Brussels debate on Northern Climate Change and the EU

The IPF was a partner in organising a high-level public debate on "Northern Climate Change and the Melting Polar Ice Cap: An EU Challenge?" held in Brussels on 27 March. The IPF worked with the Canadian Mission to the EU and the Friends of Europe organisation to put together an interesting discussion as part of Friends of Europe's Café Crossfire series of public debates on crucial public policy issues.

Over 100 people, including Members of the European Parliament, the Commission, the Belgian Federal Government administration, diplomats and NGOs came to La Bibliothèque Solvay, near the European Parliament, to hear four high-calibre speakers from very disparate parts of the climate change debate. These were:

  • Paul Okalik, Premier of Nunavut
  • Louis Fortier, Member of the Board of ArcticNet, Specialist on Arctic Climate Change and Professor at Laval University
  • Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director, European Environment Agency (EEA)
  • Glenn Morris, Fellow, Royal Geographical Society

The debate recognised that safeguarding the Arctic's climate is a critically important part of moderating the global climate change which is already under way. Louis Fortier, invited at the IPF's suggestion, gave an excellent summary of the situation in the Arctic, pointing out that melting of sea-ice was gathering pace exponentially, not linearly, and that ice-free summers in the Arctic could arrive as early as 2030 (with worst case scenarios putting it at less than a decade away). Paul Okalik pointed out that whereas he was able to play ice hockey in October when growing up, Nunavut youth now had to wait until December. Jacqueline McGlade stated, very directly, that the adaptation policy challenges for the EU could be summed up as: drought and fires in Southern Europe; flooding in middle-Europe; and the melting permafrost in Northern Europe (and what that meant for building infrastructure). Glenn Morris gave an impassioned plea for urgent action to prevent the disappearance of unique Arctic environments.

The sense of urgency generated by these presentations flowed over into an energetic discussion of implications for international diplomacy and energy policy in the EU. There is little doubt that implications for climate change will be an important factor in EU energy policy considerations in coming months.

Ms Nighat Amin-Johnson, IPF Board Member, and Sir Andrew Burns, Member of the IPF-UK's Board of Trustees, participated for the IPF – both in the public debate and in the dinner discussion which followed for representatives of key organisations.