The international community is meeting in Nagoya, Japan, to attend the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity.
Achim Steiner, the executive director of the U.N. Environment Program, told delegates that rapid environmental changes were creating new threats to the arctic ecosystem.
"We are currently witnessing unprecedented change in the arctic, which will have important and far-reaching consequences not only for the region itself but for the rest of the world," he said in a statement.
He said melting sea ice was destroying the habitat for sensitive species such as polar bears, while the arctic tundra is disappearing at a faster rate than ever.
"Evidence of a warming arctic, and its associated consequences, is mounting and this year is no exception," he said.
Steiner called on delegates at the Nagoya conference to designate more of the arctic as a protected area in order to preserve the unique and diverse ecosystem.
"We all know that an outcome is in the balance," he said. "The missing link now really is political will."