27.04.2016 [News]

EU launches a new integrated policy for the Arctic

The Arctic is both a frontier and gateway to Europe and one which is threatened by climate change. Its Oceans, ecosystems and bio-diversity have a huge impact on our own.

Wednesday 27 April saw the EU unveil an integrated Arctic policy which will focus on climate change and environmental protection, sustainable development and international cooperation. EU High Representative Federica Mogherini joined climate Commissioner Karmenu Vella to launch the new initiative.

Mogherini explained that EU policy was based on three pillars; firstly the need to fight climate change and protect the environment; secondly to have sustainable economic development with a social dimension which protects the Arctic's 4 million inhabitants and thirdly to build on and increase international cooperation. Mogherini said that EU's new policy included environmental, maritime, scientific and technological elements.

At the launch of the policy Mogherini stressed the international dimension: 'The Arctic is also crucial in terms of our foreign and security policy as the only place in the world were three continents meet, where the major players like the US, Canada and Russia meet and where several EU members and non-EU members meet.'

In recent years, the Arctic's role in climate change has become much more prominent with far-reaching consequences as the region acts as a regulator of the Earth’s climate, including the weather patterns in Europe. In past decades, the Arctic has been warming at almost twice the global average rate. Scientists have pointed out that the Arctic also contributes to climate change, due to the gradual release of methane gases as the region warms up. In turn, the climatic changes in the Arctic drive increasing economic activity in the region.

In her remarks Federica Mogherini pointed out that EU had played a crucial role in the recent Paris international agreement on climate change signed last Friday. EU Commissioner for Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, Karmenu Vella said that 'we impact on the Arctic and the Arctic impacts on us. Global weather patterns, our oceans, ecosystems and local biodiversity – the Arctic influences them all. While increasing human development is inevitable, it is in our hands to do it in a sustainable way.'

The Joint Communication takes into account existing EU legislation and builds on and complements the Arctic policies of EU countries. The proposed actions will now be discussed with the EU Member States in the Council and the European Parliament.

Source and further information: EEAS