Germany opens an Arctic office

By Kathrin Keil, High North News - January 5, 2017

Germany has just opened the “German Arctic Office,” hosted by Germany’s most renowned Arctic research center, the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research.

The rationale of the office, which officially began work on Jan. 1, is to provide a link between Arctic scientists on the one hand and politics and industry on the other, the official press release reads.

“Making the Arctic a key issue of German politics requires a lot of scientific advice and support, which will be provided by the German Arctic Office,” says Dr. Volker Rachold, head of the newly opened Potsdam-based office.

This is a sign that non-Arctic countries invest in their Arctic capacities in times when the Arctic remains high on political agendas not only in the region but also beyond.

Strengthening Germany’s role in the Arctic

The office intends to support the German government’s aim of strengthening the country’s role in Arctic affairs, which is justified through Germany being one of the leading Arctic research states.

Germany’s interest in the region stems of the increasing relevance of Arctic change also for non-Arctic regions, especially through the rapidly advancing process of climate change in the Arctic. This has geopolitical, geo-economic and geo-ecological consequences that feed back to the entire globe.

Led by long-standing Arctic expert

Rachold, head of the new office, was the executive secretary of the International Arctic Science Committee until the end of last year, thus bringing a lot of Arctic experience to the job in Potsdam.

“This gives the office the opportunity to draw a lot of expertise from a large network of scientists from all German research institutes that work on Arctic topics,” Rachold told High North News.

Including Rachold, the office hosts three staff members who serve as advisors to representatives from politics, research and industry in Arctic matters and also work closely with the Berlin embassies of the eight Arctic countries, the press release explains.

The place to go for German-Arctic Matters

Multiple tasks await the German Arctic office.

Apart from being the go-to place for politicians, scientists and industry representatives in all matters Arctic, the office sees itself as a platform for cooperation between politics, industry and science.

“This provides a central hub for exchange between German and Arctic representatives from various sectors that has so far not existed, and thus will further strengthen Germany’s standing in Arctic affairs.” Rachold told HNN.

The office aims to facilitate exchange in two directions: It will pick up specific questions by the government and industry and explore these with research institutions and universities. In turn, it will support to communicate the research results back to societal stakeholders and decision-makers.

“This is the core aspect of socially relevant science,” explains Rachold.

A further task will be to support the German Foreign Office in appointing experts from German research institutes working on Arctic topics to the various working groups of the Arctic Council where Germany has observer status.

Research and innovation

The German Arctic Office will also help to disseminate German research results and technological innovations for use by Arctic stakeholders on the ground, especially by representatives of the Arctic Council.

Arctic countries rely on German expertise and German technologies when it comes to the economic development and the climate and environmental protection of Arctic regions, for example concerning the improvement of ice predictions for shipping in the region, reads the press release.

The homepage of the German Arctic Office is in the works and will shortly provide more information about the work of Rachold and his colleagues.