The Arctic region is warming at a rate of almost twice the global average, resulting in profound and rapid changes in its living conditions and the environment. A European Environment Agency (EEA) report, published today, looks at how the rest of Europe affects the Arctic environment and how changes in the region impact Europe in return.
The Arctic environment is under considerable combined pressures from climate change, economic development, biodiversity decline, threat from invasive species and others drivers of change, according to the new EEA assessment “The Arctic environment — European perspectives on a changing Arctic“. These pressures have cumulative impacts especially on the region and its inhabitants but also on the rest of Europe and, due to the Arctic’s role in climate regulation and sea level rise, even globally.
Europe has contributed to the changes in the Arctic, the report states, but the European Union and its Member States can also play a positive role in several policy areas, including:
- mitigating impacts from climate change and long-range pollution;
- improving health and living standards in the region;
- improving the knowledge base in support of strengthening the region’s ecosystem resilience;
- reducing imports of natural resources from the region through a transition to a circular economy;
- advancing sustainable management of resources; and
- engaging actively on issues that require an international response.
The economic downturn and fluctuations in world commodity prices have led to a slowdown in investments in the Arctic, providing more time to build a better understanding of the complexity of the region’s ecosystem and also to develop cleaner technologies and put in place safety standards for long-term protection and prudent stewardship. The report stresses that this window of opportunity should be taken advantage of and that it is insufficient to merely focus efforts on documenting changes in the Arctic.
The new report — launched at ‘A sustainable Arctic: Innovative approaches’, a high-level event co-hosted by the European Commission, the European External Action Service and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland — is built on a large number of Arctic assessments, studies and indicators available to the EEA through the European Environment Information and Observation Network (Eionet) and our Arctic member countries, partners and networks.