Annual Oslo SDG Initiative conference
Good morning, everyone!
I want to come back to Greenland because I did an expedition in May. I go back in my mind every now and then. I want to take you to this morning when we were inside our tents in the middle of the ice cap.
When you are inside the tents, it is really small. It is just a few square meters inside there, and you wake up a little bit sore from sleeping on the mats we brought along. You’re inside this confined little space.
When you open up the zipper, it opens up this vast area. It cannot get any bigger. The only other place I’ve had this sort of vastness, is at the middle of the sea. Ice and snow 360 degrees around and the sun is shining, but it is cold – it is minus 20 and it is wind.
I am standing there and seeing all this ice and knowing that under my skis there are 3000 meters – three kilometers - of ice.
It becomes very clear that we need science. Because we know that people, persons, the way we live – are influencing the ice. We are living in such a way that it is actually melting. But for us to understand that, standing there on the middle of the ice cap, we need science to show us and to connect the dots.
And it also becomes quite clear how the world is interconnected. Because when ice melts where we are standing, the ocean rises in Fiji, on the other side of the planet. We are all very interconnected that way. And even if you are interested in development, it makes sense to go to the Artic. What’s happening there is some of that interconnectedness.
As we have mentioned already: war, hunger and climate change fill the news these days. The latest SDG Report, together with the recent report from UN Climate Change shows us that not everything is going as well as we had hoped. As the UN tells us, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is in grave jeopardy due to multiple, cascading, and intersecting crises.
COVID-19, climate change and conflict are the main reasons. Each of them, and their complex interactions, impact all the SDGs, creating spin-off crises in food and nutrition, health, education, the environment, and peace and security.
To put the world back on track to reach the SDGs will require intensive action on a global scale.
The 2030 Agenda has demonstrated positive impact in many parts of the world and created awareness of the need for rapid change. Despite this, many countries have not delivered on what has been promised. There is a mismatch between rhetoric and action.
And how do we solve this? How do we get the SDGs back on track?
I believe in including both local and global perspectives. And I believe in emphasising the importance of diverse and inclusive forms of knowledge. The perspectives from the Global South and young people, marginalized groups and indigenous peoples are crucial when we look towards 2030 and beyond.
Democracy is not perfect, but it is our best means to achieve our common goals. Because we need to work together, leaving no one behind.
Knowledge can be both a weapon and a tool. We need – over and over – to highlight the role of critical thinking and interdisciplinary research in working with our common challenges on different scales.
What you do here at the Oslo SDG Initiative is exactly what we need. More than ever, we need meeting places like this, where scientists, civil society and policy makers can meet.
I choose to be a realistic optimist. Throughout history, we have seen many examples where we human beings have had the capacity to turn negative trends around.
There is no good reason why people should die from hunger.
There is no good reason why children should not go to school.
There is no good reason why our largest ecosystem – the ocean – should not be healthy.
Together, we can bring the world back into balance.
Part of that work is being done here today. I wish you a fruitful conference.