The European Union’s Arctic Policy Discourse: Green by Omission

Publication Date: 
07 July 2020
Publication Language: 
Appearing in: 
Environmental Politics

Climate change has turned the Arctic simultaneously into an environmentally highly fragile space and a region offering manifold economic opportunities. The notion of ‘Arctic Paradox’ aptly captures the trade-off between environmental protection needs and economic prospects. We investigate how the European Union has positioned itself regarding this Paradox by asking to what extent its Arctic policy discourse integrates environmental concerns. Analysis involving the main strategies of EU institutions, and the EU’s Arctic and major non-Arctic members finds three co-existing coalitions with differing visions of environmental policy integration in the Arctic. The aggregate EU discourse on the Arctic is currently ‘green by omission’, that is, by explicitly avoiding a clear stance on the trade-off embodied in the ‘Arctic Paradox’. We attempt to explain this, and conclude by discussing the likelihood of the EU developing a genuinely environment-oriented Arctic policy.

European Union, Arctic, environment, environmental policy integration, energy