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PolarRES at the EU Arctic Forum

16 May 2024

The EU Arctic Forum and Indigenous Peoples’ Dialogue took place on 14-15th May 2024 in Brussels. The event was jointly organised by the European Commission and the European External Action Service. PolarRES was showcased at the event as part of the EU Polar Cluster, a network of collaborative Polar projects which are funded by the European Commission.

The EU Polar Cluster booth, featuring PolarRES, at the EU Arctic forum

The Arctic Forum focused on several policy aspects of the Arctic Region – from the overall historical and current importance of international cooperation in the region, through ecosystem threats, to business and research in the Arctic. 

During sessions, several key points were highlighted by the speakers.

Rolf Rodven from the Arctic Council discussed the rapid impact of climate change on Arctic ecosystems, emphasizing that the region is experiencing changes at a rate three to four times faster than the global average. He pointed out the loss of ice cover, increasing temperatures, and the need for collaborative efforts through platforms like the Arctic Council. Rodven also stressed the importance of science diplomacy in building trust and dialogue among stakeholders. He called for continued joint efforts and for the EU to take a leading role in international regulations concerning contaminants and chemicals.

Speakers addressed the question of whether business growth and environmental protection can coexist. He argued that they can, but it requires sustainable practices in business operations. Gregersen highlighted the adaptability of Arctic communities to environmental changes and suggested that the EU should recognize this by supporting market access for Arctic products, such as seafood and seaweed. He also noted the potential of seaweed to replace proteins and plastics in packaging, aligning with sustainable goals. Florika Fink-Hooijer, Director-General for Environment at the European Commission, outlined the EU’s environmental policy direction, focusing on actions like the Emissions Reduction Directive and efforts to reduce plastic usage.

The ‘Thriving Arctic Ecosystems’ panel explored overcoming the climate change challenges threatening the Arctic

Nicole Biebow, European Polar Board Chair, underlined the necessity to reinforce collaboration between researchers, civil society, businesses, citizens and indigenous communities.

The sessions also highlighted the urgent need for sustainable practices, international cooperation, and market-driven demand to foster thriving Arctic ecosystems while addressing economic and environmental concerns. 

In addition, the event sessions touched upon scientific cooperation supporting activities in the Arctic, which are needed and instrumental to understand climate change globally. The EU’s contribution to science and research in and for the Arctic amounts to €380 million for the Horizon Europe programme. Discussions focused on how to further strengthen the EU’s research efforts and how to make EU’s research more participatory, including engaging local communities.

Charlena Vitcheva, Director-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries at the EC, concluded the sessions by underlining the high relevance of the discussed topics to the EU Arctic policies and the lives of those living in the Arctic Regions. She reiterated that Arctic cooperation is much more multi-faceted than just the EU perspective and that the biggest challenge of cooperation is finding a response to climate change. Comprehensive research is vital to the mitigation and management of this crisis and the EU’s response, so that we can strive to sustain the Arctic ecosystem. 

PolarRES was featured as a Horizon 2020 project at the EU Polar Cluster Booth at the event. Participants were able to scan a QR code and access the Polar Panorama website to leave their impressions of the Arctic Regions.

The PolarRES banner displayed at the EU Polar Cluster booth