In 2013, the Federal Government adopted Guidelines for the German Arctic Policy. Integrated in the wider context of EU Arctic Policy, a common understanding of Germany's Arctic goals has been developed for the first time.
Interest in the Arctic is growing, particularly from a geopolitical, geo-economic and geo-ecological perspective. Climate change, as a result of greenhouse gas emissions that humans have caused, has led to the rapid warming and melting of ice in the Arctic. Areas in the north polar region with raw material potential are becoming more and more accessible for commercial exploitation and development. These great economic opportunities bring with them high risks for the Arctic ecosystem.
Arctic raw material sources
Countries bordering the Arctic and the other members of the Arctic Council have an important political role to play. The Federal Government intends to place a greater focus on the Arctic region in German policy-making, taking into account the special characteristics of the region such as its ecological sensitivity and the interests of its indigenous people. Germany can in turn also provide the Arctic region with support in the form of expert knowledge in research and highly developed technology and with regards to environmental standards and sustainable economic development. Maintaining the Arctic Region's unique environment and habitats, conserving its biodiversity and establishing protected areas are all high on Federal Government's agenda. The government recognises the importance of managing the Arctic region carefully to ensure global environmental protection using the precautionary principle.
Global environmental protection
Germany recognises existing international agreements pertaining to the Arctic. Of particular importance are the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the MARPOL Convention, the Conventions for the conservation of the marine environment and biodiversity and regional agreements. Existing loopholes in regulations concerning the Arctic need to be closed effectively, for instance through the development of a "Polar Code" by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). The German Government is in favour of establishing multilateral cooperation to deal with Arctic issues, with the Arctic Council as the authoritative high-level decision-making body, and would like to further strengthen Germany's role as a permanent observer in the Arctic Council.
The German Government also supports an active EU Arctic policy and the strategic and consistent integration of the Arctic interests into EU foreign and security policy as well as into policies in other fields such as the environment, research, industry and technology, energy and raw materials, transport and fishery.