Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Korea

Arctic: Remarks by Commissioner Sinkevičius during following the adoption of the new Arctic Policy

Brussels, 13/10/2021 - 19:23, UNIQUE ID: 211013_22

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Hello everyone,

The European Union engagement in the Arctic is not a matter of convenience or the way to prove our importance in geopolitical field.

It is a necessity. First of all, because the Arctic is home for hundreds of thousands of Europeans. Secondly, environment crisis and climate change already showed us that what happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic. Similarly, global actions and demand patterns do not stay out of the region. Geopolitical competition is growing and the balance in the Arctic has been lost in climate field. We have to bring this balance back.

This is the reason why today we adopted the new Joint Communication for a stronger EU engagement for a peaceful, sustainable and prosperous Arctic with the European Green Deal at its heart.

This is the make or break decade in the fight against the climate and biodiversity crises. Our generation has the unique and only opportunity to change the world and the Arctic is at the centre of this change.

The Arctic is warming up three times faster than the rest of the planet. Forest fires are becoming the norm in some parts of the region. Collapsing infrastructure led last summer to a huge oil slick. This must be fixed and the reason is simple: the melting of ice and thawing of permafrost in the Arctic further accelerate climate change and have huge knock-on effects, felt by Europeans and throughout the world. The EU is ready to lead by example.

We are proposing to act against major sources of pollution affecting the Arctic regions in the air, on land and at sea, such as plastics and marine litter, black carbon, chemicals, and transport emissions as well as unsustainable exploitation of natural resources. We are launching a call for oil, gas and coal to stay in the ground, including in the Arctic, and will seek for an international agreement on a moratorium.

We will lead the drive for Zero Emission and Zero Pollution shipping in the Arctic Ocean. We will also continue to use our substantial research budget and expertise in Earth observation to better understand and counter the effects of climate change. We want to stimulate a robust green transition so that Arctic regions can showcase future-compatible job creation in sectors including carbon-neutral energy and sustainable approaches to connectivity, tourism, and innovation.

In this context, it is important to note that the eight Arctic States are potentially significant suppliers of raw materials, and there are already mineral extraction activities in the European Arctic. These activities can be an important economic driver for the Arctic countries while also ensure a sustainable and secure supply of critical raw materials for EU industry.

Of course, in the pristine Arctic environment we should only do this with full respect to environment management, biodiversity protection, and involvement of local and indigenous communities of the Arctic region. Thus together with global partners we must set the highest standards for reducing the environmental impact of processes for exploitation and processing.

Dear all, temperature is rising in the Arctic. And not only because of the climate change.

Intensified interest in Arctic resources and transport routes could transform the region into an arena of local and geopolitical competition. We can not be sure that it will always be in line with the EU’s interests. In our vision, the Arctic must remain a region of low tension and peaceful multilateral cooperation. We are ready to increase our geopolitical role in the Arctic.

We aim to mainstream Arctic matters in our diplomacy and enhance our work in Arctic regional fora. We will open a Commission Office in Greenland, strengthening and deepening of the partnership between the European Commission and the Government of Greenland, including through cooperation and dialogue in areas of common interest.

We will enhance our strategic foresight, especially regarding the links between climate change and security. We will look to extend our Civil Protection capacities in the Arctic and offer new services from our world-leading Copernicus and Galileo satellite systems, to help environmental monitoring, maritime safety and search and rescue.

In this, it will be important to work together with all Arctic partners in Europe, with the US and Canada, and with other partners involved in Arctic affairs.

In the entire climate change or geopolitical action local and indigenous people are at the center of our efforts. There are many Europeans among them and we will support an inclusive and sustainable development of the Arctic to the benefit of them and future generations. We will be stimulating better education, sustainable growth and jobs.

We aim to increase the involvement of young, women and Indigenous Peoples in Arctic decision-making. We seek to boost digital connectivity through EU space programmes and the Connecting Europe Facility and support technologies and solutions for the green transition, including through the EU Recovery Plan.

The EU is in the Arctic. We have strategic and day-to-day interests, both in the European Arctic and the broader Arctic region. By this strategy, the EU aims to promote sound environmental management, biodiversity protection and efficient energy use, support climate change mitigation and adaptation, and contribute to the resilience of the people in the face of climate change effects.