Mitigating and adapting to climate change is one of the key development challenges of the 21st century, cutting across the economy, food production and the sustainability, use and management of natural resources. The Arctic region in particular is vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, which has increased the urgency for climate action, building on existing climate-resilient solutions and developing new tools and instruments to manage weather and climate risks. The challenges facing the Arctic are always global and addressing them will require broader and cross-sectoral cooperation.
Indigenous peoples in the Arctic and Barents region are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Climate change will affect indigenous peoples’ livelihoods, lifestyles, cultural identity, self-reliance, indigenous knowledge, health and well-being (Näkkäläjärvi et al. 2020). The Saami Parliamentary Council’s (SPN) Climate Policy Strategy (2011) emphasizes Sámi participation at national and international level in climate change decision-making. Climate change and adaptation are seen as a human rights issue that requires greater control by Saami people over the management and governance of their territory. Finland’s new Climate Act (423/2022) entered into force in summer 2022 and a decree on the establishment of a Saami Climate Council is currently being prepared under the Act. Now that indigenous peoples’ participation in climate change work is becoming more concrete at the national level in Finland, it is important to gather the views of indigenous peoples in the Arctic and Barents region on adaptation and to bring this message into the climate change debate on a broad scale.
Young people living in the Arctic and Barents region and their children will live in a world shaped by the decisions that are being taken now. Young people are active influencers, motivated to think about the future of the places where they live. However, participation is often hindered by decision-making structures that do not support young people’s active participation, learning and empowerment (BRYC 2022). Involving young people as representatives of future generations in the climate work and debate is critical for the long-term prosperity and resilience of the Arctic regions. When decision-makers engaged in Barents policy and development authentically engage with young people of the Arctic in support of their leadership, learning, and professional development skills, it will also increase youth influence and personal stake in the Barents community. When youth are given access to diverse learning opportunities in which they feel that their perspectives and expertise are valued and respected, they can use their individual and collective power to help shape a better future for the Barents and the Arctic. Thus, engaging youth effectively can help to ensure greater long-term success for Barents Cooperation and the bigger Arctic initiatives and partnerships, and priorities raised by dialogue with youth, by raising public awareness about the Barents and the Arctic, increasing understanding about unique conditions in their environment, communities, and regions, and contributing innovative ideas for how can the forces be joined for a successful work on the very significant issue, such as environmental policy and climate adaptation strategy.
Sustainable Development Goals
The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) emphasize the ACAF project’s focus on indigenous peoples’ and youth equality, empowerment, and climate change risk preparedness and adaptation. People should be able to participate in decisions that affect them and shape their own future, regardless of age, gender, disability, race, ethnicity, descent, religion, economic or other status (SDG 10.2) and at all levels of decision-making (SDG 16. 7) Climate change mitigation and adaptation (SDG 13.1), climate policy (SDG 13.2) and education, awareness and empowerment (SDG 13.3) must be done in consultation with local communities and with respect for cultural and natural heritage (SDG 11.4). International cooperation (SDG 17.16) and cooperation between public and civil society (SDG 17.17) are key to this work.
Food, forestry and tourism
The ARKISOPU project, which preceded ACAF, identified the food, forestry and tourism sectors as internationally shared and interesting priorities. The role of Arctic food production will become more important in the face of climate change, as the purity and abundant water resources of the Arctic allow for the production of high quality and clean food. On the other hand, the Arctic’s primary production, agriculture and related industries must be able to prepare for future challenges posed by climate change. The issue of managing overall resilience is therefore common to all Arctic stakeholders, as interest in the Arctic is growing and, at the same time, the changing climate poses challenges for weather and climate risk management. Forestry and other forest use and tourism also play a key role in the Barents region.
Reindeer husbandry is an important primary producer in the Arctic, providing food security and a wide range of tourism services. Reindeer husbandry is an important livelihood for indigenous peoples and a central part of their culture and identity. Reindeer husbandry is facing significant challenges due to climate change (Näkkäläjärvi et al., 2020), competing land uses, out-migration of young people and changes in livelihood structure. The future challenge for reindeer husbandry is to adapt to climate change and create the conditions for children and young people to learn and make a living from reindeer husbandry.
Since 2011, the water-energy-food (WEF) nexus has been used as a conceptual framework for assessing climate change impacts on WEF resource security and guiding climate change adaptation strategies. The WEF nexus has risen in prominence with WEF nexus research being conducted worldwide to guide integrated resource management policies, develop modeling tools, assess trade-offs and synergies between WEF sectors, and track progress towards the WEF-related Sustainable Development Goals. Although WEF nexus research has often accounted for Indigenous livelihoods, the role of youth has been overlooked. This is particularly concerning given Arctic demographics, and the critical nexus between climate, environment, and the resiliency of Arctic societies in the future. The WEF nexus framework will function as a theoretical background for the project.