How has Antarctica changed

Schulze: The Arctic is changing dramatically - and not just due to climate change

The Federal Government today adopted the "Guidelines for German Arctic Policy", in which it pledges to work towards consistent climate, environmental and nature protection in this particularly sensitive region. For example, shipping in the Arctic, which contributes to the accelerated melting of the sea ice with its soot deposits on the ice, should become more environmentally friendly, and raw materials should only be extracted under the highest environmental standards. The commitment to the designation of protected areas and quiet zones to preserve the unique Arctic biodiversity and special areas with stricter rules for the discharge of wastewater and waste or for the reduction of sulfur and nitrogen oxides are thus anchored as a common concern of the Federal Government. For sustainable development in the Arctic, the precautionary and polluter pays principle form the basis of all environmental and economic action. The Federal Foreign Office is in charge of the guidelines.

Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze: "The Arctic is warming up rapidly, the warning signals are red. The protection of this unique ecosystem and habitat is the guideline and priority of our Arctic policy - this is what the Federal Government stands for with these guidelines."

Although Germany is over 2,000 kilometers from the Arctic, its warming affects the climate and weather conditions here and around the world. The Arctic is currently warming about twice as fast as the rest of the world. The consequences are as extensive as they are dramatic. Glaciers are melting, the sea ice cover is shrinking, and sea levels are rising. Where less ice reflects the sun, temperatures continue to rise; thawing soils, which release greenhouse gases, reinforce the trend.

Desires are also growing with the changes in the Arctic, because: Shipping routes are getting shorter, raw material deposits that were previously inaccessible are becoming accessible and fishing can be expanded. However, many developments and connections to the effects of human activity have not yet been researched. However, possible pollution or damage to the Arctic environment must be examined particularly carefully in advance and avoided or reduced. That is why experts from the Federal Environment Agency, the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation and other German institutions support the neighboring countries with their expertise in the working groups of the Arctic Council, the body of the Arctic states that also monitors conflict-free international cooperation.

Up to four million people live in the area around the North Pole today, around 10 percent of whom belong to the various groups of indigenous peoples. Some of them still maintain a traditional way of life in harmony with nature and its barren conditions. Above all, however, the increasing economic exploitation by both countries bordering and non-bordering the Arctic harbors dangers for the environment and the people living there. Habitats and animals like the polar bear are in danger. In addition, there is air and marine pollution with global causes and effects and the exploration of raw materials such as crude oil and natural gas.

The guidelines adopted by the Federal Government today do not have any direct legally binding effect, but they determine the direction of German Arctic policy in various international negotiation forums, primarily as an observer in the Arctic Council and its working groups. The guidelines also provide a clear orientation for future research activities with German participation and for economic activities of German companies in the Arctic.