exploration for the natural resources that may be present in the Arctic.
And the United States and Norway are committed to promoting responsible management of those resources, and to do all we can to prevent and mitigate the effects of climate change. I’m highlighting a new partnership that I started called the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, and we’re very pleased that Norway is a member. And it is to focus on what are called short-lived climate pollutants – methane, black carbon, hydrofluorocarbons – which make up at least 30 – somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions. And they are actually released into the atmosphere during the extraction and production of oil and natural gas, among other activities. In fact, in addition to the impact on global warming, they cause millions of premature deaths and 30 million tons of lost crops each year. And we just heard the impact of burning (inaudible) fuels and putting all that black carbon and soot into the air. It then lands on the ice and you know rest.
So I want to thank Norway for joining the Climate and Clean Air Coalition and making an initial commitment of one and a half million dollars, and also a pledge by Norway of one million dollars specifically to target black carbon across the Arctic. I’m very grateful that we had a chance to meet with the CEO of Statoil and the new Country Manager for ExxonMobil to talk about ways that oil and gas companies are already reducing methane and black carbon emissions from their own production, what more they believe can be done, and how we can bring other companies into this effort to capture your vented, leaked, and flared natural gas, and to cut emissions by up to one-third with no net cost at all. That would make a significant impact on climate change without hurting any oil or gas company’s bottom line, and it’s exactly the kind of private and public cooperation we need to pursue and that this new coalition is determined to try to bring about.
So again, I want to thank my friend and colleague for a wonderful visit here in Tromso. I want to thank the many people, the citizens that I have been meeting and talking to from the moment I arrived yesterday evening. And the great warm welcome and gracious hospitality is very much appreciated, not only by me personally but all of my delegation accompanying me.
MODERATOR: Thank you. We can take more of your questions for --
QUESTION: Well, Madam Secretary, what you would you say is the most valuable piece of insight you gained during your stay?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think it is always important to have firsthand experience, if possible. I’ve had the opportunity to visit Svalbard when I was a United States senator. Last year, the Arctic Council met in Nuuk, Greenland. And then of course, today, we were able to go out on a research vessel and hear from experts about what is happening in the Arctic, and in fact, that many of the predications about warming in the Arctic are being surpassed by the actual data. That was a – not necessarily a surprising but sobering fact to be told.
But I think in general, it’s to have a chance to further and exemplify the cooperation between the United States and Norway, between Jonas and myself, and to send a very clear message that although it seems like such an overwhelming task for humanity to take the steps necessary to reduce and mitigate the impact of global warming and climate change, there are things every one of us can do, and we should get about the business of doing it.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton --
QUESTION: Wait a moment, please. Thank you. Madam Secretary, your colleague likes to talk about high north, low tension. There are lots of new countries that now have an interest in coming to the Arctic area. How do you see the potential for conflict in this area and the Arctic Council’s role in avoiding those conflicts?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, our goal is certainly to promote the peaceful cooperation that we think is called for in the Arctic. And the Arctic Council, which consists – at the core are the five Arctic nations, of which Norway and the United States are two, and then others with very direct interests, such as Iceland and Sweden, have been working without a lot of attention until relatively recently. And I think it’s a tribute to our foresight and our predecessors, and then certainly Jonas has been a global leader – not just a Norwegian leader – on bringing attention to the Arctic and, as he says, the high north, that we are operationalizing the cooperation that we have established through the Arctic Council.
And you’re right that a lot of countries are looking at what will be the potential for exploration and extraction of natural resources, as well as new sea lanes, and are increasingly expressing an interest in the Arctic. And we want the Arctic Council to remain the premier institution that deals with Arctic questions. So one of the issues on our agenda is how we provide an opportunity for other nations very far on the Arctic to learn more about the Arctic, to be integrated into the cooperative framework that we are establishing, and in effect, to set some standards that we would like to see everyone follow.
MODERATOR: Last one.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, what do you think of the sentencing of former Egyptian President Mubarak to life in prison on the conviction that he’s had just announced today of complicity or involvement in the deaths of some of the protestors in Egypt? Is that a just sentence, in your view?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I’m not going to comment on a sentence imposed by a court after hearing whatever evidence was presented. That is up to the Egyptian people, their judicial system, and their government.
But I would take the opportunity to express our very strong encouragement that the election process – which has been carried out freely, fairly, and legitimately – produced a result that will be accepted as reflecting the will of the Egyptian people, and that this transition that was started in Tahrir Square will result in a government that is committed to improving the lives of the people of Egypt and the economy and dealing with many of the challenges that confront any nation in the world today. And the United States stands ready to assist in any way that we can.
MODERATOR: Thank you.