More and more of our members are stepping up on climate adaptation activities. Energikontor Norr (North Sweden Energy Agency) based in Lulea, the capital of Norrbotten County is very much in line with this tendency. In the scope of the Horizon2020 project NEVERMORE and thanks to its large network, the agency set up a local stakeholder council to ensure the active involvement of many different actors in developing climate adaptation actions. In this article, you will be inspired by their experience. The first paragraph sets the scene by describing the context and specificities of Norrbotten County. The second part gives more details about the NEVERMORE project.
Norrbotten County is Sweden’s northernmost county and represents almost a quarter of the country’s land area. The region has two faces, one depicted by the Sami people and their culture in a territory consisting of mountain areas and forests highly depending on reindeer husbandry. These areas are also important for the tourist industry. Another face is the economic and industrial one, with iron ore mining and steel production among other industries attracting workers and foreign investments. This duality makes it a very special and complex territory but one that is also crucial for Sweden.
Close to the Arctic Circle, the region is composed mainly of wild lands with unique and fragile ecosystems highly vulnerable to climate change. In the absence of fallback zones, boreal species risk disappearing. The main excepted climatic changes are much milder and shorter winters with an increase in precipitation and temperatures. These consequences could have huge impacts on human activities as the region relies on land-based industries and tourism. More particularly, changes in the length and start of the growing season could affect the type and survivance of crops and tree species in the forestry and farming sectors. Changes in water inflow of watercourses will increase flooding risks, affect fish populations and fisheries, and impact water supply. Moreover, reindeer herding will have to adapt to less food availability and new migratory routes. Finally, disturbances in tourism and outdoor activities are also expected with increased pressure from visitors.
Another main activity in the region is the mining and steel industry. In the EU, 80% of iron ore is mined in Norrbotten County but steel production also represents 10% of Sweden’s GHG emissions. This is why the region is also an innovation hub to enable the production of green steel thanks to new hydrogen systems. New projects are very ambitious and will have huge consequences for the region in terms of electricity needs for hydrogen production but also in terms of facilities and infrastructures to receive all the workers and their families. To give an idea, forecasts mention a need for 100TWh (today production is of 30TWh) and 100,000 inhabitants in the region.
These foreseen developments will further intensify Norrbotten County vulnerability to climate change and land use conflicts between new opportunities and nature conservation needs, as well as between different industries.
There are many different ways of dealing with this cohabitation of nature, tradition, economy, and innovation. Energikontor Norr, North Sweden Energy Agency chose to put forward collaboration, dialogue, and civil society involvement through the creation of a local stakeholder council in the scope of the NEVERMORE project and in collaboration with the Swedish Environmental Research Institute (IVL). Actors invited to participate were stakeholders from a variety of organisations and sectors such as NGOs, biodiversity conservation, academia, the mining industry, Sami representatives, but also from the real estate, forestry, fishing, insurance, energy, and, finance sectors, and some municipalities.
The group first met in February 2022, the first discussions were focused on identifying the challenges for the County and the conflicts of interest present in the region. The main outcome is a general agreement that collaboration is crucial to implement measures in climate adaptation and mitigation. Interestingly, the presence of biodiversity conservation organisations introduced the concept of the Rights of Nature into the discussion. The newly created council agreed to have regular online and in-person meetings up to 4 times each year. The objective of these meetings is to contribute to risk assessments, identify policy gaps, and suggest new policy recommendations as well as provide input in the creation of ICT tools. To reach this objective, all viewpoints are welcome, everyone is invited to participate in the development of solutions and measures to make Norrbotten County more resilient to climate change.
This kind of structure is a very innovative way to get started on a new topic that is not yet prioritised and to overcome a potential lack or dispersal of knowledge and experience. It strengthens democracy through greater public ownership and involvement. This also allows for more inclusivity, which is key to ensuring more ambitious commitments and the success of their implementation. Finally, the stakeholders will remain motivated and committed only when they really feel recognised, considered, and listened to, they have to see a benefit in their participation.
|If you want to implement the same kind of council, Energikontor Norr, North Sweden Energy Agency recommends being flexible and allowing enough time. “Remember to not rush and let it take time”. In the Nevermore project, the participation is voluntary which creates great flexibility in forming the group. For example, this allows members from NGOs to participate. They sometimes cannot contribute financially to a project but make very valuable contributions to the council with their time and experience.|
Also part of the NEVERMORE project is the creation of a Transnational Council (TC) gathering representatives from the 5 regions involved in the project: in addition to the boreal region of Norrbotten, the island of Crete, the mountainous region of Trentino in Italy, the Mediterranean region of Murcia, and the wetland of the Danube delta. The first meeting was in June 2023 in Sitia. The TC works as an advisory board to the project consortium in the development of strategies for correction and advancement throughout the project. It is meant to analyse and compare the case studies results but also synthetise results and lessons learned in local processes. For example, one outcome of the first meeting is that Norrbotten case study needs to better integrate representatives from the Sami community and not only reflect ideas of industrial colonisation. This was a valuable input to work with for the case study leader and technical partner.
The project will also develop integrated simulation models and instruments assessing the impacts and risks of climate change and new interactive digital tools for citizens and policy-makers to learn about future scenarios and improve mitigation and adaptation policies. Different possibilities are being explored such as the creation of a gamification app, a catalogue of policies, and a case study tool. Finally, one specificity of the project is its approach which integrates interdisciplinarity co-production of knowledge and international cooperation.
The project started in 2022 and will end in 2026. Consult the website to know more: http://www.nevermore-horizon.eu/