The Church of Sweden is organising a climate conference together with the Canadian Council of Churches in Storforsen in Norrbotten, the province in the far north of Sweden, on 5–8 October. Forty people from large parts of the Arctic will gather to share experiences, compile stories, identify challenges and share hopes and dreams for people living in the Arctic.
In its latest report, the UN’s climate panel writes about clear changes in the Arctic. Henrik Grape, environmental coordinator for the Church of Sweden and project manager of the conference, hopes that the conference will lead to more in-depth cooperation within the Arctic between indigenous peoples, churches and those who live their day-to-day lives in the region.
“It may seem strange to meet and talk about climate when we are witnessing the largest flows of refugees since the Second World War. But in a slightly more long-term perspective, being a refugee and the climate are closely linked,” explains Henrik Grape.
“When harvests fail or floods make it impossible to stay in your home, migration is one of the consequences. That’s why the Arctic is a warning signal to the rest of the world. We see what is happening and we must take action, and do it now.”
But a changed climate does not just involve ecological changes. To an extensive degree it consists of the social and economic consequences of a warmer climate. Indigenous peoples are particularly vulnerable because traditional lifestyles become impossible and the hunt for natural resources creates increasing pressure. Melting ice and permafrost which makes it easier to extract both fossil fuels and minerals drives new exploiters to the region.
“People who live in the Arctic often fall under the ‘radar of interest’ because many regard the area as untouched wilderness. But it is a home for indigenous peoples and others who live their day-to-day lives in the Arctic. Indigenous peoples are often a marginalised group,” says Henrik Grape.
The year 2015 is an important one for climate negotiations that will hopefully lead to a strong climate agreement in Paris in December.
“We who are churches in the Arctic want to highlight this region that already lives with climate change today. Together we want to share stories from the Arctic to make people aware of the importance of bold decisions and crucial steps by the international community within the UN’s convention on climate change and our wish to work towards creating a just, fair and sustainable future for everyone. Sharing these stories is a contribution that aims to lead to the change that is required to avoid the worst climate change scenarios.”
The participants include:
Hans Stiglund, Bishop of Luleå Diocese
Chief Wilton Littlechild, Canada Commissioner for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
Indigenous Bishop Mark MacDonald, Canada
Maria Teresia Nutti, the Sami Council in the Church of Sweden
Pauliina Kainulainen, theologian
Lars-Anders Baer, the Sami Parliament
The conference will be held in Storforsen in Norrbotten, the province in the far north of Sweden, on 5–8 October.
Henrik Grape, environmental coordinator for the Church of Sweden and project manager of the conference, phone: +46 70 609 83 07.