Institute for Environmental Security
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The Arctic Calling
Workshop ?Europe?s Arctic Course - The Future of Space Cooperation in the Arctic Region' 8 December 2010, European Space Agency, Paris
14 December 2010
On 8 December 2010 the Institute for Environmental Security, in collaboration with the European Space Agency, organised a workshop on ?Europe?s Arctic Course - The Future of Space Cooperation in the Arctic Region' at the European Space Agency headquarters in Paris.
With more than 45 experts from 12 countries attending the workshop, the event aimed to promote the dialogue on environmental security in the Arctic region. Challenges and opportunities were chosen to be approached from two perspectives: the environment and climate change issues on one hand, the support for increased human activity in the Arctic region on the other hand.
Experts highlighted the global significance of the Arctic region. With temperature increases twice as large as the global average, the high Arctic is an early warning region for climate change. Economically, the Arctic is a gold mine. It is believed to hold between 20-30% of the world?s undiscovered oil and gas resources and it contains high quantities of minerals and marine resources.
The workshop also brought out EU?s interests in the Arctic. Arctic challenges and opportunities will have significant repercussions on the life of European citizens for generations to come. Stewart Arnold, policy officer in the office of Diana Wallis, MEP explained that the European Parliament report on ? A Sustainable EU Policy for the High North? will likely be submitted to a vote in plenary at the beginning of 2011. Interest from MEPs for the Arctic has grown over the months, Arnold said, and some of their views reflected in the report relate to issues such as oil drilling, governance structures, demilitarisation, access to information and the needs for safety for European shipping and tourist industries.
While speaking about the ecological implications of human activities in the Arctic, Sandra Cavalieri, Fellow at the Ecologic Institute presented the conclusions of the report ?EU Arctic Footprint and Policy Assessment.? The report finds that the European continent is responsible for 59% of black carbon emissions and that the EU itself emits 30% of heavy metals and 40% of acidifying gases found in the Arctic.
In terms of commercial exploitation of the Arctic, The EU itself currently imports 39% of its fish from Arctic countries and owns 60% of the Arctic infrastructure-intensive industries. Huge economic interests are at stake and the impact of climate change on the melting of ice will enhance the opportunities for the exploitation of Arctic natural resources. Therefore, the important question arises: is it possible to achieve a sustainable development of the region?
Finally, It was recognised that the recourse to space systems combining earth observation, navigation and positioning and telecommunications capabilites can contribute to prevent and mitigate several hazards and areas of concern including: sea ice conditions, icebergs movements, hurricanes, permafrost melting, chemical pollution and oil spills and ocean productivity variations. The keywords in this respect are: monitor, report, guide and remedy as enumerated by a participant.
As for the way forward, Professor Paul Arthur Berkman of the Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge noted that promoting cooperation and preventing the outbreak of conflicts would necessarily require the establishment of the right balance between national and common interests in the Arctic. The workshop brought to light the need to bridge the existing gaps regarding information and communications in the Arctic. The deployment of space missions above the Arctic for climate change monitoring, communications and safety requirements was strongly advocated by users attending the meeting.