Jens Stoltenberg trots down the pedestrian area in Longyearbyen. It is May 1 and he has just now greeted his comrades in the far north. In a few hours he will deliver four speeches in two hours. He prefers to do the interview as he goes, but he settles down when the journalist's handwriting gets so illegible that he risks saying the strangest things in the finished article.
"Randi , where should we eat tonight?"
Political advisor Randi Ness is never more than two steps away. She says that she just called Kora, but they refused to be impressed that the man who is the leader of the Labor Party, the UN climate envoy and the new Secretary General of NATO wants try their pizza. The place is full, in all modesty.
Coal mining is a dilemma
As we sit down in the reception area of the Radisson Blu Polar Hotel, they decide to try the burger at Svalbar later tonight. But now they seek a cup of coffee on the table, warmed by the coals from Mine 7.
Q: Should coal mining on Svalbard continue?
"We must all recognize that there is a dilemma that when we extract coal as we know it is a cause of global climate change. We also know that the world needs energy. Therefore, it is important to invest in technology that allows us to make fossil fuels cleaner."
Stoltenberg points out the previous government designated Svalbard as one of five areas considered as a successor after the Mongstad accident. Longyearbyen namely has the potential to be a society without emissions since we can obtain coal from Mine 7, burn it in power station and store the emissions in Adventdalen - given the technology that is being developed.
"If you succeed with it, you can be purify the coal power station in Longyearbyen," Stoltenberg says.
Out of coal
The waves went high when Labor Crown Prince Jonas Gahr Støre said the Government Pension Fund – Global, also called the oil wealth fund, should pull out all investments in coal companies. Stoltenberg also went out and supported Støre.
There was no lack of people afterwards who would point out the hypocrisy in Norway having its own coal mines in Svalbard, but finding it ethically questionable to invest in other nations' coal mines.
"As I said, I see the dilemma," Stoltenberg says. "But coal has been important to maintaining Svalbard's society throughout history and it is a special community that is important for Norway in the High North strategy. The activity and the sovereignty, and there is a large majority in Parliament that wants to continue the mining activity. But it is then also important to invest in carbon capture and storage."
Q: What about Store Norske? How long can the state put money on the table if the company is taking a loss?
"We are concerned that Store Norske should operate profitably, but know that at times has it been hit by low coal prices. But it is not possible to understand Store Norske and mining on Svalbard without understanding the unique position of Svalbard in the north. The greater society must be willing to invest more in Svalbard than other places in Norway."
Q: Despite the fact that it does not pay?
"If we had applied the same profitability considerations for the reasons on the mainland, whether for research or mining, one would quickly come to the conclusion that one should not do anything on Svalbard. That is wrong."
In all of his answers, Stoltenberg must find balance. He is still the leader of the Labor Party, a party that has traditionally been strong in Svalbard in general and especially in the mines. He is also the UN special envoy for climate change and is now in the area of the globe that is perhaps experiencing the strongest climate change.
When he landed at the airport last week, he told Svalbardposten that the only Jens that did not come to Svalbard was the NATO Jens. But then he suddenly comes around at the table when we arrive at Svalbard's geopolitical role today.
"Svalbard is an example for the world as a peace archipelago," Stoltenberg says. "The archipelago is located in the middle of an area that has been affected by the Cold War, the deployment of nuclear weapons on submarines and East-West confrontation, but there has still always been a collaboration here. Svalbard is thus an example of countries that are in conflict with each other that can work together."
He points to a steaming fresh example.
"Although there is a conflict between Russia and Ukraine in the international arena, we manage to find good solutions and respect for each other on Svalbard," he says. "From what I understand is the Norwegian cooperation with the Russians and Ukrainians here are entirely unproblematic."
Q: Will you use the lessons learned from Svalbard in your new job as Secretary General of NATO?
"Svalbard is an area where we do not have activity, since it is a demilitarized zone that NATO respects. But I'm going to use Norway's cooperation with Russia in general, and especially Svalbard, as an example that there is a not contradiction between strength and firmness, and cooperation and dialogue. Sometimes it is said that one must choose between being clear and firm, or unclear and cooperative. I believe that is wrong. The Norwegian experience from the northern region and Svalbard is that the strength and safety of our membership in NATO is what has made it possible to enter into a dialogue with a large neighbor."
As examples, Stoltenberg points to research and energy cooperation, and management of fishery resources and the dividing line in the Barents Sea.
Wants China welcome
Q: In recent weeks there have been fears that China will buy Austre Adventfjord, a property that is opposite Longyearbyen. Can Chinese interest pose a threat to Norway?
"My expertise is too little in the matter to express myself. But in general I think we should welcome more that are interested. We must not think of international politics as a zero-sum game where one country's gain is the other country's loss. Norway's approach must be that it is possible to achieve a situation where everybody wins, everyone gets economic development and security."
Q: We must rid ourselves of enemy images, then?
"They belong to another time. Fortunately, there are many opportunities for win-win situations. The fact that China shows interest, we should wish them welcome, and at the same time be clear about the laws and rules, both domestically and internationally, applicable to Svalbard."