First of all, thanks to the committee for inviting me to present here.
I am an old Arctic hand, I guess you would call it. I started my research career in the Arctic in 1981 so I am now in my fourth decade of doing research in the Arctic. I've seen a lot of changes over that time and I'd like to talk with you about some of those changes.
I get involved with a variety of research in the Arctic. All of it has to do with sea ice and how climate change is affecting sea ice in the Arctic. I've been very interested and engaged with various sovereignty-related issues in the north as well. I work with very large, integrated programs in the north. We work quite closely with circum-Arctic nations through the Arctic Council. We operate a lot of our research work from icebreakers. We also have field camps pretty much all over the Arctic as well.
Basically over the course of my career I've seen some very dramatic changes happen in the north. In the first decade of my research career there was really not much in the way of change going on in the Arctic. We had thought at the time we would see the first and strongest signs or evidence of a warming global climate system on the Arctic, but in those first 10 years of my career I was a skeptic about whether climate change was really happening in the north and what it was doing.
The next 10 years of my career we started to see some very distinct signals that were showing a change in the Arctic, so that next 10 years saw quite a lot of change. The next 10 years were very dramatic. That was through the period of the late nineties into the 2000s and there were very rapid changes in both extent of sea ice and thickness of sea ice. Then in this most recent decade that trend has been speeding up and it's been increasing quite dramatically and really causing a lot of changes both inside the Arctic and also outside the Arctic, through things that we refer to as teleconnections.
A lot of the changes that are going on today are not just staying in the Arctic, but rather they're spilling over, if you will, into more southern latitudes of the planet. A lot of them are very counterintuitive. We have had many experiences over the last couple of decades where we have been surprised as to what has been happening with Arctic sea ice and the accessibility of the Arctic Ocean to people who are interested in seeing development occur there, so I think there is lots to talk about in terms of sovereignty.
I have also been around the system long enough that I know it's very challenging, as a country, to manage something like the Arctic, with the longest coastline in the Arctic being under the proud ownership of Canada. It's very difficult to manage that kind of change not only in the Arctic but, as I said before, with teleconnections to lower latitudes of the planet.
I think there are a lot of both challenges and opportunities in the sense of climate change in the Arctic. The challenges come in the form of how we, as a nation, respond to what's actually going on in the north. We have a lot of problems with icebreakers. Our icebreaking fleet is aging. It spends a lot of its time being repaired nowadays. You can imagine if you were driving a car that was 40 years old, what that car would be like. We're driving icebreakers that are over 40 years old and they spend most of their time in the garage getting fixed. This is an ongoing problem.
There are also a lot of opportunities with changing climate in the north. Here in Manitoba we've just had the sale of the rail line and the port. This is the only rail-linked deepwater port we have in the Arctic, and not just us but also the Americans, so it's the only one in North America. Russia has eight rail-linked ports and they are using all of them to develop their economy with a northern focus.
When I'm talking to the public I quite often use the fact that Russia gets about 23% of its GDP from the Arctic and we get a fraction of 1% of our GDP from our Arctic. It's the same Arctic and it has the same minerals and resources and fisheries potential, but we are not organized around how to develop it. We don't have the infrastructure to support Arctic development the way Russia has been able to.
There are lots of concerns there, I think, about how we move forward, as a nation, with both these challenges and opportunities.
I am here mostly to answer questions as opposed to giving you more of a statement, so I think I'll just stop my brief introduction at this point. I look forward to getting into a dialogue with what some of your interests and concerns are regarding the Arctic and climate change.
I'm a marine person. My research is in the marine area, so I understand it a lot better than I do the terrestrial environment.
To me, the big areas on the marine side have to do with transportation and development of marine-based resources: fisheries resources, non-renewable resources such as mining, and then the big one, which is transportation. One of the key things we can do as a country is to build our marine transportation infrastructure better.
We've had many examples, when we're going through the Arctic in our research icebreaker, of finding a ship full of tourists that's grounded on an underwater atoll that hasn't been mapped properly, and they're stuck there. If we hadn't just happened to be there, it would have been a major disaster for the tourists on board the ship. But because we happened to be there, we could take them off and everything worked itself out. Quite often, we're doing these things by the seat of our pants rather than by good planning.
Our Arctic isn't even mapped properly. We don't even know what the bathymetries of our various waterways are. There's a move afoot right now to create transportation corridors so we can really understand the bathymetry in those areas and what those ecosystems look like. I think these are all valuable investments by the country.
I also think deepwater ports are important. What the feds are doing in terms of the Iqaluit port is very important. The investments that have been made in the Churchill port are very important. We need to build this infrastructure so that we can take advantage of this opening of a third ocean in our country.
Sure. They're on the front lines of things. The indigenous culture lives with the Arctic environment.
When I first started my career in the north 40 years ago, the traditional knowledge of the Inuit who we worked with was very precise and very usable, because it had come from generations of having a stable climate system, and things were predictable. The elders now have a really hard time trying to understand and predict how the climate interfaces with the other parts of their system, and as a consequence they're put at a lot of risk.
Just to give you an idea of this, this past summer we took our research icebreaker into Hudson Bay. For the first time ever, we conducted a study that looked at what happens when the fresh water is coming off the land into the basin in Hudson Bay when the ice cover is still there. Over the course of a six-week experiment, we had to go on five different search and rescue calls. Those search and rescue calls were all associated with indigenous hunters who were out on the land trying to harvest resources. They were caught off guard, because the conditions were different from anything that had happened before. The traditional knowledge that they used to help them adapt to the realities of working in these extreme environments just doesn't work the way it used to, because the climate is creating such unusual conditions for them. It's outside the realm of what would be considered normal.
The Inuit are having to adapt to these conditions. They also have the strength of being a highly adaptable people. To be able to settle in these areas initially, you had to be very resilient and adaptable. They are adapting to it, but not without significant struggle because it just creates such unusual conditions that—
We have an entire fleet of icebreakers. We have about 12 or 13 of them, which are all 1200-class icebreakers and they're very capable. We've overwintered on our icebreaker twice now in the High Arctic.
The problem is that the entire icebreaking fleet, which is run by the Coast Guard, is very old. These are all ships that were built in the seventies.
The Amundsen, which is the Canadian research icebreaker that we run, was built in 1979, and it's one of the newer icebreakers that we have. I think you're probably referring to the Diefenbaker, which is an icebreaker that has been funded to be developed, but the delays on it are significant. It's not going to be out in 2019. It will be maybe 2025 or 2030, if it ever gets built. There are some significant issues there.
There have been some stopgap measures by the federal government to try to get some additional icebreakers. They just purchased three used ones this year to take some of the pressure off the fleet. However, we're still sorely under.... We don't have enough icebreakers to manage our country. That's the problem. You need these icebreakers to do it.
With regard to having frigates that are being built for the military, these frigates are not ice capable like an icebreaker is. They can't even go right into the sea ice. They have to be around the periphery.
I think there are two parts to that question. First, I think it's really important that the government develop an Arctic strategy and that we have some harmonization across the different federal departments and link organizations like mine that are university-based to that kind of structure. Right now things are done in an ad-hoc fashion across the different players in the Arctic.
As far as the way Manitoba fits into this, it will come as a surprise to some of you in the room that Manitoba has the only deepwater Arctic port in North America, and we're a marine-based province. You don't normally think of Manitoba that way, but we are. My group at the University of Manitoba is the largest sea ice research group in the world, 150 people who all work on sea ice.
We're here because Churchill is such an ideal location for that kind of research. It gives you access to the entire Arctic. It's relatively inexpensive to get to because we have a rail line and we have aircraft to get us there, and we put the CHARS base in Cambridge Bay, as an example. We're just building a major research facility in Churchill called the Churchill marine observatory, or CMO as it's called.
It was delayed when the rail line was delayed, but we looked to move it to Cambridge Bay when all of this was happening and looked at the feasibility of having a major marine research base in Cambridge Bay instead of in Churchill. The cost became exorbitant because you have to fly all the time to get all the research staff and students and everybody else into CHARS.
The other really nice thing about Churchill is that it gives you inexpensive access to the Arctic in terms of transportation to get you in and out.
The Arctic marine system is just like the rest of the Arctic. You're above the treeline and all the processes that go on are truly Arctic in nature. It also has this interesting additional parallel in that you receive a lot of fresh water into Hudson Bay, which is analogous to what's going on in the High Arctic. If you look down at the North Pole and you see that big Arctic Ocean, it's also receiving a lot of fresh water from the continents, both on the North American side and the Russian side.
We use Hudson Bay almost like a model system of what the High Arctic is doing. It's giving us advance notice because it's at a little lower latitude so climate change is affecting it a little more slowly and it allows us to understand how things work there. From my perspective, Manitoba and Hudson Bay and Churchill are critical to our understanding of what's going on in the High Arctic and in the Arctic in a circumpolar sense. To me, it should play a very central role in any future strategy for the Arctic that we do as a country.
The other benefit is that the central and Arctic region of Fisheries and Oceans is now separating into two departments. One will be the Arctic and the other will be the central. The Arctic region of DFO will be situated in Winnipeg, so it's another good reason for Manitoba to play a central role in what's going on federally with the Arctic.
I think that I'd like to talk about this as two different scales.
Churchill is fine. It's kind of a local connection with both you and I, both being Manitobans, and it's an important part of the Arctic puzzle, but I think investments in that area are very important. I think that one of the key things is getting that rail line and port fully functional.
The next natural step for this is the marine transportation in that corridor, which comes into and out of the port of Churchill. We expect to be able to ship year-round through that mechanism within the next 20 to 30 years. There will be a period of time there where you'll need icebreaker support. Right now we use icebreaker support down the St. Lawrence Seaway. That's what our research icebreaker does in the winter time. It provides support for commercial traffic along the shipping route through the St. Lawrence.
We should develop a similar situation in the Arctic, in Hudson Bay in particular. We should have icebreaker support for ships to extend the shipping season into and out of the port. That is an important sovereignty issue because then we have a Canadian ship and we extend the Canadian shipping seasons in the Arctic.
It would also have a direct component that would address search and rescue requirements in the north. Right now, we suffer from a lot of involvement in the north, both a lot more Inuit activity and a lot of search and rescue that's associated with the indigenous people who live there. Also, the tourist trade is just exploding in the north. We're getting a lot of tour ships coming in, everything from small schooners to people doing crazy things like trying to go to the North Pole on a dirt bike—all kinds of weird things that people do. Search and rescue becomes a very important thing.
We always struggle with search and rescue because we don't have enough capacity built into the north. The Coast Guard, for the last year and a half or so, has been developing local bases around the north to support and stimulate search and rescue capacity, but of course, we also need more ships to be able to do this. So that we can properly manage the Arctic, we need more icebreakers that are under the purview of the Canadian Coast Guard so that it can properly service search and rescue with regard to big ships that get stuck in ice, for instance, or that have oil spills or those kinds of things.
From a marine perspective, I think we need resources that are invested in new icebreakers that will do a stopgap against some of this increasing pressure and increasing availability. We need some short-term solutions and some long-term solutions. They have to do with improving search and rescue capacity, improving baselines of scientific knowledge about what is where, what the bathymetry looks like and how we can have safe shipping lanes, and then investing in some plans to get some new icebreaker support into the country to take the pressure off of this aging fleet that we have.
Yes. That's very true. That's fair to say.
During my first 10 years, the models that we were using at the time suggested that we should see the first and strongest signs of climate change in the Arctic. However, in the first 10 years that we were there, we didn't see it, so as any good scientist would do, I became skeptical. I thought, “No, this is not happening. We're not seeing these kinds of relationships.”
Then, as I went forward in my career, I started to see these things speeding up to a point where it's very dramatic. We overwintered our research icebreaker in the southern Beaufort Sea, north of Tuktoyaktuk, during the International Polar Year in 2007, and we kept the ship mobile all winter.
I went to the Coast Guard and said that we would be able to do this because of the change in climate, and they thought I was crazy. They said, “There's no way. We're going to be stuck in that ice, and we're going to circulate around, and the Russians are going to have to come and take us off of their side of the Beaufort Sea.”
I said that, no, we were going to be able to stay mobile throughout that year, and we did. We kept the ship mobile all the way through. That should not have been possible. Historically, that ice should have been much more consolidated than it was, and it's because there just isn't as much ice, even in the wintertime.
It's a really good question.
This is something I get quite a lot, in that the thought on such a thing is that the ice is disappearing and we're not going to have that thick ice and it's not going to be really hard and difficult to navigate through, so why are we going to need icebreakers? In fact, in the short term over the next 10 to 20 years we will still have a lot of ice hazards, and even beyond that, as we start to form new ice.
Let's say we get rid of the multi-year sea ice. Here's a little background. When the sea ice survives a summer and starts to regrow the next year, we call that multi-year sea ice. This stuff has an average thickness of six metres or so. It's very hard and very difficult to navigate through with a ship. When you get annual ice—when you remove that multi-year sea ice and you just have annual ice that year—it only grows to a maximum of two metres thick. In the wintertime, we will form that kind of ice well into the future. The next 100 years or so will form this kind of ice.
What happens, and what is really critical to understand, is that the ice becomes more mobile. Because it's more mobile and moves around a lot, it bumps into other ice, and it will form ridges and rubble areas that can still be quite thick. We've seen this starting to happen in different parts of the Arctic, and there are periods of time when you would need an icebreaker to be able to manage that kind of ice. There will be other times when you won't need that kind of icebreaker.
Over the next 30 to 40 years you will still require icebreakers at certain times of year in certain locations if you want to be able to navigate in an unimpinged fashion. Right now, the only group on the planet that can do this are the Russians. They're the only ones who can go wherever they want in the Arctic, whenever they want. We can't, the Europeans can't and the Americans can't.
Thank you very much, Mr. Barber. I appreciate the opportunity of having you speak.
I'm going to toss out three questions that I'd like to have answered.
First, you've talked about sovereignty and you've talked about Churchill. I was wondering if you could discuss the idea of having a full-time military base in the Arctic, which I think would be quite important.
Also, you mentioned the idea of the lack of information in the mapping of the islands and how deep some of the waters are around there. Who should be tasked with doing the mapping? Should it be the Canadian military or should it be researchers? The old British Navy used to do this in Canadian waters. In the St. Lawrence, they used to drop the little rope and measure to see how deep it was in certain spots.
Finally, you mentioned tourism. What types of permits should we require from people who are going into the Arctic in order to control their movement? Should we be providing permits to ensure that people go up there safely and in such a way that if they do have a spill, for instance, or some disaster, we are able to monitor it? Obviously that's part of your research as well.
That's on base mapping of the Arctic Ocean sea and the permitting or monitoring of people who are going in and out of the Arctic, please.
Chairman Levitt, other distinguished members of the committee, thank you very much for the opportunity to appear before you today. Our sincere apologies for the misunderstanding on the timing. We are sorry this has to be rushed.
My presentation will focus on two changes that have modified the geopolitics of the Arctic over the past five to 10 years. One is the increased assertiveness of Russia in the region, and the other is the rising presence of non-Arctic states, particularly China, in a part of the world that used to be almost exclusively of interest to Arctic states.
First, I will focus on Russia. Russia's military capabilities in the Arctic have steadily increased over the past 10 years, raising various concerns, including Russia's denying access to an area that might cover part of Norway, or disrupting sea lanes or undersea communications in the North Atlantic. In this context, I would like to raise three points.
First, tensions with Russia tend to focus on the European Arctic more than the North American Arctic. For Canada, then, the main sources of tension with Russia will be either a potential confrontation with NATO, or emerging issues pertaining to the extended continental shelf, as Russia's claim is likely to overlap with the claim that Canada is expected to submit.
Second, Russia is rebuilding its military capabilities on all of its territory, not just the Arctic, and these capabilities are still at a level below what used to exist during the Cold War.
Third, co-operation at the working level remains high. Most recently, we saw the U.S. and Russia submitting a proposal to the IMO to establish new shipping routes for safer shipping in the Bering Strait. Russia still has strong incentives to co-operate in the Arctic.
That being said, Russia's increasing assertiveness has already had some consequences in the region. One is that Arctic states are coming closer together. For instance, we see U.S. Marines deployed on a rotational basis in Norway, while Sweden and Finland are coming closer to NATO. We also see NATO's cautious move closer to the Arctic through its new strategic concept and through exercises.
I will now turn to China, which is also, like NATO, increasingly present in the Arctic. As an example, last year, 11 of the 27 vessels that transited through the northern sea route were either going to or coming from a Chinese port.
China issued its first Arctic policy in January, which made it clear that they think the Arctic is a global issue that cannot be left to Arctic states alone. China describes itself as a “near-Arctic state” and sees economic and investment potential in the region, with a polar silk road that would eventually be integrated with its larger belt and road initiative.
So far, China has remained within the boundaries of existing treaties governing the Arctic.
Chinese interests do present some opportunities for Arctic communities, but they also raise concerns about whether China would eventually try to impose its interpretation of maritime international law, or whether China's economic presence might lead to more political influence or even a military presence.
Like other Arctic nations, Russia has been showing a mix of interest and caution towards China. China is a key investor in the Yamal LNG project, and Russia is hoping that China will participate in developing infrastructure along the northern sea route. At the same time, Russia is intent on keeping control over that route and is wary of China's military power on its southern border.
To conclude, I would highlight what I see as perhaps the most significant change for Canada and other Arctic states, which is that the Arctic is turning from a periphery to a centre, an economic centre and a military choke point, and Canada and other Arctic states face the challenge of balancing their sovereign interests against the ever-growing presence of non-Arctic states in the region.
Thank you very much, Chairman Levitt and distinguished members of the committee. Please accept my apologies, also, for the misunderstanding on the timing of this.
I'll add some insights on thinking about climate's impact on the future of geopolitics in the Arctic. In our research we have found it useful to consider the potential effects of climate change on Arctic geopolitics in the context of other factors that influence activity in the region in two ways.
First, forces other than climate can also play a fundamental role in promoting, restricting or otherwise spatially influencing access to the Arctic. These forces include technological advancements such as the ability to operate in icy waters, automate processes and connect to different networks; legal conventions and regulations; military postures and operations; and widely observed operational and cultural norms, including those related to risk-taking. Other forces shape activity in the Arctic by either motivating or discouraging it. Examples of these include economic opportunities as well as socio-cultural priorities such as support to indigenous communities and the symbolic importance of the North Pole.
Though scenarios may often prove to be wrong, we have found them useful in our exploration of focal issues that might challenge, or not, co-operation and security in the Arctic. My written testimony includes some of the topics we've explored.
Overall our research has found relatively few flashpoints that would plausibly undermine international co-operation in the Arctic in the 2020s and 2030s under the growing changes influenced by climate. However, there are a few wild cards that could, under rare circumstances, lead to increasing tensions and result in some form of breakdown in vision and communication between Arctic nations and stakeholders.
These include three wild cards: first, should maritime access and activity increase faster than countries anticipate and can manage with existing physical infrastructure, regulations and other supporting functions; second, if untapped Arctic offshore oil and gas suddenly become much more economically viable and countries perceive their seabed claims as contested; and the third and final one I'll mention, should nations perceive a security void in the region brought on by a series of maritime safety and security incidents that reflect negatively on co-operation, and in this context, if nations decide to take stances on longer-term security issues.
In conclusion, Arctic nations may increasingly contend with the need to find a forum or forums in which to appropriately discuss security-related matters. With barriers to physical access changing because of climate, it may be necessary to consider whether it's possible to open new dialogues to the mutual benefit of all stakeholders.
To some extent, this is not just China, which is why my presentation emphasized non-Arctic states. Pretty much all observers to the Arctic Council that are not Arctic states have developed an Arctic policy or Arctic strategy.
China, of course, is particularly prominent simply because of its military power and economic power. China has a number of objectives in the Arctic, mostly economically based. We have seen them being more involved with Russia simply because Russia has turned to them because of the sanctions. They have been looking for a different source of investment and funding, so that has opened some doors to China.
China is also investing in other Arctic states, but it's still at a low level. For instance, for mining, there are a few projects, but there's a lot of exploration.
It's still tentative, but this vision of the Arctic as a common for China is important because they see climate change happening in the Arctic as having huge implications for their country. At the same time, while they mention the Arctic as a common, they do not contest the general rules under which the Arctic is being governed right now, which is UNCLOS, which is the Ilulissat Declaration and the general perception that, so far, Arctic nations still have the lead in determining this governance.
Perhaps I can start on that answer.
In our explorations of some scenarios for the future, one very important factor that came up, which I briefly mentioned, was this perception of a security void. If there were to be a number of maritime safety and security incidents happening over and over without an adequate response, it could create the perception of a security void. I say maritime just because that's the domain that allows the international community and stakeholders to most physically come together. If we think about China and other nations wanting to perhaps operate in the region, they might take that as an invitation to provide some of their own security. Depending on how you look at it, that could be for very good reason.
Anything that has to do with domain awareness is also very important. I can't speak about Canada specifically, but I do know that in our interactions with local communities in the United States—Alaskan communities, as well as in the Eurasian Arctic —there are incidents occurring where people who they don't know show up. They can see some of the changes happening, for example. Having a good awareness of what's going on and keeping track of not just what the local communities are seeing but also understanding some of the different activities that other stakeholders are doing in the Arctic, will be important.
To me, this is one reason why a security forum or dialogue is so important to have, so that there aren't misperceptions that could lead to conflicts or rising tensions.
Good afternoon, everybody. We're going to reconvene.
We are very honoured to have with us this afternoon members from the Finnish foreign affairs committee and members from the Parliament of the Republic of Finland, as well as Finland's ambassador to Canada, Vesa Lehtonen. I've had the opportunity of meeting these ladies and gentlemen earlier today.
It really is our pleasure to welcome you before the foreign affairs committee.
The context of our study is arctic sovereignty. I know there's going to be lots of discussion on that, but I also know there are so many areas of collaboration and co-operation between our two countries, dating back 70 years now. I'm sure some of my colleagues are going to want to reflect on that.
I'm aware that MP Vanhanen, the chair of your foreign affairs committee, is unwell today. We wish him a return to good health. In his absence, it's my pleasure to recognize MP Salolainen, whom I will ask to deliver some remarks before our committee, after which we will open it up to members—all the colleagues—to ask questions.
Again, formally, welcome to Canada and to our Parliament.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Dear fellow parliamentarians, ladies and gentlemen, we are very happy to be here. Canada is becoming a much more important country to us than before because of certain developments that have taken place in America in recent years.
I have a strange feeling, because this speech was originally prepared for Mr. Vanhanen. I have the same feeling that a British parliamentarian had in London, when he was making a speech to Parliament. He had short, written notes, and looking at the notes he said, “Well, there are many important issues, and I am going to solve them all now in my speech.” Then there was another note that somebody else, of course, had written, and he looked at it very carefully and said, “This is a rather weak argument but good enough for Parliament.”
I have more or less the same feeling, because these notes were originally prepared for Mr. Vanhanen, our chair, who unfortunately could not travel due to illness.
Finland and Canada had a pivotal role in the early stages of Arctic co-operation. At Finland's initiative, the Arctic environmental protection strategy was launched in 1991 in Rovaniemi, Finland, and under Canadian leadership, the Arctic Council was founded five years later in Ottawa. Both our countries were very much present at its creation.
Now it is Finland's turn to chair the Arctic Council, until next spring, and I will briefly assess some of the developments in Arctic circumpolar co-operation from our point of view.
The most important thing is that the Arctic remains peaceful. That is, of course, fundamental. In spite of the generally negative trend in interstate relations, the Arctic Council has managed to strengthen regional stability and even expand the area of constructive co-operation. It is remarkable that the Arctic Council has secured a strong position in producing scientific reports and assessments, and making recommendations to decision-makers. It has negotiated three international agreements: on search and rescue, on marine oil spills preparedness and response, and most recently, on scientific co-operation.
Now there are organizations specialized in certain areas, such as the Arctic Economic Council, the Arctic Coast Guard Forum, and the University of the Arctic. Co-operating closely with them allows the Arctic Council to engage in economic, soft security and educational activities.
It is in Finland's interests to help the Arctic Council assume an even stronger role in regional co-operation. The rationale is clear: Common concerns require common efforts to address them. That's why we chose our chairmanship slogan, “Exploring common solutions”.
Environmental concerns were the most compelling reason to start Arctic co-operation, and it is obvious that environmental and climate issues must remain the main focus of the Arctic Council. It is obvious that all Arctic states continue to have important common concerns to address in the region. The assessments and recommendations of the Arctic Council have spoken clear language about the need to co-operate in order to mitigate climate change, to adapt to emerging situations and to build resilience. Nowhere else than in the Arctic is climate change more evident, as the area is warming at twice the speed of all others. Think about it: twice the speed. The 1% goal has been stated. In the Arctic, that means 3%. It's dangerous.
The recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is perhaps the starkest reminder of the need to drastically reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and start building a carbon-neutral future to save our planet. At the parliamentary level, Arctic co-operation is also gaining momentum. When we celebrated the Arctic parliamentary co-operation's 25th anniversary this September in Inari, Finland, we noticed this. We are glad our Canadian friends from both houses attended that occasion.
As a result of the 13th Arctic Parliamentary Conference, MPs of the region outlined their common goals on preventing climate change, the need to improve digital connections in the Arctic, social well-being and corporate social responsibility. Together, the parliamentarians of this region requested investments in digital connections so that our Arctic regions would not be left outside of the progress we can witness in our southern areas. MPs of the Arctic also called for the companies of this region to carry out their social responsibility and to take into account the vulnerable Arctic nature.
Ladies and gentlemen, Arctic co-operation attracts worldwide attention, and this development should be welcome. The Arctic Council has invited a large number of observers—both states and organizations. Taking into consideration the growing interdependence of the Arctic and other regions, such a broadening of horizons is now necessary.
One of the fundamental questions for the Arctic Council is the involvement of non-Arctic states with interest in the region. The recent Arctic policy document of the Republic of China points to the kinds of questions that need to be addressed when the Arctic becomes more accessible. It is the Arctic states that should demonstrate leadership in guiding developments in the Arctic. It is time to involve the highest level of decision-makers. Finland is making preparations for a summit meeting of the eight Arctic states to be held next spring. Also, the Arctic MPs supported the idea of the summit in the meeting in Inari.
Such a summit would speak clearly about the efforts to maintain peace, stability and constructive cooperation in the region. It could also tackle some of the most acute issues that our countries are facing. Finland proposes that our countries seek to make further efforts to curb emissions of black carbon and to increase maritime safety and security in the Arctic. I note with pleasure that Canada shares our sense of urgency to reduce black carbon emissions.
Ladies and gentlemen, Finland warmly welcomes the important role that indigenous peoples have in Arctic co-operation. The Sámi, the Inuit and other nations should continue to fully participate in the development of the Arctic countries. Their contributions and cultural integrity should be taken into account in planning for that future.
In the Arctic Council, as well as among Arctic MPs, Canada is emphasizing the need to improve social well-being as well as the living conditions of Arctic inhabitants. Finland is pleased to co-operate with Canada and indigenous organizations in this very important work. Likewise, Finland has greatly benefited from co-operation with Canada in improving educational opportunities for all Arctic inhabitants.
We should be ready to tackle issues that are not yet on the agenda of the Arctic co-operation. Finland would like the Arctic Council to see how wildfires, which are becoming more and more commonplace in the northern areas, could be better prevented from destroying Arctic communities and threatening their inhabitants.
Finally, ladies and gentlemen, I very much appreciate Canada's vibrant discussion of Arctic issues nationally and internationally. You engage all the stakeholders in the process, of course, starting from the indigenous people and covering all aspects of the topics. I look forward to the discussion on Canada's sovereignty in the Arctic.
I would like to warmly thank Canada for your support of the Finnish Arctic Council chairmanship, and for your valuable contributions in all priority areas of protecting the environment, improving connectivity, engaging in meteorological expertise and enhancing opportunities for good-quality education.
After our discussions today, I would add how important we think it is that we could create bilateral consultations and discussions. In that way, we can complement all the developments we can do together in the Arctic Council.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Maybe I can just add one thing.
A voice: As a defence minister....
Mr. Stefan Wallin: Yes...well, maybe as an MP nowadays.
Because we have a good relationship with Russia, because we are good neighbours, we can have a frank discussion, a frank dialogue with each other. When Finnish airspace is violated—that's happened on several occasions—and we had this GPS disturbance a couple of weeks ago, we're able to publish what's happened and also to tell the Russians exactly what we think about it, because we are good friends. It would be a bigger problem if we could not have this kind of dialogue. That would be a problem.
When it comes to the Finnish relationship with NATO, of course we have the partnership agreement. Since 1994 we have had a partnership, with enhanced opportunity nowadays. We also, in our national strategies for foreign security policies, say clearly that we're not a member country, of course, but the possibility to apply for full membership remains in the Finnish tool box—as an option, so to speak.
Just to add a few words to my what my colleagues have said, it's good to remember that we have three fundamental elements in our politics today that concern our military capabilities.
The first is absolutely huge investments. We are just now going through this period. Throughout our history, Finland has never made these kinds of huge investments, especially for the navy, and for fighters as well. It's around 10 billion euros. At the same time, we are making remarkable investments in our ground troops. It means that Finland will reach the level of 2% of GDP. You know what that means for us. These are huge investments.
Second, Finland is increasing very rapidly our international military networks, mainly with Sweden and Norway, as well as under NORDEFCO. The second element in this sector is that Finland's bilateral relations with the U.S. have been increasing also very rapidly, and on a tripartite level, there's co-operation with Finland, Sweden and the U.S. at the same time.
We are also co-operating with the U.K., within the framework of JEF activities, especially given the Brexit situation. Then there's Germany, as well, and also France, with the idea of intervention troops being suggested by President Macron. We also have a lot of bilateral relationships with different European countries, especially around the Baltic Sea area.
The third basic element of the investments and international co-operation is, of course, our legislation reforms. We realized after 2014 that it is necessary to do these kinds of reforms, and it has made a huge difference in our military capacity in terms of our readiness to react to threats to Finland in various ways.
These three elements mean that we are also paying a lot of attention to these activities, and what is interesting is that in our case, almost all the political parties are on board, so our national consensus is very strong concerning our foreign security and military defence activities.