Summary: In the coming years, economic development and navigation in the Arctic is going to be a hotly contested discussion among as many as 13 nations. The panel was divided on whether a warming Arctic will be a negative or positive, but outlook seemed to hinge on whether things were being considered on a regional scale or a big picture look at financial losses that could be caused by natural disasters.
A microphone is being passed around and questions are coming in from the audience.
ESG is not a fad, said a representative from Kuwait.
“If we don’t take a warming Arctic seriously, we will not have a future,” he said, and since most of the people who are present represent funds meant to provide returns into the future.
He plainly asked if climate change is a danger or a boon.
Qujaukitsoq said there are negatives associated with it, but it will mostly be a positive from an economic standpoint for Greenland.
“It represents mostly positive for us,” he said.
Das said it is a boon if you see only revenues and returns, and threat if you only see the costs of weather disasters.
He said from a macroeconomics view, it’s looking disastrous.
“I think where you stand on the climate change issue really depends on where you live in the world,” Petraeus said.
Bell said, “Yes.”
Climate change is both a threat and a boon.
There was an interesting moment of connection.
Petraeus asked Das to elaborate on a point he had raised. Shortly after, Petraeus said he had to confess to being a former economics professor.
“I know,” Das said laughing.
Das said there are disconnects between states and their economic agents.
“Before they can do anything, there is something that we at an international level have to assure,” Das said. “If this opens for one, it opens for all the world.”
Petraeus asked if he could imagine that not happening.
Das said he was referring to markets fragmenting and a trend toward protective practices.
“Some of these protocols have to be absolutely assured,” Das said.
Petraeus said investors are more concerned with environmental, social and governance criteria.
“We want to do good, we don’t want to just do well,” he said.
Das said environmental disasters are going to become more frequent, and they will not care about GDP.
He said in the coming weeks, the IMF will be putting out a study indicating the importance of ESG concerns.
Das said oil economics affect almost every aspect of human life.
“I just wanted to give that alert as well,” Das said.
He said anything that happens in the Arctic has to be environmentally sustainable and development has to be sustainable.
Das said combining those two principles can be a tough thing.
“That’s why this agenda has to become a global agenda,” Das said.
Bell said the Coast Guard currently has “1.5” ice breakers and both are old vessels.
He said it will take as many as 10 years to create new, cutting-edge vessels if they’re desired.
Petraeus said it is important to “galvanize” an approach to the Arctic.
“There are clearly lots of common interests,” Petraeus said. “The question is who can actually drive this?”
He said he is actually a big proponent of coalitions and multilateral discussions.
“China has to be part, even though they are not one of the eight permanent members of the Arctic Council, they have to be part of this,” Petraeus said. “The two great economies of the world are going to attempt to exploit what is possible maybe on a level that others with the exception of Russia can’t approach.”
Das said when considering investment in the Arctic, it’s important to contextualize the region on a global scale.
“We’re talking about eight countries that in one way or another have a stake in the Arctic,” Das said.
He said there are 13 countries with no actual presence who still see themselves as part of the Arctic picture.
Das said each of those nations has its own map of Arctic ownership.
“I think we have to take a more collective, socioeconomic orientation to the region,” Das said.
He said there is still not one definitive, comprehensive work on the Arctic from that perspective.
“It needs a more systematic approach, which is missing,” Das said.
Qujaukitsoq said the Arctic is emerging as a link between North America, Europe and Asia.
“Greenland is in the middle of that road,” he said.
Petraeus said a big question that looms over the issue is whether the United States wants to enable multilateral institutions, such as the G7 and the Arctic Council.
“That is a big deal,” Petraeus said. “I do think the United States has to have a very open and forthright conversation with itself and its leaders about whether we’re going to enable such institutions.”
He asked what sort of limits will be placed on a region that “didn’t used to matter.”
“We are going to be the determining factor very likely on a lot of these issues,” Petraeus.
It looks like the next panel is going to start about 10 minutes before it was expected. It’s going to cover geopolitical cooperation and the Arctic and features a nationally known figure as well as some names that will be familiar to locals.
The Moderator is McHugh Pierre, Interim President/CEO, Alaska, Goldbelt, Inc. The panel features General David Petraeus, Chairman of the KKR Global Institute, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency; Vittus Qujaukitsoq, Minister for Finance and Nordic Cooperation, Government of Greenland; U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Matthew T. Bell Jr., Commander 17th Coast Guard District, U.S. Coast Guard; and Udaibir Das, Assistant Director and Advisor of the Monetary and Capital Markets Department, International Monetary Fund.
“The oceans play an essential role in human life and are missed in sort of a weird way,” Pieribone said.
He said it’s in the world’s best interest to figure out how to sort out what will be about the changing oceans.
Pieribone’s speech wrapped up about 30 minutes before it was scheduled to — he’s a fast talker.
He is now taking questions from the audience. I’ll try to ask about what practical solutions exist for ocean governance.
Pieribone said OceanX’s vessel has been involved in recent documentaries, such as “Blue Planet II” and “Creatures of Light,” which was about bioluminescent creatures — animals that naturally glow — that live under the .
He showed a short video clip introducing the second phase of OceanX’s mission, which is a “state-of-the-art research vessel.”
“It’s allowing us to go out and to produce media like this things and producers like Jim (James Cameron),” Pieribone said.
He is concluding by talking briefly about the Arctic.
“I see the Arctic in three ways, there’s issues related to ice, permafrost and marine and terrestrial life,” Pieribone said.
He said by 2036 there may almost no Arctic ice, which would allow for unobstructed navigation.
“It’s not a good thing, but it’s going to happen,” Pieribone said.
He said the Mendenhall Glacier is seeing similar losses.
“As the Arctic opens up, it’s going to be a nightmare of who owns what,” Pieribone said.
He also slid in a reference to Greenland.
“We don’t own it yet, but we’re about to,” Pieribone jokes. “We’re working on that.”
Pieribone said the ocean is home to a number of phyla that only exist in the ocean and produces a large portion of the world’s oxygen.
He said there is currently “lots” going wrong with the ocean.
Warming, acidification, overfishing, nutrification, pollution, plastics and ship strikes on whales.
“Part of why there’s so much going wrong in the ocean is the tragedy of the commons,” he said.
That Pieribone said is because so much of the ocean is not managed by any particular country, and portions of the ocean that are controlled by nations are often managed by small island nations that lack the resources to properly manage the water area.
“It’s also vastly under-explored, so its true value is not understood,” Pieribone.
He also said the ocean is losing a public relations battle.
The ocean, Pieribone said, is often depicted as dark, dangerous and forbidding.
The goal of OceanX is to address those concerns.
Vincent Pieribone, vice chairman for ocean-exploration nonprofit OeanX, is the meeting’s keynote speaker.
An extended lunch break thinned out the crowd in the Centennial Hall ballroom, but there are still probably about 100 people in attendance.
Disruption was one of this morning’s major buzz words.
IFSWF leaders said “disrupt” has the same meaning for them as it does in Silicon Valley — an upstart profoundly changing a business model.
For example, ride-sharing apps are considered to have “disrupted” taxi service.
Rodell said IFSWF leaders have been considering what those sorts of developments mean for investors.
“How do you have to think about that if that is the future of the world where technological disruption is going to come in?” Rodell said. “Not just the upside, how much money can we make, but also, but how much money can we lose if a company is not positioning itself correctly.”
Additionally, there’s considerations to be made for how big data, artificial intelligence and other technology will affect how investing is done.
“I think something like augmented intelligence will change the way we do things,” Al Romaithi said.
The first question is what is the role of sovereign wealth funds and where will they invest moving forward.
Al Romaithi, who is also Executive Director of the Strategy and Planning Department of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, said the role of fixed income and government bonds have been an emerging topic of interest among members.
“In terms of the global economy, one needs to differentiate between the news and what’s happening,” he said. “The situation is not as bad as it’s made out to be. We encourage people to think of risk in a little more sophisticated way.”
He said volatility is one thing to consider, but not the only factor.
Rodell said moving forward, it may be important for sovereign wealth funds to consider whether their are common challenges IFSWF wants to “link their arms” and work together to influence.
“As a board and as a membership, there is a lot of thought put into whether that platform has to expand beyond the Santiago principles of transparency,” Rodell said.
She said it is a testament to the work done 11 years ago to establish IFSWF.
“We’re going to keep this relatively informal,” Bonfield said.
Rodell thanks IFSWF for coming to Juneau for the annual meeting of the sovereign wealth funds.
“We realize we’re not alone in this world,” Rodell said. “We’re facing so many of the same issues.”
Al Romaithi said Juneau is one of the most beautiful and hospitable places he’s ever been, including protesters.
He and Rodell said the gathering is invaluable for its members.
“When we combine the network of the different members, we develop something much more powerful and much more effective in terms of getting results,” Al Romaithi said.
Things are getting started at Centennial Hall again.
There will be a press conference featuring APFC CEO Angela Rodell, IFSWF Chief Executive Duncan Bonfield and ISWF Chair Majed Al Romaithi.
Summary: The international panel agreed changing climate will shape the future of the Arctic, and the large region needs to be a focal point of development and policy moving forward. The panel wrapped up about 30 minutes earlier than expected. There will be a half hour break until lunch, and the meeting will resume at 2 p.m., but there will be a 1:30 p.m. press conference.
Rodell asked a question from the audience.
“What is your dream for what this looks like knowing that some of this is going to change very rapidly?” she asked. “How do we not get stuck in this and keep moving forward.”
Bethel took the first crack at the question.
“For the Arctic, with a relatively small population and a fragile ecosystem, it’s important to embrace technology,” Bethel said.
He said 3D printing technology or other “cutting edge” industries that don’t impinge on the environment may be good choices.
Schutt said there is always a tension between economic development and conservation.
Bethel is asking one final question.
“What is reality look like if things continue to go on the same trajectory, what does the arctic look like in five or 10 years from now if none of the challenges we mentioned are addressed,” he asked.
Bolmstrand said he is a big believer in human ingenuity.
“You have to be really careful not to put policies in place that pick winners and losers,” Bilbao said.
Schutt said unless the Arctic is a specific point of focus, it will be an afterthought.
This panel may conclude early. It’s already moved on to questions from the audience.
The panel was asked about what sort of non-extractive industries could be brought to the Arctic.
Schutt said it’s something his corporation considers all the time. He said for the most part, the 35 communities in the Doyon region are so far apart there is not much of an interconnected economy to speak of.
“People just aren’t willing to foot that bill to go to one small community and have limited economic opportunities in that community,” Schutt said.
He said infrastructure drives other development, and more roads, affordable power and better telecommunications services are the important focus right now.
A question from the audience asked about the net impact of global warming.
“I wish I could answer that question,” Bolmstrand said. “I think it’s happening much more rapidly than expected. You could have a scenario where the Gulf Stream moves, and if the Gulf Stream moves, we’re going to have some serious problems in my neck of the woods, where it will get much colder.”
Bilbao said BP is certainly seeing the impact of climate change on the North Slope in ways it never has before.
He said when responding to change, BP hasn’t taken as much advantage of indigenous knowledge of climate shifts as it should have.
Schutt said there’s all sorts of impacts, and the grassy area he grew up hunting moose is now covered in spruce trees.
“Not so good for seeing the moose,” he said.
Schutt said that’s anecdotal, but similar anecdotes are coming in from across the region.
“Our government in the United States probably needs to dedicate more resources to Arctic management,” Schutt said.
“The Arctic is a vast, vast area, which means it looks different in different areas,” Bolmstrand said.
He said in Finland and Norway, the Arctic is relatively well-developed for lumber and mining.
Bethel is leaning into Trump’s recent proposal to purchase Greenland from Denmark and gave Bolmstrand a chance to talk.
“I think the Arctic is one of the best examples of international cooperation that has existed, I think the Arctic Council has always been very fact based and very collaborative,” Bolmstrand said. “We’re seeing much more tension building. I think the tension is quite natural.”
He said Russian and Chinese interest in the Arctic draws increased interested from the West.
“The offer to Greenland, that was much more of an overture, and I don’t think that’s the real issue there,” Bolmstrand said. “Greenland belongs to the people of Greenland, not the Queen of Denmark.”
Bolmstrand said scientists seem to uniformly expect Arctic warming will have far-reaching consequences around the world, including negative impacts on coastal communities.
Schutt said it’s also something that seems to have captured the attention of international policy makers.
Bethel asked Bilbao about some of the challenges companies face when establishing a presence in the arctic.
“That takes a significant amount of operating expenditure on an ongoing basis,” Bilbao said.
He said it takes even more resources to grow it since oil needs to be valued at about $40-$50 for BP to “break even.”
Bilbao said when competing with the Gulf of Mexico or Africa, where the break-even point is closer to $20 per barrel, it’s hard to continue to invest in Alaska.
“Climate change is creating both opportunities for investment as well as liabilities,” Bethel said.
He is asking those in attendance to consider the globe from a bird’s-eye view with the Arctic at the center.
Schutt explained to the international audience the history of regional Alaska Native Corporations, such as Doyon Limited.
“It’s quite a different structure,” Schutt said.
Bilbao mentioned BP’s exit from Alaska and said over the past 45 years, the state was a major driver of technology development for the company.
“We’ve been guests of the state and of the Native people of Alaska, and we’ve learned a lot about some of the opportunities and some of the challenges of operating in an Arctic environment,” Bilbao said.
Bolmstrand said he’s been charmed by Alaska and believes he will make a return trip to Alaska.
This panel will feature Nils Bolmstrand, CEO for Nordea Asset Management; Aaron Schutt, President and CEO for Doyon Limited; Damian Bilbao, Vice President for Commercial Ventures for BP Alaska.
While the last panel largely noted the possible benefits of a warming Arctic, it will be interesting to see if some potential drawbacks to that, such as ocean acidicication and rising sea levels , will be addressed.
Summary: The governors of both Wyoming and Alaska believe politics and sovereign wealth fund management should be separate. Both think 2020 will be a pivotal year for the nation moving forward. There will now be a 30-minute “coffee break.”
Up next is a discussion of the the future of the Arctic moderated by the U.S. Director of the World Bank Erik Bethel.
The governors were asked by a representative from Kuwait if the warming Arctic the next Gold Rush, and how money can be made from it. He also asked how Wyoming and Alaska’s wealth of land can be used for agriculture.
Dunleavy said Arctic warming is definitely going to be a benefit for the U.S. and Alaska.
“It would also open up new areas of exploration of the Arctic Ocean,” Dunleavy said. “Our proximity to the poles, our proximity to the Arctic Ocean is definitely an advantage.”
He said that area would need to be developed before that reality and that’s something people in the room should take note of.
Dunleavy said there’s opportunity for agriculture to grow as an industry within the state.
“We can grow a lot of crops, root crops, etc. for export,” Dunleavy said. “Our newness as a state, I think bodes well for people who want to get in on the ground floor of investment.”
An investor in the audience asked what role sovereign wealth funds should play in remaking political economy. He said working across the aisle and easing left-ride divide seems to be important moving forward.
He said sovereign fund representatives can attempt to open dialogue with politicians.
“I think it does give politicians at times a moment to reflect,” Dunleavy said. “I know I do, and a lot of other governors, do listen to what investors are saying.”
Gordon said he doesn’t think the IFSWF or community of sovereign wealth funds would be well-advised to influence political discourse.
He said that would undermine the reason the organization was founded.
“There was real concern there was such wealth amassed here it would start to influence the outcomes,” Gordon said.
Dunleavy is taking an opportunity to pitch international investors in the room on putting money into Alaska.
He said Alaska’s relative proximity to Asia is one selling point as is it’s international accessibility.
“Take a look at Alaska,” he said. “Our international airport hub is getting more and more investment. The Arctic is warming. Fifty years from now, if this trend continues, there will be seasonal, if not regular, travel through the Northwest Passage.”
He said those things coupled with the Trump administration’s pro-business attitudes and recently changed tax laws should make the U.S. in general and Alaska in particular attractive to investors.
Gordon said there is a culture in Western states that embraces “putting your shoulder into the wheel” rather than waiting for the federal government to solve problems.
He said carbon in the air is a challenge and causing warming, but carbon in the ground is a potential resource.
“We’re really looking at things that have to do with carbon dioxide,” Gordon said. “We’re also looking at ways we can integrate carbon capture and sequestration into forest management.”
He said taking carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is an important pairing with reducing carbon emissions.
“Take a look at Wyoming, too,” Gordon said to conclude his speech.
Rodell asked the governors how the international community should think about the 2020 election year.
“It’s going to be interesting isn’t it?” Dunleavy asked rhetorically.
He said the futures of both of America’s major political parties will be on display.
Dunleavy said in the recent past, it would have been unheard of for mainstream Democratic candidates who support tenants of socialism. Additionally, he said Trump is unprecedented in his ways.
“He’s cut from a different cloth,” Dunleavy said. “He’s a whole different example of a president. There’s no doubt about it.”
Dunleavy said it will be a battleground of political divides.
“As America becomes more urbanized, our traditional, our 200-plus-year-old institutions such as the Electoral College are going to be challenged as well,” Dunleavy said. “It’s going to be fascinating. I think this election is going to be one, if not the, most important for setting the future of this country for some time.”
Gordon said there’s a potential for a “fairly large tsunami” of young voters to come on board.
“You’re really seeing a fundamental shift in potentially the economy and a fundamental shift in how we govern,” Gordon said. “The benefit of being a governor is all of that plays out at a national level. If you look at what’s happening with governors you have the ability to reach across the aisle. You have the opportunity to talk about regional economic development.”
Gordon said he has important discussions with both fellow Republican Dunleavy and Colorado’s Democratic Gov. Jared Polis.
Rodell noted both governors espoused keeping politics out of fund management.
“How do we say no you?” she asked.
Dunleavy said funds should set up as independently as possible.
“There’s constant pressures even on this fund in Alaska,” Dunleavy said. “You just have to constantly be looking for ways and anticipating ways politicians are going to try to access the fund and try to insulate yourself as best you can.”
Gordon said Wyoming’s Permanent Wyoming Mineral Trust Fund faces many of the same concerns.
He said there are active measures to keep politics and fund management at a “double-arm’s length.”
“We’re different from most other funds because we have 10 different funds in out portfolio,” Gordon said. “We make sure our Legislature understands what our returns are.”
Unlike Alaska, Wyoming’s fund does not provide a dividend to residents, Gordon said.
“We have to build rules, we have to build respect for the rules, and it’s a real challenge, especially when those chief sources of revenue: Oil, coal and gas are on the decline.”
Gordon also spoke about the importance of embracing “disruption” and technology.
He said there is an opportunity to recommend an idea he called the “Juneau Principles” to view disruption as a tool that could lead to a good development rather than a good thing in and of it’s self.
The governors were asked about how they balance being their states’ top executive with the limited autonomy that comes with deferring some authority to the federal government.
“The majority of land in Alaska is controlled by the federal government,” Dunleavy said. “When you have individuals within a bureaucracy that want to continue with a preservationist mentality, you have over-reach happening. “
He said the Tongass National Forest was always intended to be a multi-use forest, and he works to constantly remind President Donald Trump that development is important to Alaska.
Dunleavy said the current presidential administration is “pro-development,” and that is fortunate.
Rodell asked Dunleavy about what the role should be of sovereign wealth funds.
Dunleavy began by noting the Permanent Fund is more high-profile than many other wealth funds.
“In Alaska it’s looked at constantly,” Dunleavy said. “It’s always on the front page.”
He said it makes “total sense” to have a fund like the Permanent Fund, and the sovereign wealth fund representatives present had difficult jobs in preventing politicians from accessing sovereign wealth fund money.
“It should be a long-term investment that grows long term and benefits long term,” Dunleavy said.
Dunleavy said sometimes a state’s strengths can also be weaknesses.
He said Alaska’s separation from the Lower 48, low population density and surplus of wilderness pose unique challenges to the state.
Rodell asked Dunleavy how Alaskans should think about responsible resource development as glaciers recede and leave behind rich mineral deposits.
“Things are changing very rapidly,” Dunleavy said. “We have to be nimble. We have to look ahead. We have to anticipate the next move.”
He said whatever is done with energy is underwritten by resources.
“Whatever the primary resource is, we’re still going to have to generate electricity,” Dunleavy said. “Currently our resources — oil, coal and gas — we have to be careful we don’t make it so costly and view those resources as so onerous that we no longer use those resources and switch to a higher-cost model.”
He said instead of abandoning fossil fuels, the focus should be on capturing carbon.
“The warming of the Arctic and the warming of Alaska, I think there is no doubt warming is happening,” Dunleavy said.
He said it’s important to overcome challenges associated with that with technology and ingenuity.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon are now on stage for a panel talk titled “Tale of Two States — Challenges and Opportunities.”
APFC CEO Angela Rodell is moderating the panel.
She began by asking about Wyoming and Alaska’s respective strengths.
“As you know, I love talking about Alaska,” Dunleavy said. “Its strengths are many. It’s an Arctic and a Pacific nation. We are closer to Asia than any other state in the nation. We have enormous resources. We have 1/7th of the country’s timber reserves. We have the two largest national forests in the country. Huge lead-zinc deposits. Lots of gold, lots of silver, lots of copper.”
He said from a certain angle, Alaska is the center of the world.
“We have the resources and proximity that makes us different from a lot of different states,” Dunleavy said.
Gordon began by noting Wyoming has the lowest population in the U.S.
He said Wyoming is attempting to embrace the digital revolution by pursuing newer technologies like crypto currencies and block chain.
“We have really led the way,” Gordon said.
He said Wyoming has large depositis of oil, goal, natural gas and generates a lot of wind power.
Majed Al Romaithi, ISFW Chair, spoke after Weldon.
He noted there are many differences among the forum’s member.
“We do share many similar objectives, for this reason, it is in their best interest to welcome new members, that’s why I’m delighted we are welcoming several new members to ISFW this year,” he said.
Those include funds from Senegal, Egypt, Cyprus, Mongolia, Frand and more.
Juneau Mayor Beth Weldon delivered this morning’s opening remarks.
“As Alaska we tend to lose site of the global nature of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation,” Weldon said. “We should take this opportunity to pause and recognize the global role this organization holds.”
Weldon said the APFC has been a success story in transforming a non-renewable resource into a renewable stream of revenue.
She said she hoped those in attendance would enjoy themselves and the sights of Juneau regardless of the dreary weather outside.
Weldon said the day’s events should be particularly interested, and she was looking forward to the scheduled talks and panel discussions.
“Just ignore the fact it’s Friday the 13th,” Weldon said.
Representatives of organizations that spend trillions of dollars worldwide have been in Juneau this week for a conference, but today is the first day proceedings will be open to the press and some invited guests.
The International Forum of Sovereign Wealth Funds’ annual meeting is a chance for representatives from state-owned investment funds, like the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation, to exchange information and talk about relatively niche interests.
In light of the APFC hosting this year’s event in Juneau, today will feature more Alaska-focused conversation.