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One Planet Polar Summit

The One Planet-Polar Summit took place in Paris from 7 to 10 November 2023 Prior to the Paris Peace forum. Over 200 people attended, representing a total of 35 countries including indigenous communities from the Himalayas and Andes. Unfortunately, Russia, the country with the largest Arctic territory, was missing. The organisers clarified that they tried to gather Russian scientists, but they turned down the invitation, likely due to travel complications surrounding the ongoing war in Ukraine. Expert scientists from various fields were invited to discuss their latest findings on the cryosphere, while diplomats, the private sector, and NGOs presented their current projects. Also attending were several explorers who had seen these unique landscapes and brought a more artistic rhetoric. This diverse attendance allowed a holistic approach to the preservation of the Cryosphere, an environment which covers ten percent of Earth’s surface and controls climate stability.


Olivier Poivre d’Arvor, French ambassador for poles and oceans, delivered the opening speech by highlighting that this international summit was long awaited by both the diplomatic and scientific community. The first international forum entirely dedicated to poles and glaciers serves as a template for future multilateral interdisciplinary research practices. Gaps in research and development in the cryosphere were discussed and will hopefully be resolved in future collaborations that arise following this summit.



Scientific findings were alarming yet again. 700 million people directly live, or depend, on the cryosphere for their survival. Glaciers serve as an important water reservoir in many areas which experience annual droughts, and their disappearance is estimated to cost millions of dollars in management and construction to provide drinking water. The indirect impacts of sea level rise will be even more devastating. 45 percent of this phenomenon is induced by disappearing ice caps whose melting rate is quicker than scientists previously thought. The current data suggests that up to two billion people living in coastal cities and floodplains will be affected by 2050. It was confirmed that even following the Paris Agreement which limits global warming to 1.5°C, one-third of the World Heritage glaciers will melt due to polar amplification. A lesser-known forecasted effect of melting ice caps has been confirmed. The Antarctic Circumpolar Current has slowed down by 30 percent since the 1990s, which could lead to a reduction in strength or complete removal of current oceanic patterns such as the Gulf stream, completely modifying climatic patterns worldwide.


A variety of policies were proposed to tackle these pressing issues. The most concrete measure is the creation of the international Coalition Ocean Rise and Resilience, inspired by the Ocean Climate Platform which has organised interdisciplinary workshops studying the efficiency of various local solutions. The coalition will share data concerning the best practices alongside logistical and technological tools to facilitate adaptation. Currently, a hundred civil partnerships have been made, but hopefully, this will grow rapidly in 2024. Additionally, the expansion of Marine Protected Areas to 50 percent worldwide was suggested to reduce pressure on the cryosphere’s ecosystems. The conservation of emblematic species such as the polar bear heavily relies on the preservation of their food chain, including smaller species such as krill and plankton which can migrate from lower latitudes.


These governmental objectives have been integrated into the new French National Polar strategy for 2030 entitled ‘Equilibrium in Extremes’. This new decadal science program has been set up, hoping to gather and decouple the financial investments the Cryosphere used to be allocated. This would allow the scientific community to obtain consistent year-long data sets and replace an old satellite ‘cryoset 2’. No exact cost has been announced, but as a reference, a total of 150 million Euros have been requested simply to refurbish a French Antarctic station deteriorated since the ‘90s.


Resulting of this conference, French President Emmanuel Macron convinced 32 countries, the World Meteorological Organisation and UNESCO to endorse the “Paris call for Glaciers and Poles”. This same project proposal will be brought to the COP28 conference in Dubai to be signed by other global powers. Now that concrete solutions have been presented by scientists and the private sector, it is up to governments to take action and actually follow through on everything they implement.


Image from Wikicommons

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