Press Releases

PRESS RELEASE : UK sets out new Arctic approach [February 2023]

The press release issued by the Foreign Office on 9 February 2023.

The UK government commits to play a key role in promoting stability and prosperity in the Arctic.

The UK is today committing to play a key role in promoting stability and prosperity in the Arctic, as climate change triggers dramatic upheaval in the region.

Under an updated policy framework, the UK government sets out how it will be the best possible neighbour for Arctic countries – partnering closely on environmental protection, scientific co-operation, defence and security, and trade.

While the UK is not an Arctic state, it is directly affected by changes in the region as its nearest neighbour with much shared biodiversity. The Arctic is warming at 4 times the global average, increasing the risk of extreme weather, flooding and environmental degradation.

Tackling climate change, halting biodiversity loss and upholding the rights of indigenous communities will therefore be at the heart of the UK’s Arctic policy.

Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine last year has fundamentally undermined the peaceful co-operation and low tension that has characterised the 8-member Arctic Council – to which the UK is a State Observer – since its inception in 1996.

Melting sea ice is also increasing geopolitical interest and competition in the region, with countries exploring the possibility of new shipping routes through Arctic waters.

The new framework, Looking North, sets out how the UK will use its scientific, military and diplomatic strengths to respond to these challenges and opportunities.

Looking North was formally launched at a reception on 9 February 2023 by Lord Goldsmith, Minister of State with responsibility for the polar regions at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office. He said:

The Arctic matters to the UK. We are the region’s nearest neighbour and share a common interest in its environment, security and prosperity.

Our new policy framework sets out how we will be an active, reliable and influential partner in the Arctic – at a time of heightened geopolitical tension and with climate change posing an existential threat to the region as we know it.

Drawing on our scientific, diplomatic and military strengths, the UK will work closely with our partners in the region to achieve our shared vision of a clean, green and stable Arctic.

Drafted through engagement with Arctic partners, Looking North brings all existing UK policies relevant to the Arctic together, in line with the 2021 Integrated Review. It builds on the UK’s 2018 framework, Beyond the ice and integrates The UK’s Defence Contribution in the High North launched by the Ministry of Defence last year.