All five states with polar bear populations - Canada, the Kingdom of Denmark (Greenland), Norway, Russia, and the United States - have committed to the first-ever circumpolar action plan to protect and manage the bears and their habitat.
The plan, finalized at this week’s meeting of the range states, commits the countries to a 10 year plan to tackle issues like direct threats from shipping and oil and gas, and conflict.
“Nearly half of the world’s polar bear populations cross national borders, so international cooperation is necessary to ensure polar bears thrive long into the future”, says WWF Global Arctic Programme Director Alexander Shestakov. “Now the states must allocate money to achieve these international goals”.
WWF has contributed millions of dollars to polar bear research and conflict reduction in all five range states.
The major threat facing polar bears today is climate change and the loss of sea ice habitat. Nations within and outside the Arctic contribute to the loss of polar bear habitat, mostly through burning fossil fuels, that contribute to climate change. The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the globe, and recent research suggests that by 2050, two-thirds of polar bears could be lost as their sea ice habitat shrinks.
“While this plan will help reduce direct threats to polar bears, their long-term future relies on the persistence of Arctic sea ice”, says Shestakov. “That will ultimately require worldwide investment in renewable energy. A meaningful reduction in greenhouse gas emissions cannot be accomplished by the range states alone, but will require cooperation well beyond the Arctic. We hope to see that commitment made in a strong climate deal in Paris later this year. ”
Today’s announcement builds on an earlier pledge by environment ministers and other leaders from the five polar bear range states. At the 2013 International Forum the Conservation of Polar Bears in Moscow, the range states committed to action on climate change, threats to polar bear habitat, and conflict between bears and people.
Ministers and other national representatives made commitments today at the International Forum on Polar Bear Conservation that will help polar bears persist across their Arctic range.
A report by WWF’s Arctic Programme finds that the five countries responsible for the conservation of polar bears need to do more to secure a healthy future for the species.