21st Century Polar Environmental Protection Requires Close and Meaningful International Cooperation

The International Conference on Polar Environmental Change and Protection (ICPECP) was held successfully from 29th June to 1st July 2020.


Image: Prof. Dahe Qin, Honorary Chairman of ICPECP

Prof. Dahe Qin, Academician at the Chinese Academy of Sciences delivered the opening speech of the conference. The chairman of ICPECP 2020, Mr. Ding Chen, introduced the significance, theme and agenda of the conference. The Co-Chairman of the conference, Dr Jean de Pomereu introduced the guests speakers and hosted the conference during the first two days. Professor Klaus Dodds hosted the third day.


Image: Mr. Chen Ding, Chairman of ICPECP


Image: Dr. Jean de Pomereu, Co-Chairman of ICPECP

Each of the three days of the conference had its specific theme and comprised an average of six presentations by leading scientists and polar experts from Britain, France, Portugal, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway and China. The three themes were: environmental change and protection in the Arctic region; environmental change and protection in the Antarctic region; and sustainable development and conservation in the Polar Regions. Many of the presentations discussed the effects of global climate change on specific polar environments such as oceans, sea ice, land ice, and permafrost. Others focused on environmental pollution, geopolitics, education, polar and adventure tourism. The contributors shared research findings, exchanged ideas and answered questions. Overall, ICPECP confirmed the strong benefits and demand for open exchange and cooperation on polar topics between China and Europe.

On the first day, Professor Peter Wadhams, the renowned sea ice scientist from the University of Cambridge, was invited to give a keynote speech entitled “Feedbacks in Arctic climate and how to fight them”. With 46 years of experience in the field of Arctic and Antarctic sea ice research, Professor Wadhams is the author of the international bestseller ‘Farewell to Ice: A Report from the Arctic’, and a pioneer in the measurement of sea ice thickness and volume through the use of nuclear submarines. He is also a leading advocate of novel technological solutions to reduce the effects of climate change. Professor Konrad Steffen, Director of the Swiss Federal Institute of Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL) gave an overview of his thirty years of research on the Greenland ice sheet, as well as the latest observations and predictions about its current rate of melt and the repercussions for global sea level rise. Dr Margareta Johansson, a permafrost specialist from Lund University in Sweden, also gave an impassioned presentation on the melting of permafrost across the Arctic, as well as its local and global consequences. This was followed by her presentation of the work of the EU funded INTERACT program which coordinates research across nearly 100 bases spread out around the entire Arctic. Dr Renuka Badhe, Executive Secretary of the European Polar Board, provided an overview of the EPB and European collaboration in polar research. Professor Cunde Xiao of Beijing Normal University, presented an overview of the IPCC special report on Oceans and Cryosphere in a Climate Change (SROCC), as well as predictions relating to the effects of climate change across the Arctic. And finally, Prof. Linsheng Yang of Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, finished the day by presenting his research results based on the feasibility model of Arctic Passage navigation, showing that the navigable capacity of merchant ships of Northeast Arctic Passage will augment significantly post-2050 as a result of melting Arctic Ocean sea ice.

During the second day, Professor Jean Jouzel, the former vice chairman of the Nobel Prize winning First Working Group of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), member of the French Academy of Sciences, and associate of the US National Academy of Sciences gave a keynote speech about the study of deep Greenland and Antarctic ice cores to map past climate and better predict future climate change. Professor Martin Siegert, Director of the Grantham Institute at Imperial College, London, delivered a presentation entitled “How is Antarctica changing and why should we care”? Professor Jose Xavier of Coimbra University in Portugal, explained why the Southern Ocean occupies such an important place in the world’s oceans; why ongoing scientific research and monitoring is crucial; and why it is so vital not to overexploit Southern Ocean resources. Professor Xiao Cheng from Sun Yat-sen University, an outstanding young scientist in the field of polar remote sensing, introduced the current research progress and future development possibilities of BNU-1, the first polar observation satellite launched by China. Professor Xiaoping Pang and Associate Professor Xi Zhao from the Chinese Antarctic Center of Surveying and Mapping, Wuhan University, explained how sea ice regulates local and global energy balances between the atmosphere and the underlying sea surface, and questioned how advanced techniques in remote sensing still contain a margin of uncertainty that influences the results of sea ice and climate modeling. Finally, Professor Qinghua Zhang of Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences introduced the sources of organic pollutants existing in the southwest polar region and the Arctic region, and the impact of human activities on the polar ecosystem.


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mage: Russian Nuclear Icebreaker and Merchant Ships on Arctic Northeast Passage

To open the third day of the conference, Professor Klaus Dodds contrasted the Arctic and Antarctic geopolitical contexts and provided an overview of the geopolitical differences between the two regions, especially where these relate to economic development, environmental management, governing mechanisms, national interests and international cooperation. Mr. Kent Gundmensen, First Vice Chair of the Standing Committee on Education and Research, Norwegian National Parliament, explained Norway’s policies on the Arctic region and his understanding on the protection of the Antarctic environment. Mr. Chen Ding, the chair of International Polar Protection Association (IPPA) proposed to strengthen international cooperation in polar environmental research and to increase public awareness of polar environments through education and outreach. He also introduced the achievements and successes of the Chinese Polar Science Investigation of Youths over the past decade.


Image: Chinese Polar Science Investigation of Youths

As one of the three representatives of the polar tourism industry attending the conference, Mr. Tudor Morgan, Director Expedition Operation, presented the improved environmental standards and efficiently of Hurtigruten’s new polar cruise liners. He also provided an overview of the scientific education and experiments offered to Hurtigruten passengers in an effort to create more ambassadors for polar environmental protection, and to contribute to the long-term monitoring of polar environments.

Mr Xin Zhao, COO of Polar Expedition Division, CAISSA Touristic Group discussed how rapid economic and technological development over the past decade has provided many more tourists with the opportunity to visit the Polar Regions and to fulfill their dreams. Importantly, however, Mr Zhao also argued polar travel agencies carry the responsibility of reminding their guests that they must obey the strict polar protection regulations demanded of them during their visits and encourage socially responsible behavior in order to protect the Polar Regions: that the Polar environments are fragile ecosystems, not playgrounds.

The final speaker of the conference was Ms Jing Wang, President of TOREAD group and a passionate practitioner of extreme sports who has achieved ten 8000 meter climbs and reached the top of Mount Everest four times. Ms Wang discussed her experiences in Antarctica and the Arctic, as well as how she has led her enterprise to become an advocate for polar environmental protection.

Due to the impact of Covid-19, ICPECP 2020 was held in China and European countries via online platforms. More than one thousand attendees watched the conference from China and European countries.

ICPECP partners include the Norway-Sino Friendship Association; the Macao Science and Technology Development Foundation; Lenovo Group; TOREAD Group; Yue Ling Air Conditioner; Hurtigruten Cruises; Sino Tech Innovation; Ke Yun Environmental; LAISHAN Science; TECHNO Solutions; China Mining Industry Logistics. All of these companies and organisations provide support to the conference as part of their commitment to polar environmental protection.

The success of the International Conference on Polar Environmental Change and Protection 2020 confirms the strong benefits and demand for open exchange and polar cooperation on polar topics between China and Europe. In his closing words Mr. Chen Ding, Chair of the ICPECP 2020 and President of the International Polar Protection Association (IPPA) announced that the next ICPECP would be held in Europe in 2021, and would draw together more outstanding polar researchers, educators, companies and NGO representatives to discuss and promote environmental protection and sustainable development in the Polar Regions.

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