ArCticles – Arctic Centre Papers: Other futures for Arctic economies?

Adam Stępień is a political scientist based at the Arctic Centre of the University of Lapland. His article Other futures for Arctic economies? Searching for alternatives to resource extraction can be downloaded on Arctic Centre website.

The debate on Arctic economies has been dominated by large-scale resource extraction and trans-Arctic shipping. High resource prices and climate change impacts were expected to trigger Arctic economic boom. Hopes for regional development and concerns over environmental impacts were raised. By the mid-2010s, these notions are replaced by a more modest outlook, as the pace of developments – largely due to low resource prices – is slower than projected and various technical, economic and social constraints for extraction and shipping are better understood.

However, Arctic regions continue to face major developmental, social and demographic challenges. In order to address pertaining problems, many regional policy-makers and economic actors are increasingly turning to a broader range of economic activities. They search for alternative pathways to economic resilience and growth. The aim is to facilitate job creation within the northern regions and to emphasize the role of the local small and medium enterprises. Moreover, many of these new pathways are thought to be more environmentally and socially sustainable than resource-focused economies. 

Information and communication technologies, circular economy transition, bioeconomy, and utilizing Arctic natural conditions have become a part of the current discourse on Arctic development. This is visible for instance in regional development strategies of Nordic northernmost regions, including Lapland, Norrbotten and Troms. The more comprehensive way of thinking about the development of the Arctic is also visible in Finland’s 2013 Arctic strategy.

The full-length paper discusses chosen activities representative for this broader set of development ideas. That includes: data centres, cold climate testing, high value agricultural production, bioenergy, small-scale local circular solutions and Arctic creative industries.