Warmer temperatures are leaving parts of the arctic ice-free for longer periods during the year. This has exposed vast unexplored areas through to hold oil and natural gas reserves and is opening shipping lanes north of Russia.
Maria Damanaki, European commissioner for maritime affairs and fisheries, speaking at an EU conference on arctic policy, said oil and natural gas reserves in the arctic could help meet the world's appetite for energy resources.
"And though we may be greening the global economy, oil and gas remain vital," she said.
Damanaki expressed concern that an oil spill like the 2010 Deepwater Horizon incident in the Gulf of Mexico, coupled with pollution tied to shipping, means environmental risks are compounded in the arctic.
"No single country will be able to build and maintain the infrastructures necessary to prepare for all eventualities," she said. "The time has come to work together, constructively and with determination on the future of the arctic."