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Germany is taking on more responsibility for the Arctic

A small iceberg in Sirmilik National Park in Pond Inlet/Canada

The temperatures in the Arctic are currently rising around twice as rapidly as elsewhere in the world., © Thomas Imo/photothek.net

21.08.2019 - Article

German Government adopts its Arctic policy guidelines and is campaigning internationally for a peaceful and responsible use of the Arctic.

The Arctic is becoming an ever more important region in international politics. What is more, the melting of the Arctic sea ice is making possible the extraction of raw materials, more fishing and the navigation of Arctic shipping routes. Many states have an interest in this, and coordination and cooperation are essential.

Today the German Government, under the auspices of the Federal Foreign Office, adopted new interministerial Arctic policy guidelines in the Cabinet. They determine the direction of German Arctic policy in various international negotiating platforms. The guidelines offer clear orientation for future research activities with German involvement and for economic activities by German companies in the Arctic.

A glacier in Sirmilik National Park/Canada
“Where there used to be ice, there are now stones and water.”© Thomas Imo/photothek.net

The aims of German Arctic policy at a glance:

  • Germany wants to work towards worldwide climate and environmental protection in line with the Paris Climate Agreement.
  • The German Government is calling for the deployment of environmentally‑friendly technology as well as the application of the highest environmental standards and the designation of protected areas to preserve biodiversity in the Arctic.
  • The interests of the indigenous population as well as the safeguarding of their rights to freedom, good health and self‑determination in their habitat should be strengthened.
  • Germany is committed to free and responsible research in order to learn more about the Arctic.
  • For the future of the Arctic, close and rules-based cooperation with other countries within a strengthened international legal framework is necessary. Germany is therefore working in the Arctic Council as well as within the EU and NATO to protect the Arctic as a largely conflict-free region.

Key region for climate change

The worldwide impact of climate change is ever more tangible, also to people in Germany. Summer 2019 in Germany has again been marked by high temperatures, low precipitation and many forest fires. Seemingly far away, temperatures in the Arctic are currently rising around twice as rapidly as elsewhere in the world. We in Germany are noticing this in the form of extreme weather phenomena. Furthermore, ever greater portions of the still permanent ice are melting and this is leading to an ongoing rise in sea levels. By the end of this century, sea levels are expected to rise by up to one metre or possibly even more, which would also have serious consequences for Europe.

Due to its conditions and location, the Arctic is considered to be an early warning system for global warming and the consequences of climate change.

Foreign Minister Maas in the Arctic

During his trip to the Canadian Arctic from 14 to 15 August 2019, Heiko Maas was able to gain a first‑hand impression of the dramatic changes already being triggered by climate change:

In the Arctic, climate change is no longer a vision of the future. Rather, it has long since become reality. Where there used to be ice, there are now stones and water. Temperatures in the Arctic are currently rising around twice as rapidly as elsewhere in the world. The Arctic region is of increasing ecological, economic and geopolitical importance.

With its Arctic policy guidelines, the German Government is taking on more responsibility and setting out clear strategic goals. It is clear to Germany that we do not want any competition in the Arctic. Rather, we want to see greater international cooperation in order to protect this unique region. “We want to preserve the Arctic as a largely conflict‑free region and use the available resources responsibly”, said Maas.

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