The Arctic and Climate change

The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world. This page contains details of specific policies, partnerships and documents related to the Arctic

The Arctic & Climate change

Climate change is warming up the Arctic twice as fast as the rest of the world. Greenland glaciers are now releasing hundreds of gigatonnes of melted ice into the oceans each year. Such change will affect the EU - and the rest of the planet - through:

  • rising sea levels
  • changing weather patterns
  • a higher incidence of extreme weather events

However, what was formerly a vast and icy wilderness, home only to people who have adapted over centuries to this hostile environment, may soon become an area for thriving economic activities.

Melting sea ice and glaciers mean that oil, gas, rare earths and other raw materials are becoming easier to access, while the ice-free ocean offers new fishing grounds and a shorter shipping route between Europe and Asia. These new economic factors cannot be ignored.


Arctic: a test bed for sustainable innovation

The EU has an important role to play in helping to meet the region's challenges. Some €200 m was spent on Arctic research projects under the 7th EU Funding Programme for research and innovation which ran from 2007 – 2013. Horizon 2020, the current EU funding programme is pursuing this effort under the Blue Growth Focus Area.

The Arctic is a very fragile environmental and social ecosystem. Sustainable innovation implies taking the needs of indigenous communities into consideration, making use of traditional knowledge and involving groups that have a direct interest.

EU policy on the Arctic, based on a "green growth" approach, involves:

Supporting research and channelling knowledge
to tackle environmental and climate change in the Arctic. We need a better understanding of the region's role in the global system if we are to forecast the weather and climate change reliably - essential when managing risks to European infrastructure and farming.

Sustainable resource use
Ensuring economic development in the Arctic is based on sustainable resource use and environmental expertise. Runaway climate change there could upset the balance worldwide.

Stepping up EU engagement
and dialogue with Arctic countries, indigenous peoples and other partners.

Arctic research needs expensive infrastructure and observation systems that call for international cooperation. To better understand the interplay of the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans - particularly as regards climate change - the Galway statement established the Transatlantic Ocean Research Alliance between the EU, the USA and Canada.

The EU-PolarNet, a Horizon 2020 consortium that started work in March 2015, represents a key contribution. For the first time, an integrated EU polar research programme is to be developed on the basis of input from all interest groups and international partners.

It will:

  • provide a strategic framework & mechanisms to make best use of polar infrastructure
  • pave the way for new partnerships leading to the co-design of polar research projects with real social benefits