Government to invest in polar regions

The government is setting aside more funds for scientific research in the North and South Poles. The Netherlands will be making €4.1 million available every year from 2016 to 2020. It is also appointing an Arctic ambassador. All this is set out in the polar strategy which foreign minister Bert Koenders submitted to the House of Representatives on Monday.

‘Knowledge is needed to deal with these vulnerable regions in a responsible way. And knowledge is gained by study,’ said Mr Koenders, explaining the higher contribution towards research. ‘Due to the importance of this unique region and the fact that the Netherlands will be directly affected by rising sea levels, it makes sense for us to increase the budget.’

State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science Sander Dekker, who is also contributing to the research budget from his ministry, said, ‘This investment is needed to maintain the level of excellence of Dutch research in the polar regions. This is essential, because the first places where the effects of human activity are visible are the North and South Poles. Proper research is the key to meeting the challenges of global warming and the melting of the polar ice caps.’

The research is being jointly funded by the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Education, Culture & Science, Infrastructure & the Environment, and Economic Affairs. The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), which is in charge of the Dutch Polar Programme, is also making a contribution.

In the coming years, Dutch polar policy will focus on the sustainable development of the polar regions and on protecting nature and the environment. The government is also working to ensure that the Netherlands, as a party to the Antarctic Treaty and an observer in the Arctic Council, plays an active role in these bodies.

For example, the Netherlands will play a bigger role in the Arctic Council’s work groups and expert groups. The country is already taking the initiative. One of the expert groups, the Arctic Migratory Birds Initiative (AMBI), is meeting on Texel from 5-7 April. As host country, the Netherlands will be welcoming experts from around the world.

The Netherlands’ strategy also focuses on geopolitical factors and economic developments in the North Pole region. The new Arctic ambassador will promote Dutch objectives at national and international level in the shifting regional landscape. The position will be filled by Kees Rade, who will also continue to serve as Ambassador for Sustainable Development.