The webinar ´Circular economy in the Arctic Industries´ was broadcasted as part of the European Week of Regions and Cities (EWRC) by the Brussels offices of the Northern Sparsely Populated Areas (NSPA) and the Brussels office of Scotland Highlands & Islands. The topics were regional cooperation and circular economy in the Arctic.
On the 19 of October 2020, four different projects from Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Scotland were represented as good examples of initiatives that promote a green and circular economy in the European Arctic. A panel consisting of Mirja Vehkaperä, Regional Councilor for the City of Oulu in Finland and Member of the European Committee of the Regions, Nils-Olof Lindfors, Regional Councillor in Norrbotten and Chair of the NSPA Network, and Michael Mann, EU Arctic Ambassador shared their views on green transition and regional growth in the Arctic.
ICT-based solutions for a sustainable water sector
How can we solve the challenges that industrial and municipal water processes face today? The issue was raised by Pirkko Taskinen, director of the AIF Water Ecosystem Alliance at the University of Oulu. Together with about fifty other actors, AIF Water runs the Ecosystem Alliance, an alliance that aims to bring together excellence and innovations to find new solutions to the water sector's challenges. The core of the work is the cooperation between different actors in society to ensure high water quality with low environmental footprints.
Europe´s largest battery factory and organic waste handled by green sources
The need for sustainable batteries is bigger than ever, not least in the automotive sector. Emma Wiesner, Public Affairs Manager at Northvolt, spoke about the urgent need to switch to a green and circular economy and emphasized that all companies involved must do their utmost to ensure a sustainable value chain at all levels. Norhvolt is a Swedish company that is building a battery factory in Skellefteå of what is planned to be Europe's largest battery factory. Placing large parts of the production in Skellefteå was a strategic choice as northern Sweden has a high production of green energy, which means that Northvolt can use 100% renewable energy in the factory's production.
Furthermore, the webinar discussed a circular economy in waste management and aquaculture. The local energy house project in the Outer Hebrides (OHLEH) in Scotland was mentioned by David MacLeod, Head of Municipal Services, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. The project aimed to maximize the potential for limited electricity production by using existing infrastructure at Creed Park´s waste management facilities. David explained how they use biogas to run combined heat and power plants to generate heat and electricity for waste management.
A panel discussion
The webinar continued with a panel discussion. Nils-Olov Lindfors highlighted the NSPA regions´ opportunities to contribute to a green and sustainable transition. As there is a surplus of green energy in northern Sweden, the establishment of the HYBRIT project ´steel without coal´ has been made possible in Norrbotten. Moreover, Northern Scandinavia has large resources of minerals that are crucial for the EU´s green and digital transition.
In relation to what Nils-Olov said, Mirja Vehkaperä stressed the importance of political efforts to address the regions' demographic challenges and ensure a functioning infrastructure. She also emphasized that interregional cooperation is a key factor in tackling Arctic challenges.
Michael Mann concluded the panel webinar by highlighting that sustainable development is important for the Arctic, as well as for the whole world. Michael also stressed the importance of developing sustainable and climate-smart solutions, while at the same time ensuring that people living in the Arctic have access to basic welfare services such as education and employment.
Read more about Northvolt here.