By Martin Banks - 4th October 2012
All this is not say that significant efforts have not been made
A high-level conference was told that the acceleration of climate change in the arctic is moving at a "frighteningly quick" pace.
Konrad Steffen, director of the Swiss Federal Research Institute, said that 2012 had been an "extreme" year for global warming in the arctic.
Steffen, a renowned expert on arctic issues, told the conference organised by the International Polar Foundation, "The acceleration of it has exceeded all expectations. It is quite scary."
Steffen, whose research has been studied by international scientists and experts, also warned that the economic malaise in the eurozone had "pushed" the climate issue further down the political agenda.
He said, "The focus is on the economy at the expense of budgets for tackling climate change. This may make sense to economists but policymakers have to realise that we need both."
He went on to acknowledge the role of the EU and some member states in tackling climate change.
He signalled out Germany in this regard, saying its efforts in producing 'green-generated' electricity had proved a model for other EU countries.
"The EU is providing global leadership on this issue which is just as well, as unfortunately, no one else is," he said.
Steffen laid the blame for this partly at America's door, saying that in the US it had been left to individual states such as California to provide a lead on climate issues.
His claims, however, were challenged by Caroline Broun, another keynote speaker at the two-day conference, which concludes on Friday.
Broun, economic officer for environment, science and technology at the US mission to the EU, said, "The thing people have to remember is that, in the US, we do not have any national legislation on climate issues. We also work closely in the US with the private sector.
"We are very different from the EU which, on issues such as emissions trading, has a 'top-down' approach.
"However, all this is not to say that significant efforts have not been made. They have and they paid off. In the US we just work on more diverse levels than in Europe."
Further comment came from Belgian arctic explorer Alain Hubert, who is president of the foundation.
He warned that "the interests of individuals" was currently "holding back" progress in tackling climate change.
Hubert, who opened the conference at the Committee of the Regions, said, "The EU is doing quite a lot but more needs to be done to push what I would call the energy revolution.
"Economically, we cannot continue to rely on fossil fuels but trying to convince some member states of this is another thing altogether.
"What we need to do is combine individual and collective interests to protect the eco-system of the arctic."
The conference, attended by a wide range of experts, ambassadors and EU officials, was designed to debate latest developments in the arctic.
On the eve of the event, German glaciologist Reinhard Drews was presented with the prestige €150,000 InBev-Baillet Latour Antarctica Fellowship for his proposal to investigate how melting ice shelves could contribute to increased ice flow.