European Union External Action

European Union External Action

EU Arctic policy

Joint Communication on an integrated EU policy for the Arctic, published by the European Commission and the High Representative on 27 April 2016

EU Arctic policy - an introduction




Understanding the science of climate change, helping to develop strategies to mitigate and adapt to climate change, and safeguarding the Arctic environment are part of the EU’s wider efforts in relation to the Arctic.

The EU is committed to contributing to sustainable development in a balanced and integrated manner.

The EU engages in multilateral, regional and sub-regional cooperation on Arctic matters. Many Arctic matters relate to the Arctic as well as to lower latitudes.

Find out more about the Arctic.

  • EDU-ARCTIC, Engaging students in STEM education through Arctic research

    EDU-ARCTIC focusses on using Arctic research as a vehicle to strengthen science education curricula all across Europe. It aims to encourage students aged 13 to 20 to pursue further education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), setting them on a path to perhaps one day work in one of these sectors.

    Read more
  • GRACE, Integrated oil spill response actions and environmental effects

    The project will focus on developing, comparing and evaluating the effectiveness and environmental effects of different oil spill response methods in a cold climate. In addition to this we will be developing a system for the real-time observation of underwater oil spills and a strategic tool for choosing oil spill response methods.

    Read more
  • EU-PolarNet, connecting science with society

    EU-PolarNet is the world’s largest consortium of expertise and infrastructure for polar research. From 2015-2020, EU-PolarNet will develop and deliver a strategic framework and mechanisms to prioritise science, optimise the use of polar infrastructure, and broker new partnerships that will lead to the co-design of polar research projects that deliver tangible benefits for society.

    Read more
  • INTERACT - International Network for Terrestrial Research and Monitoring in the Arctic

    The International Network for Terrestrial Research and Monitoring in the Arctic (INTERACT) aims to build capacity for identifying, understanding, predicting and responding to diverse environmental changes throughout the wide environmental and land-use envelopes of the Arctic. This is necessary because the Arctic is so vast and so sparsely populated that environmental observing capacity is limited compared to most other latitudes.

    Read more
  • ICE-ARC, Directly assessing the social and economic impact of Arctic sea-ice loss

    ICE-ARC will look into the current and future changes in Arctic sea ice – both from changing atmospheric and oceanic conditions. The project will also investigate the consequences of these changes both on the economics of the area and globally, and social aspects such as on indigenous peoples.

    Read more
Click on the project icons to get more information
Call for urgent global action to mitigate climate crisis - the external dimension of the European Green Deal

Climate change and environmental degradation are an existential threat to Europe and the world. Global climate action still falls short of what is required to achieve the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement and 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Worldwide, greenhouse gas emission reductions have been recorded due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, but this has not been enough to be considered sustainable.

EU foreign ministers discuss climate and energy: call for global phase-out of fossil fuels

The European Green Deal sets ambitious goals aiming to transform the EU into a climate-neutral, fair and prosperous society, with a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy. However, since the EU accounts for an 8%, and decreasing, share of global emissions, ambitious internal policy will not be enough. The Council calls for urgent, collective and decisive global action to hold the increase in the global average temperature to the Paris Agreement mitigation goal.

The Paris Agreement provides the indispensable multilateral framework governing global climate action. The EU welcomes the pledges made at the recent Climate Ambition Summit 2020 organised by the United Nations, France and the UK, in partnership with Italy and Chile, and calls on all countries to develop ambitious and detailed short and medium-term pathways, targets and policies that align with their long-term goals as a way of providing clear signals to citizens, political actors and businesses.

The EU urges all countries to also align their trade promotion, finance, aid and foreign investment strategies with their domestic climate pledges and Paris Agreement commitments, and to institute sustainable and climate sensitive economic recovery policies from the COVID-19 crisis.

The EU will work, as a matter of priority, with non-EU G20 and other major economies on climate change mitigation efforts. It stresses the need for ratification of the Paris Agreement by all who have not yet done so, and welcomes the declared intention of the new US Administration to re-join the Paris Agreement and looks forward to revitalising the EU-US Energy Council with an increased focus on energy transition and climate action.

The Council recognises that climate change and environmental degradation, including biodiversity and forest loss, are a threat to international stability and security, reinforcing disaster risks and pressures on ecosystems, posing challenges to food and water security, provoking local and regional conflicts while exacerbating the risk of the displacement of people, thereby constituting a major driver of humanitarian needs and threatening the effective enjoyment of human rights.

The EU will continue to support those most in need, seeking to limit and manage the risk of further loss and degradation through policy support, financing and an exchange of best practices, promoting, among others, nature based solutions. The EU welcomes, in this regard, the 2021 Climate Adaptation Summit that is currently taking place, hosted by the Netherlands. EU and Member States will work with partners, including the UN, to develop conflict prevention measures, such as early warning systems and support relevant international instruments, such as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

The Council emphasises the importance environmental issues and climate change have for security and defence, and welcomes the Climate Change and Defence Roadmap: EU Actions addressing the links between climate change and defence, including in the context of the Common Security and Defence Policy, contributing to the wider climate and security nexus.

The transition of the energy sector, responsible for over two-thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions, is central to the path towards climate neutrality. EU energy diplomacy will aim – as its primary goal – to accelerate the global energy transition, while ensuring affordability, safeguarding the environment and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. To this end, in view of the need for a rapid shift toward climate neutrality, EU energy diplomacy will promote energy efficiency, the deployment of safe and sustainable low-carbon technologies, the increasing uptake and system integration – including through increased interconnections – of renewable energy, and the highest environmental, nuclear safety and transparency standards.

The EU will ensure that its trade policy and its trade agreements are consistent with its climate ambition. The Council acknowledges that the Commission has proposed, with the European Green Deal Communication of December 2019, to make the respect of the Paris Agreement an essential element for all future comprehensive trade agreements. The Council welcomes the initiative of the Commission in the WTO context to ensure multilateral trade rules support the global transition towards a climate neutral and resilient economy.

Investment into fossil fuel based energy infrastructure projects in third countries will be discouraged, unless fully consistent with an ambitious, clearly defined pathway towards climate neutrality in line with the long-term objectives of the Paris Agreement and best available science. The EU also calls for a global phase-out of environmentally harmful fossil-fuel subsidies including a phasing out of unabated coal in energy production and – as a first step – an immediate end to all financing of new coal infrastructure. The EU will support international efforts to reduce the environmental and greenhouse gas impact of existing fossil fuel infrastructure, including non-CO2 emissions, such as black carbon. In this context, the Council underlines the need to mitigate the impact of climate change in the Arctic region, which is particularly affected. In addition, the EU will pursue, as a priority, international initiatives on reductions of methane emissions.

EU diplomacy will scale up efforts to counter disinformation campaigns against the energy transition, within the EU and globally. The EU and its Member States will continue to support the uptake of the EU’s energy acquis, rules and standards, as well as further energy market integration and interconnectivity in line with the European Green Deal, particularly within the EU’s neighbourhood, including the Eastern Mediterranean. The EU will support the ambitions and efforts of countries in the Southern Neighbourhood, Western Balkans and the Eastern Partnership in tackling environmental, climate and energy challenges.

The EU will continue to address energy poverty, building, where possible, on the Team Europe approach. As a priority action, the EU will work with African partners in accordance with the Joint Communication “Towards a comprehensive Strategy with Africa” and develop a strategic and coordinated approach on the energy partnership with Africa, launching an African Union-EU Green Energy Initiative, which should support universal sustainable energy access ambition for Africa; as well as launching the “NaturAfrica” initiative to promote nature conservation, boost job opportunities and help tackle the illegal exploitation of natural resources and biodiversity loss in Africa.

The EU also underlines the importance of enhancing the voice and participation of young generations on policy and practice related to climate, energy and the environment, welcoming the “Youth4Climate: driving ambition” event to be hosted by Italy in September 2021.

The Council invites the High Representative and the Commission to reinforce further the external dimension of the European Green Deal, to make appropriate capacity available, and to strengthen – together with the Member States – coordination and information exchange through, among others, the EU Green Diplomacy Network and the Energy Diplomacy Expert Group. In the run-up to COP 26, EU Delegations and Member States’ Embassies shall increase their outreach and cooperation in a TEAM Europe approach, further projecting the EU’s commitment and leadership in this field.

All actions count, big or small: EU supports climate initiatives worldwide

From the annual global #EUBeachCleanUp, the #BeTheWave campaign that was launched last year, and joining initiatives to #MoveTheDate of Earth Overshoot Day, amongst many more, to funding projects for the mitigation of climate change, the EU is there to support climate action around the world. The stories below are testimony to this, but only reflect a very small window of the bigger picture of what the EU is doing. Although every action matters, the EU Green Deal aims to trigger more and more ambitious and concrete stories of global climate action to achieve the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement.

- Growing onions in the sand of Mauritius

Belle Mare is a small village situated on the eastern coastal side of the island of Mauritius. Residents are mainly small planters highly vulnerable to a high incidence of pests and disease due to climatic conditions such as high temperature and humidity, and climate extremes, such as drought and high-intensity rainfall.

© GCCA+/EU 2020. Photos by Diksh Potter

Fifteen small planters were selected and are beneficiaries of a project for the transformation of Belle Mare into a Climate-Smart Agriculture village, supported by the EU-funded Global Climate Change Alliance Plus (GCCA+). Each of them received water tanks, sprayers for biopesticides and tillers. The final goal is to set a trend to promote sustainable livelihood, enhancing national food security in a productive, climate-resilient, environment-friendly way that produces lower levels of greenhouse gas emissions. Read the full story.

- Beekeeping to preserve wildlife in Tanzania

Across Tanzania’s Tarangire-Manyara ecosystem, more than 1,350 environmentally friendly beehives – hanging from giant baobab and acacia trees – represent much more than meets the eye. Installed by members of Tanzania People & Wildlife’s Women’s Beekeeping Initiative, these environmentally friendly hives help to preserve habitats for big cats and other wildlife while generating a sustainable revenue stream for rural women. This project is a part of the EU-funded 'IUCN Save Our Species' African Wildlife initiative. Read the full story.

- Promoting sustainable landscape management in the Ecuadorian Andes

Imbabura, Pichincha, Cotopaxi and Bolívar are four provinces of the Ecuadorian Andes where agriculture generates around 26% of employment and represents more than 20% of the income of its inhabitants.

This is the scenario where the project "Andean Landscapes: Promoting the integrated management of landscapes for sustainable livelihoods in the Ecuadorian Andes" is implemented, seeking to improve the quality of life of the páramo communities, and responsibly manage the areas to avoid degradation of land and water sources. The project is part of a broader EU thematic program at global level for the environment and climate change. EU action for sustainable landscape management is linked to the Global Climate Change Alliance + GCCA + initiative that seeks to help developing countries face this challenge. Read the full story.

- First solar park project in Trinidad and Tobago kicks off

The EU, through the GCCA+ initiative, has funded the development of the first solar park in Trinidad and Tobago. The park is located at the North Terminal, Piarco International Airport and will be implemented by the Airports Authority of Trinidad and Tobago. The project celebrated its maiden milestone recently when the EU Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago, Aad Biesebroek, joined the Chairman and the General Manager of the Airports Authority in a tree replanting ceremony. Read the full story.

- Climate-smart agriculture reaps further income and productivity for Georgian farmers

“The times are really hard: due to the pandemic, I had challenges with selling my harvest this year. However, with the installed drip irrigation system, I was able to harvest and sell my melons even after all the other melon plots in the community ran out of produce,” stated Lali Sikhashvili, one of 700 farmers from all over Georgia who participated in training programmes organized by FAO in 2020 with the support of the European Union. Read the full story.

- Tateh, building homes from plastic in the Hamada

Ever imagined that the plastic bottle you've just disposed of could be someone's home...?

At 28, Tateh Lahbib Braïka is the designer and builder of a new concept of ecological construction, that is both resistant and inexpensive, thanks to plastic bottles. Tateh was raised in the Aousserd camp where he was nicknamed "bottle-crazy" by the other refugees. “My neighbors were amazed to see me rummaging through the trash cans to retrieve the bottles,” he says wryly. Like the vast majority of Sahrawi children, Tateh's school career began in the camps and continued in Algeria. He obtained a license in Renewable Energies from the University in Msila, and eventually he joined an Erasmus program, where he studied energy efficiency at the University of Las Palmas in the Canary Islands. Read the full story.

EU Arctic Forum 2019
EU in the Arctic: fighting climate change and working for sustainable development on Earth’s last frontier


The Arctic, our planet´s icy last frontier for millennia, has recently become a hot spot in every possible way. Representing 6% of the planet’s surface, eight Arctic states -Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States- share an immense territory that is now at the centre of the geopolitical chessboard due to its economic potential and strategic importance. However, the Arctic is at the same time a fragile environment: home to over four million people –including 700.000 EU citizens and over 40 different indigenous ethnic groups-, it is warming at almost twice the global average rate, while its summer sea ice has decreased by more than 40% since 1979. 

Concerned about this delicate scenario, the European Union is leading efforts to keep a safe, stable, sustainable and prosperous Arctic. The integrated EU policy for the Arctic focuses on three main priorities: advancing international cooperation in responding to the impacts of climate change and on promoting and contributing to sustainable development in the region. 

“The Arctic is often not well understood. The image that comes to people´s minds is a polar bear on melting ice. What does not quickly come to mind is that you have vibrant cities and communities, industrial parks, universities…Therefore, saying that no economic development can take place in the Arctic is not an option. But we promote a sustainable development”, said the EU Ambassador at Large for the Arctic, Marie-Anne Coninsx, in a recent interview. 

Yet beyond the abstract concepts, how does the EU Arctic policy look like on the ground? The EU Arctic Forum, taking place in Umeå (Sweden) on 3-4 October, offers a good opportunity to assess the recent developments and the challenges ahead. From trailblazing scientific research and Green Energy initiatives to Connectivity, support to Arctic SMEs and applied EU Space policies, dozens of EU-funded projects focusing on a wide range of issues are currently operating in the region. Here are five of the most representative examples of what the EU is doing in the remotest place on Earth.

Nunataryuk: tackling Arctic’s permafrost thawing

The Arctic’s permafrost coasts make up 34% of the world's coasts. However, this permanently frozen submarine ground is warming up much faster than expected, with worrying consequences for our planet. As permafrost thaws, it is reshaping the Arctic landscape, affecting to local communities whose livelihood depends on marine resources, and releasing carbon gases that fuel global warming. 

EU Horizon 2020-funded Nunataryuk project –a word meaning “land to sea” in Inuvialuktun, a native language from northwestern Canada- has brought together high-ranking European and international specialists of the Arctic coast to find a solution to this pressing challenge. Their main goal: to determine the impacts of thawing permafrost on the global climate and local population and develop targeted and co-designed adaptation and mitigation strategies.

Nunataryuk is part of the EU Arctic Cluster, a network of Horizon 2020-funded projects that currently involves 11 research initiatives addressing a broad spectrum of climate change mitigation and adaptation issues.

Copernicus satellites to help Lapland’s reindeer herders

The European Commission's Earth Observation Program satellites have many applications, including some that are helping to maintain Arctic’s sustainable ways of life. Arctic indigenous peoples have practiced reindeer herding for thousands of years. Every spring and autumn, reindeer herders migrate with their animals hundreds of kilometres between their summer and winter pastures. However, climate change is turning the spring melt even less predictable, making it more difficult for them to find potential migration routes and areas where snow cover has already disappeared. Copernicus satellites currently provide reindeer herders with daily satellite-based snow cover maps that help them deepening their understanding of the changing Arctic. 

At the same time, the EU is funding regional projects focused on Internet of Things (IoT)-based solutions to track reindeer herds, which have traditionally roamed freely the tundra and forests. Thanks to wireless collars wore by the animals, their owners can monitor their location and well-being in real-time.

Map of the Arctic region showing shipping routes Northeast Passage, Northern Sea Route, and Northwest Passage,

The Arctic region and its shipping routes. Source: Arctic Council.

RemoAge: supporting older people living in remote Arctic areas

Elderly people aging in remote and sparsely populated areas in European Arctic regions face two challenges: long distances and limited resources. To tackle these obstacles, the EU-funded RemoAge project is supporting them with service packages that include family carers, healthcare staff and digital solutions offering direct, personalized assistance in their daily life. 

The programme, set up in collaboration between partners from Sweden, Norway, mainland Scotland, the Western Isles, the Shetland Islands, Faroe Islands and Northern Ireland, is specifically targeted to frail older people, including those with dementia. RemoAge is one among the over 100 projects included in the Northern Periphery and Arctic 2014-2020 programme, supported by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). 

Supporting Arctic SMEs to thrive in a complicated environment

Being an entrepreneur in an extreme environment like the Arctic can be challenging. This is why the European Union funds several projects helping Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to develop and expand their business activities. 

One of them is Northern Cereals – New Markets for a Changing Environment (CEREAL), a transnational cooperation project aiming to help farmers in remote regions to better adjust to climate change and increase sustainability to boost local cereal production. Warmer growing conditions, improved varieties and technologies, and growing concerns about sustainability are creating new opportunities for a greater cereal production in northern areas. Knowledge transfer among the partners -coming from Iceland, Northern Norway, Faroe Islands, Scotland and Canada- is crucial for a project that has already contributed to increase the numbers of farmers producing high-value cereal products in these regions, thus boosting local employment, incomes and consumer choice in rural areas.

Another example of a project supporting Arctic local economies is ARCTISEN -‘Culturally Sensitive Tourism in the Arctic’-, an EU-funded initiative that supports start-ups and SMEs offering innovative tourism products and services. Its main goal is to expand tourist interest in the Arctic, which will bring “unforeseen opportunities to maintain local livelihoods and lifestyles”.

Gender-aware-business support is another priority of the EU Arctic policy. The W-Power project, also part of the Northern Periphery and Arctic programme, counts with €1.3 million to support new women-led starts-ups across the Nordic and Arctic region.

EU-funded Circular Ocean project, plastic fishing nets and ropes

Plastic fishing nets stranded in the rock in Norway. Source: Circular Ocean.

Using plastic marine waste to develop smart ‘green’ industries

Declining Arctic traditional fishing communities are facing a threat to their way of life and beautiful wildlife: plastic fishing litter reaching their coastlines in ever-increasing quantities. What could be done? The EU-funded Circular Ocean project has come up with a solution: using these old plastic fishing nets and ropes, which represent 10% of marine waste, to develop smart ‘green’ industries. This waste is a potential resource for many industries, as it can be incorporated into different products, from clothing to skateboards.

The project, funded by the European Regional Development Fund, is contributing this way to clean up the environment and recycling marine waste while breathing new life into these remote Arctic economies.

1st Arctic Stakeholder Conference and Annual Arctic Indigenous Peoples Dialogue – Brussels, 17 September 2018
Arctic - Research and Innovation

The European Commission Directorate General for Research and Innovation (DG RTD) has elaborated a booklet which outlines key aspects of ongoing EU-funded Arctic research and innovation.

In their foreword to the booklet, HR/VP Mogherini and Commissioner Moedas stress a.o. that understanding and responding to Arctic changes requires joint efforts by the global community.

A safe, stable, sustainable and prosperous Arctic is important not just for the region itself, but for the European Union and for the world. The Arctic can be a gateway to cooperation across many issues and partners. The EU actively supports endeavours undertaken in that spirit, which is the basis of the EU’s Arctic policy. Secondly, we need to increase our knowledge of Arctic changes.

Investigations into the causes, mechanisms, consequences and evolution over time are the main subjects of Arctic research. Consequently, over the last decade, the EU has increased its investments in Arctic research and innovation, resulting in a EUR 70-million budget for the period 2018-2020.

Vellykket besøk fra Europaparlamentet

Europaparlamentarikerne begynte Norgesbesøket i Oslo, hvor de møtte utenriksminister Ine Marie Eriksen Søreide og forsvarsminister Frank Bakke-Jensen, Etterretningstjenesten, ledende Stortingspolitikere og forskere fra NUPI og Forsvarets forskningsinstitutt.


Fra Oslo gikk reisen videre til Bodø, hvor delegasjonen møtte representanter fra Forsvarets operative hovedkvarter, Luftforsvarsbasen og Hovedredningssentralen i Nord-Norge. Her lærte deltakerne mer om hvordan nordområdene er blitt en stadig mer sentral del av norsk sikkerhets- og forsvarsinnsats.


I Tromsø møtte delegasjonen Arktisk råd, Kystvakten og Norsk Polarinstitutt.


Siste stopp på besøket var Longeyarbyen. Her møtte representantene først assisterende sysselmann for å diskutere Norges forvaltning av området, før de tok turen innom Universitetssenteret på Svalbard. Turen ble avsluttet med en utflukt om bord på Norges nye forskningsfartøy Kronprins Haakon, hvor delegasjonen fikk se og oppleve effektene av klimaendringer i nord på nært hold, samt et besøk til Svalbard satelittstasjon.