I attended yesterday an extremely interesting conference on Arctic Science International Law and climate change.
We know that the planet is now over heated, but the Arctic is burning. Here the temperature increased twice as much as on the rest of the planet.
Reduced sea ice is very likely to increase fisheries exploitation, oil and gas drilling and emissions from marine transport: these opportunities make the Arctic the “new frontier” in economic and political terms. But the impact of such increase on the ecosystem can be enormous and disastrous.
There, we will be faced again with the enduring dichotomy between economic opportunities and environmental risks, a modern version of the dilemma of ancient Greek tragedies: Man against Nature. And we already know the winner.
The Arctic will test our ability to work together and our willingness to put environmental protection, sustainability and public safety first.
We want to contribute to preserving the Arctic region, in unison with the people of the Arctic, whose way of life, heritage and livelihoods are at stake. We want to make sure Arctic resources are managed without putting environment at risk. And we believe that we can achieve these only through enhanced international cooperation in the Arctic Region.
While recognising the leading role of the Arctic states in the sustainable development of the Arctic region, the EU can make a valuable contribution. Over many years the EU has been the largest contributor to Arctic research, having spent more than € 200 million during the last decade.
We are aware of our share of responsibility: for instance, 24 % of mercury depositions and 42% of sulphur dioxide emissions to the Arctic come from the Union! The Commission will support screening and monitoring of chemicals in the Arctic and step up efforts to reduce pollution of the area.
We want the EU to get a permanent observer status to the Arctic Council. This would send a positive signal to EU investors and researchers, for foreign investments and concerted research efforts are needed to let the region develop sustainably and in the interest of the Arctic people.