Protecting the Arctic

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Europe/Middle-East > -Regions- > Arctic

Europe/Middle-East > Eastern Europe > Russian Federation
Europe/Middle-East > Europe General
Europe/Middle-East > Northern Europe > Iceland
Europe/Middle-East > Northern Europe > Norway

Discarded steel fuel drums on beach on arctic shore. Chukotka, Russia.
© WWF / Marek LIBERSKY

Summary

The Arctic is home to abundant biodiversity and hosts many natural treasures of immense value to the planet. Shared by 8 countries it stores the world’s largest freshwater reserves in its glaciers.

However, the Arctic is under severe threat from climate change, toxic pollution, oil/gas exploration and production and overfishing. WWF is working with partners across the Arctic to combat these threats and preserve the region’s rich biodiversity and ensure the sustainable use of renewable natural resources.

Background

WWF International established the Arctic Programme in 1992. Its goal is a healthy Arctic environment with unfragmented ecosystems, viable populations of wildlife and sustainable resource use that meets local needs.

The Arctic is the largest and least fragmented of the inhabited regions on Earth. Shared between Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia and the United States, it is home to around 2 million people, many of them indigenous. The Arctic consists mainly of deep ocean covered by drifting pack ice, surrounded by continents and archipelagos.

The Arctic stores the world's largest freshwater reserves in its glaciers. Its continental shelf is home to huge populations of globally significant species, including polar bears, walrus, seals, and whales. A vast network of wetlands covers the Arctic permafrost, hosting the largest breeding populations of shore birds and geese on Earth.

However the Arctic is facing new and serious pressures. These include climate change, toxic pollution, oil and gas exploration and production, over-fishing and even corroding nuclear arsenals.

Objectives

1. Preserve the region's rich biodiversity.

2. Ensure that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable.

3. Reduce pollution and wasteful consumption.

Solution

WWF Arctic Programme focuses its conservation work on 7 core themes:
- Marine,
- Freshwater,
- Species,
- Climate Change,
- Toxics,
- Oil and Gas,
-Protected Areas.

In turn, this work is focused on key ecoregions in the Arctic. WWF's Arctic Programme addresses arctic conservation issues by identifying the most important threats and opportunities, using media campaigns to raise awareness of issues, creating partnerships with stakeholders to find solutions and influence policy-makers to address the root causes of threats to arctic biodiversity, habitats and spaces, ecosystem function, and local communities.

An important policy arena for the WWF Arctic Programme is the Arctic Council, a high-level intergovernmental forum for circumpolar co-operation on environment, socio-economic and cultural issues. WWF has observer status at the Council, and uses this to influence development of Council policies, work plans, reports, and communications.

WWF participates most actively in the following working groups:
- Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (toxics, pollution, and contamination issues);
- Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (biodiversity and protected areas issues);
- Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (marine issues);
- Action Plan to Eliminate Pollution of the Arctic;
- Sustainable Development Working Group.

Building on relationships developed between WWF and indigenous peoples groups, arctic governments, and business and industry, WWF is the best-positioned and most influential environmental NGO in the Arctic.

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