Outi Meinander, Mikael Hildén, Hanna K Lappalainen, Claire Mosoni, Reija Ruuhela, Eeva Kuntsi-Reunanen, Timothy R. Carter, Stefan Fronzek, Nina Pirttioja, Ali Nadir Arslan, Kaarle Kupiainen, Ketil Isaksen, Heikki Lihavainen, and Juha Aalto

In the Arctic, climate warming causes permafrost degradation. Thawing permafrost has significant effects on human health and well-being, infrastructure, ecosystems, and climate, from local to global scales. Here we provide examples of the many consequences of permafrost thaw in the Arctic permafrost region, paying particular attention to conditions in the Nordic and Russian Arctic, and interactions between the different effects. We discuss approaches used in adaptation to permafrost degradation from technological solutions to institutional and behavioural change. Our findings suggest that in-depth understanding of the various feedbacks and cross-border effects are required to adapt to the multiple effects of the thawing of permafrost. Successful adaptation requires coherence between the approaches and dialogues between stakeholders.

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Liisa Kauppila & Sanna Kopra

The outbreak of the war in Ukraine in February 2022 marks a major watershed in Arctic politics. Declining West- Russia relations have transformative implications for the region’s stability, practices of governance, and economic policies, including a potentially rapid green transition. Moreover, China’s ‘neutrality’ in the West-Russia axis adds on to the high level of uncertainty about the future of the Arctic. Unsurprisingly, this dynamic has sparked a newfound interest in mapping the region’s futures in an analytical and rigorous manner, and, consequently, spawned a growing pool of scenario analyses. Unlike most of these exercises, this article abandons the business-asusual style of reasoning that guides the envisioning of predominantly alarming futures. Instead, it uses the futures research technique of backcasting to construct three scenarios on the continuation of the Arctic cooperation with Sino-Russian relations as the focus. More specifically, the article produces a set of alternative futures that – despite the differences in their actual content and ethos – all picture an Arctic of 2035 where at least the eight Arctic states collaborate regularly, and in which climate change mitigation and adaptation constitutes a key driver of collaboration. With this research strategy, the article seeks to contribute to the efforts to alleviate regional tensions by immersing the readers into a future world of possibilities and hope – despite our deep condemnation of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

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Gao Tianming, Vasilii Erokhin, Zhu Dianyong & Zhu Gexun

The need to boost economic growth and develop high-tech energy-intensive industries requires an allout effort to increase power generation. On the other hand, the human-induced carbon footprint has become so evident that radical actions are needed to reduce emissions and decarbonize the energy sector. Russia’s attitude to the international carbon neutrality agenda is essential since the bulk of hydrocarbons and coal comes from the Russian Arctic, Siberia, and the Far East, where climate change is rapidly advancing. At the same time, Russia is facing a growing territorial imbalance between the demand for energy in the European part of the country and the extraction of fossil fuels which is shifting further to the northeast to the Arctic. Due to the abundance of local energy resources, most Russian Arctic regions prioritize further exploitation of oil, gas, and coal fields. Nevertheless, some territories have started turning to renewable energy in an attempt to overcome infrastructure gaps and to make local energy mixes more resilient to energy supply disruptions. Since the mid-2010s (the first international sanctions against Russia), part of Russia’s energy supplies has been redirected to China (the Turn to the East policy), while Chinese companies have increased their share in Russia’s energy sector. China is interested in expanding transboundary energy supply for domestic needs in the northern and northeastern provinces, making Russia’s Far East and the Arctic zone particularly attractive to Chinese investors. However, the heated conflict in Ukraine has disrupted conventional collaboration formats with Russian energy companies, cut Russia from Western technologies and equipment, and forced the EU countries to embargo Russian oil. The chapter attempts to feel around for the new reality mechanisms of Russia-China collaboration which could contribute to bridging the spatial development gaps in the energy sector and address the contemporary challenges posed to the low-carbon transition in the Russian Arctic.

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Yu Cao

This paper explores Russia’s cooperation with China on the development agenda of the Polar Silk Road (PSR). China formally introduced the PSR initiative in 2017 to jointly develop Arctic shipping routes, of which the Northern Sea Route (NSR) is a major focus. Russia and China have been cooperating on infrastructure building on both land and sea and liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects as part of the development goals of the PSR. The research question is: what are the major goals and perspectives of Sino-Russian cooperation in the Arctic? Moreover, what opportunities and risks does Sino-Russian cooperation on the PSR present for the region and beyond? This paper seeks to understand how Russia’s eastern focus affects the Arctic West and how the shifting geopolitical environment affects the directions for Sino-Russian cooperation. The questions are important to discuss amid the on-going Western sanctions on Russia after it invaded Ukraine. By identifying Sino-Russian cooperation projects along the PSR in the energy, shipping and infrastructure areas, this paper discusses Russia’s development strategies in the Arctic and China’s contributions to the realization of these projects. The argument is: the increasing tension between Russia and the West stimulates the convergence of China and Russia’s interests in the Arctic region, especially along the NSR. The PSR serves as a “vehicle” for Russia to increase investment in building Arctic infrastructure and to expand resource exploration. Under the umbrella of the PSR, Russia has increased economic and security ties with the East. The Sino- Russian cooperation in the Arctic reflects the two countries’ increasing influence over the geopolitics in the region.

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Tiziana Melchiorre

This article discusses the relations between the European Union (EU) and Russia in the Arctic in a scenario development context. Although the war in Ukraine of 2022 has dramatically worsened EU – Russia relations, this article argues that the Arctic could be a laboratory for improving them both regionally and internationally as it offers some opportunities for cooperation especially in three sectors, namely energy, environment and science. The EU and Russia have indeed strong geopolitical and economic interests in these sectors and could therefore benefit from cooperation. Theoretically, the analysis is conducted from a neoliberal institutionalist point of view with a focus on the concept of interdependence, which is a strong incentive to overcome the obstacles to cooperation in order to strengthen their relations.

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Lill Rastad Bjørst

In 2021, the Government of Greenland made an active, discursive shift in the political discourse regarding Greenlandic development. Since the last general election, the political agenda has changed from prioritizing industrialization and the development of extractive industries (with little focus on ratifying international treaties and commitments to lower CO2 emissions to limit global warming) to suddenly wanting to “live up to our name, Greenland” by kickstarting a green transition with the ambition to be an exporter of hydropower and mining rare earth elements (REE) to support the technology for the green transition. At the time of writing, Greenland has no formal climate strategy for the country or a strategy for green energy transition. Analyzing collected data (presentations at COP26 and the related notes, videos, reports, and statements) is therefore the best way to understand Greenland’s up-to-date priorities related to the green transition and position in the international climate change debate. Greenland lacks a nicely sealed package of peers and keeps on searching for other nation-states to get inspiration. Therefore, the following research question is posed: To whom (or what) does Greenland compare itself to in the process of finding a fitting model for future green development? The reading strategy for this article is inspired by the politics of comparison with the act of comparing and producing categories as the object of study.

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