Christmas greetings from Ambassador Kåre R. Aas
Kåre R. Aas
The Royal Norwegian Embassy
This is my sixth year entering the holiday season as Norwegian Ambassador to the United States. It is a privilege to still be here and also a great time of year to reflect and make plans. For the embassy and for myself, building the relationship between Norway and the United States is one of the most important tasks. The Norwegian-American community represents a unique bridge between our two countries. Staying in close contact with this community is vital.
Earlier this year, I traveled with five U.S. senators to Svalbard, Norway’s archipelago in the Arctic, where the effects of higher temperatures—on land and in the ocean—was a core part of the program. In May, I traveled to Seattle to oversee the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the State of Washington and Innovation Norway, an agreement strengthening our cooperation on maritime innovation, clean technology, and blue economy.
Whenever I have the chance, I try to talk about some of our top priorities: oceans, climate, and the Arctic. Some of you might have seen Disney’s Frozen 2, which opened in movie theaters across the country a few weeks ago. With its snow-covered mountains, fjords, trolls, and reindeer, the movie probably reminds many Norwegian Americans of their ancestral homeland. For many Norwegians, the Arctic is home. Northern Norway is a region bustling with human activity, with universities, innovative businesses, airports, broadband internet, film festivals, coffee shops, and more. The people living in the region are at the core of Norway’s Arctic policy.
In the real Arctic, climate change is bringing changes at an alarming speed. The ice is melting, and the ocean is warming. To limit the temperature increase, we need to find global solutions to cap emissions and halt the warming. We must all strive to find green and sustainable solutions for the future.
In most countries, one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions is transportation. In Norway, we have made significant progress in reducing those emissions, in particular with increased shares of electric vehicles and with electric ferries. As of 2019, more than 50% of new cars sold in Norway are electric. But we need to go further.
I strongly believe that a combination of curbing emissions and promoting green competitiveness is the key to reducing the risk of dangerous climate change for the benefit of future generations.
In September, the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, co-chaired by Prime Minister Erna Solberg, released its very first report on the nexus of the ocean and climate. This is a milestone, because for the first time, scientists have quantified the contribution the ocean can make toward reducing climate gas emissions. This is an important step in showing that a transition to a sustainable ocean economy will play a significant role in the global response to climate change.
The report concludes that ocean-based climate solutions can deliver as much as one-fifth of the annual cut to greenhouse gas emissions that will be needed to keep global temperature rise by 2050 below one and a half degrees Celsius. That’s the equivalent of taking 2.5 billion cars off the road. Each year.
Here in Washington, the embassy staff is working every day to trigger, amplify, and accelerate action to promote ocean protection and productivity. As ambassador, I appreciate the strong relationship that Norway has with the United States on such a critical issue. We work closely with the Administration, the U.S. Congress, states, experts, and think thanks.
The entire embassy will continue traveling in the election year, taking the pulse of the country and getting to know as many people as possible. But before we embark on that, we should all take a well-deserved break. I wish all of you happy holidays and a wonderful New Year.
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This article originally appeared in the December 13, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.