Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to welcome you to The Royal Palace and to the 11th Royal Colloquium.
In 1992 I invited scientists and decision makers to a Royal Colloquium to discuss environmental protection and sustainable use of resources. That first Royal Colloquium had a focus on water resources and population development. And it was very much inspired by the UN Conference in Stockholm 1972.
During 20 years we have had 9 different meetings. They have all, in various ways, addressed issues related to the interplay between environment and society. We have got a perspective on how some challenges remain in the core of the discussions, but also how the focus and the way to approach the issues shift over time. Technical developments make us look at and define problems in new ways. The environment, natural resources and population development have been recurrent themes. Land-use and agriculture was emphasized in the early Royal Colloquium, first with a focus on tropical and subtropical areas and then with the Baltic in focus. At that time, the term sustainable agriculture was introduced.
The global population development and poverty was a major issue for discussion and concern in the Colloquium at the end of the 90´s. The scientific evidence that the global climate was changing became a topic for consideration. Climate change has remained an important factor and most of the Colloquia have dealt with climate, for several reasons. The cause of climate change is related to human activities and the consequences are important for society. While the climate change is truly global, the causes and effects have clear regional and local implications. The 2003 Royal Colloquium discussed the role of mountain regions and water resources.
Another geographical area which serves as an early warning for global warming is the Arctic. Melting ice and tundra introduces feedback into the climate system which might accelerate the warming into a dangerous heating of the planet.
What can we learn from history? Man has influenced natural conditions before and also faced extreme climate conditions, cold weather, draughts etc. Southern Greenland is an example, which was a focus for the 2007 Colloquium. The following 2 Colloquia, in 2009 and 2011, returned to the interplay between climate, resources, energy and population. First we discussed energy and after that we had population and urbanization in focus.
The present meeting follows the tradition in dealing with the basic ingredients of global development; climate, human migration, food security. The general heading “Redrawing the Map" can be understood in two ways. We will discuss insights from different disciplines and experiences, a mapping of knowledge into a common set of issues and problems.
But humans are changing, and also changing the map of the earth in a geographical sense. We often refer to global issues, but should keep in mind that it is on the local or regional level we will see the impacts and meet the consequences. At an earlier meeting we discussed sea level rise resulting from global warming. Many coastal areas in the world will be in danger and people would need to move. The Minister of Environment from the Seychelles saw a more dramatic scenario and said: “If the sea level rises, we have no place to go!"
Movement of people and migration has always been a part of human history. But now we can witness demographic changes on a grand scale. Urbanization in the developing world is a dramatic process. People are displaced for political and economic reasons and climate can again be a driving factor. We will have the opportunity to see this through the town of Kiruna. The whole town is about to be moved. The reason is not typical for challenges we see in the world today. But anyway, it will serve as a source of inspiration for our discussions.
So will also the Abisko research facilities, where we are going to have the Colloquium. Research is an important aspect of our theme and we will certainly also be inspired by the polar environment there.
I am looking forward to our gathering and stimulating discussions the next couple of days. My wish is that we will not only focus on problems, but also come up with ideas about solutions and how to go from knowing to doing.
We have a responsibility to give a message to especially the young generation, how to meet the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow.
Very welcome to the 2013 meeting!