The effect of climate change on Arctic permafrost and its socio-economic impact, with a focus on coastal areas

Arctic permafrost contains twice as much carbon as the atmosphere, stored in the upper metres of the ground. Thawing of permafrost may trigger the release of this carbon and its transformation to greenhouse gases, reinforcing global warming (permafrost carbon feedback). Moreover, permafrost coasts make up 34% of the world's coasts. Increasing sea-level in combination with changing sea-ice cover and permafrost thawing expose these coastal areas to higher risks. Knowledge gaps exist in relation to the transfer of material - including organic matter - from land to sea and its fate, with the consequence that processes of accumulation and/or subsea permafrost degradation are not accounted for in global climate and Earth system models. The pressing challenge is to understand the impact of permafrost thawing on climate change and its implications for the environment, for the indigenous populations and the local communities. Finally, permafrost thawing affects the stability of built infrastructure.


Actions should assess the impact of permafrost thawing on Arctic (natural and human) coastal systems and its effect on the availability/accessibility of resources, the stability of infrastructure, the growth of potential new economic activities, as well as on pollution and health. The research should employ a holistic and trans-disciplinary approach and in co-operation with stakeholders. It should consider the needs of and the impacts on indigenous populations, local communities and economic actors operating in this vulnerable region in the sustainable development context. Actions should address key processes of environmental change and develop appropriate adaptation and mitigation responses with an emphasis on permafrost at the interface between land and water.

Proposals should develop relevant forms of communication for EU (and possible national) services to adequately disseminate results that could be used for policy action. Trans-disciplinary and participatory approaches, including social sciences and humanities, in the process are considered necessary. In line with the strategy for EU international cooperation in research and innovation, actions will contribute to implementing the Transatlantic Ocean Research Alliance. Due to the specific challenge of this topic, in addition to the minimum number of participants set out in the General Annexes, proposals should benefit from the inclusion of partners from the USA and from Canada. International cooperation with partners from other Arctic and non-Arctic third countries is also strongly encouraged.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of up to EUR 10 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude the submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Projects funded under this topic will by default participate in the Pilot on Open Research Data in Horizon 2020, with the option to opt-out, as described in the introduction.

Expected Impact

  • Improve the capacity to predict the impacts of permafrost thawing, both sub-sea and on land, identify and reduce uncertainties, and quantify key processes not currently or poorly represented in predictive models;
  • Develop capacity to manage risks and to take advantage of opportunities emerging from Arctic changes;
  • Promote the engagement of and interaction with residents of Arctic coastal communities and indigenous societies and develop a legacy of collaborative community involvement with scientific, economic, and societal actors and stakeholders on the development of Responsible Research and Innovation agendas that meet their concerns and expectations.
  • Contribute to the ongoing and possible future OSPAR actions in Arctic water
  • Improve the professional skills and competences for those working and being trained to work within this subject area.
Date de candidature
Sciences sociales : Economie, Sciences environnementales, Géographie, Sociologie
Humanités : Anthropologie & Ethnologie
Autres : Physique, mathématiques et ingénierie