Almost a year after unveiling its polar strategy for 2030, French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Friday a groundbreaking €1 billion investment in polar research. Speaking at the inaugural One Planet-Polar Summit in Paris, Macron outlined an ambitious plan that includes the construction of an ice-class research vessel, the Michel Rocard, to strengthen France’s commitment to studying the polar regions.

The One Planet-Polar Summit, initiated by the French government, marked the first international gathering focused on glaciers and poles. However, it notably excluded Russia, a major Arctic nation, due to its ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

Addressing the urgency of the climate crisis affecting the cryosphere, Macron emphasized the need for an “unprecedented level of cooperation” among global leaders, despite geopolitical tensions. “We must make the poles and glaciers privileged spaces for peace, scientific, and environmental cooperation,” said Macron.

As part of the €1 billion investment, Macron pledged $1.1 billion for polar research, with a significant portion allocated to acquiring the Michel Rocard research vessel. Named after the former Prime Minister of France and Ambassador for Arctic and Antarctic negotiations, Michel Rocard, the ice-class vessel will be stationed in the French overseas territory of New Caledonia. It will conduct missions in both the Western Pacific and Antarctica.

France’s 2030 Polar Strategy identified the lack of research vessels as a major obstacle to international research in the polar regions. Initially considering options such as building a new ice-class vessel, renovating an old patrol boat, or collaborating with international partners, France has now committed to constructing the Michel Rocard to address this crucial gap.

In addition to the vessel, Macron pledged to rebuild the Dumont d’Urville station in Antarctica by 2026, as outlined in the Polar Strategy. The Concordia station, jointly operated by France and Italy, will also undergo renovations.

France’s polar initiatives extend beyond the Antarctic, with plans to support the Polar Pod expedition led by French explorer Jean-Louis Etienne. The unique vertical vessel, sailing in the Antarctic Sea assisted by ocean currents, aims to explore the Southern Ocean. Data and long-term observations gathered during the expedition will be shared with researchers from 43 scientific institutions across 12 countries.

Macron’s announcement reflects France’s commitment to advancing polar research and addressing the environmental challenges facing these critical regions, emphasizing the importance of international collaboration in the face of global climate change.

Photo credit: Faces Of The World via flicker