Sturgeon lands in Iceland to speak with Arctic Circle Assembly

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The First Minister travelled to Iceland on Thursday where she gave a speech to a packed audience at a gathering of the Arctic Circle Assembly. The annual event brings together world leaders from within the polar circle to address burning questions concerning the state of the climate and global warming. Ahead of her arrival in Reykjavik, Nicola Sturgeon said the Arctic nations can provide a “major contribution” to the fight against climate change.

Scotland will host the United Nation’s 26th Climate Change Conference (COP26) and Ms Sturgeon has been desperate to promote Scotland’s green credentials in the international arena.

She said at the assembly: “We are much more prepared than we were five years ago.

“We see the mutual benefits that come from this.”

Ms Sturgeon also used the opportunity to call for more cooperation between Scotland and the Arctic nations.

She spoke of a “practical necessity” to strengthen these ties in a bid to reach net-zero targets for greenhouse emissions.

She said: “The most northerly part of Scotland is closer to the Arctic Circle than to London.”

Denmark, Sweden and Finland are all members of the European Union and the economic bloc maintains strong relations with Iceland and Norway through the European Economic Area.

Ms Sturgeon has ruled out post-independence referendum to rejoin the EU earlier this year when she told reporters: “That’s not my policy.”

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However, members of the SNP have disputed the claims, arguing instead the question of Scotland rejoining the EU would depend on future circumstances.

Speaking before her speech in Iceland, Ms Sturgeon said: “Scotland’s partnership with the Arctic has social, cultural and economic benefits and is based not just on common interests but in the practical realities of the shared challenges our nations face.

“Tackling the climate emergency remains our most vital shared priority and I look forward to attending the Arctic Circle Assembly which will feature a range of discussions on this key issue.

“In less than three weeks Scotland will welcome the world to Glasgow for COP26, possibly our last chance to safeguard our planet by delivering on the goals of the Paris agreement.”

She added the nations of the Arctic are “ground zero” for climate change, and Scotland will work with them “whenever we can to deliver real and lasting change”.

Ms Sturgeon’s appearance in Iceland came after the EU made its own appeal to the Arctic nations.

The European Commission’s Arctic policy aims to end the exploitation of gas and oil in the region while securing access to rare minerals lurking beneath the frost.

Virginijus Sinkevicius, Commissioner for the Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs said: “The Arctic region is warming three times faster than the rest of the planet.

“The melting of ice and thawing of permafrost in the Arctic further accelerate climate change and have huge knock-on effects.

“The EU is committed to make the Arctic safe, stable, sustainable and prosperous.

“Safe and stable, through enhanced international cooperation; sustainable and prosperous, by ensuring a strong link between the EU’s Arctic engagement and our climate policy, the European Green Deal and its blue economy dimension.”

Through its updated policy, the EU has called for a “safe, stable, sustainable, peaceful and prosperous Arctic” region.

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