The North Pole area and Antarctica are experiencing dramatic climate change. Melting ice sheets cause the sea level to rise and biodiversity and the weather are changing, for instance. However, the shrinking ice also creates new economic opportunities, such as shipping, tourism, fishery and the extraction of raw materials.
The changes in the Arctic region affect the low lying Netherlands. The Cabinet has presented its plans for the region for the period from 2016-2020. By countering climate change the Netherlands hopes to be able to conserve both polar regions as much as possible. In order to better disseminate the Dutch polar policy abroad minister Koenders of Foreign Affairs has appointed an Arctic ambassador.
North Pole region
The North Pole area is an ocean surrounded by continents. The area is inhabited and trade and military exercises are being conducted there. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea applies to this area. This means that the countries surrounding the North Pole own the area. Therefore, the Netherlands has no direct authority over the area. However, the Netherlands seeks to make very strict environmental arrangements for economic activities in the area. An example of this is the designation of protected sea areas. The business community is involved in these arrangements.
Antarctica is the uninhabited continent around the South Pole. Antarctica is nobody's territory. Under international law no country owns Antarctica. Antarctica has been an international nature reserve since 1959. Tourism and scientific research are restricted and all military activities are prohibited. The Dutch government wants to keep Antarctica an unspoilt and unique wilderness.
The Dutch Polar Programme (NPP) is a scientific polar research programme which makes part of the Dutch Polar Strategy. This research enjoys a high international reputation, as does the international cooperation of Dutch polar researchers. The Cabinet has allocated funds for the NPP until 2020.