ePIcenter @ the Arctic Circle Assembly - Blogpost from Emily Hague

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In October 2023, Dr Lauren McWhinnie and Emily Hague, both working on the Arctic Demonstrator work package of the ePIcenter project, travelled from Scotland to Iceland to attend the Arctic Circle Assembly – with the aim to develop and build new connections, to discuss and share their ePIcenter Arctic shipping research, and to hear more about research ongoing in the field. Below is a blog post about their trip, from ePIcenter research assistant Emily;

The Assembly marks the largest international gathering that focuses on Arctic matters, and this year was attended by more than 2000 participants from over 70 countries. There was a rich programme, with over 700 speakers participating, including heads of states and governments, ministers, members of parliaments, indigenous leaders and representatives, officials, experts, scientists, entrepreneurs, business leaders, environmentalists, students and activists, all from an international community united by a shared interest in the Arctic. The 2023 Assembly covered a multitude of topics, including geopolitical tensions affecting the Arctic, the Green Energy transition, exploitation of Arctic resources, and future challenges in relation to protection of the Arctic environment and its peoples. There were also a number of sessions on Arctic shipping, including ones focusing on sustainable shipping, and a theme arising throughout was how current conflicts, such as the Ukraine-Russia war and the recent development of the Israel-Palestine conflict, are leading to impacts on the maritime and security sector.

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I was delighted to be able to attend the Assembly and have the opportunity to visit Iceland for the first time. I attended with a number of key aims in mind. First and foremost, to share information, gather interest, and build new and develop ongoing partnerships with regards my own Arctic work. Currently I am working on two Arctic focused projects, both of which I really looked forward to sharing more information on throughout the Assembly; ePIcenter, and ‘Navigating the Future: Collaborative Knowledge-Sharing for a Just and Sustainable Maritime Future’.

(on the photo: Emily Hague and Lauren McWhinnie attending the Arctic Circle Assembly)

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My work within the European Union’s Horizon 2020 funded ‘ePIcenter’ project focuses on building an understanding of how Arctic shipping can be developed in a more sustainable and ‘wildlife-friendly’ way, with a particular focus on understanding potential impacts to Arctic whales. The Assembly provided me an invaluable opportunity to meet in person for the first time ePIcenter project steering group member Dr Melanie Lancaster, who is Senior Specialist of the WWF Arctic Program, and to also meet co-author and project data provider Dr Jackie Dawson, Canada Research Chair in Environment, Society and Policy. Both of these women are powerhouses in the field of Arctic wildlife research, and great role models that I have looked forward to meeting for some time. It was a privilege to meet both in person and to discuss ePIcenter project progression, which includes an expansive review of the literature of vessel impacts to Arctic whales, and a comparative analysis of ship strike methodologies, with a focus on the East Canada-West Greenland sub-population of bowhead whales.

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If you’re interested in hearing more about this work, you can sign up to my talk, which I’m presenting as part of the Scottish Arctic Network webinar series – scheduled on Wednesday 17th January 2024, 12 -12:45 PM.

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The second Arctic project I was excited to share at the Assembly, which is a highly complementary sister project of ePIcenter, is the Scottish Government: Arctic Connections funded project ‘Navigating the Future: Collaborative Knowledge-Sharing for a Just and Sustainable Maritime Future’. The project will run from autumn 2023 to spring 2024, so my attendance at the Assembly was perfect timing to begin developing Arctic-Scotland connections that will be further developed as the project progresses. The project will work alongside Green Marine, North America’s leading environmental certification program for the maritime industry. As part of this project, I will conduct semi-structured interviews with Arctic and non-Arctic shipping and port related actors to explore how the maritime industry can work together to collectively address the climate crisis across the sector. The project aim is to ensure that any transition to green vessels, ports or infrastructure within Scotland, the Arctic and further afield can be successfully supported to move forward in a just and sustainable manner, that properly considers the wider holistic impacts of greening, including those on local communities. I was delighted to attend a number of Assembly sessions that focused specifically on topics relevant to the project, and to build a number of new connections who will be interviewed as part of the project.

If you work within the maritime industry and are interested in this project, particularly in being interviewed, please email me at elh2001@hw.ac.uk, I’d be delighted to hear from you.

If you’d like to read more about how shipping featured at the Arctic Circle Assembly, read our Conference Report, published in the Polar Journal here or on the ePIcenter website/ Scientific Publications