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Call key data

Tackling human and climate change induced pollution in the Arctic - building resilient socio-ecological systems

Funding ProgramHorizon Europe - Cluster 6 - Destination 4: Clean Environment and Zero Pollution
Call numberHORIZON-CL6-2023-ZEROPOLLUTION-01-3
28.03.2023 17:00
Funding rate100%
Call budget € 12,000,000.00
Estimated EU contribution per project€ 6,000,000.00
Link to the call
Link to the submission

Call content

Call objectives

Main environmental concerns in the Arctic stem from the loss of pristine environment and unique ecosystems. On one hand, ice melting allows for more people and economic activities to enter the area, and on the other hand, transboundary pollution brings into the Arctic contaminants whose sources are thousands of kilometres away.

Arctic economic development is associated with a high risk of air and marine pollution, particularly from oil spills, local mining, Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP), heavy metals, radioactive substances, marine litter and plastics. Pollution from Arctic shipping and tourism relying on heavy diesel fuels induce greater ice melting pack and have negative effects on marine life. Pollutants from local and distant sources are taken up by organisms and incorporated into polar food webs, jeopardizing human and environmental health.

Another threat to the Arctic environment is the growing prevalence of marine litter, and specifically plastic pollution. High concentrations of microplastic particles have been detected in Arctic ice, with a good deal of it suspected to have originated outside of the region.

Moreover, the share of MPA coverage in Arctic water (see for example the OSPAR Convention area) is particularly low.

Thawing permafrost brings in additional risks for pollution, from releasing pathogens to infrastructure degradation and failure. Combined, these drivers create a mosaic of multiple and mutually reinforcing anthropogenic stressors acting on the unique and highly vulnerable Arctic ecosystem.

Proposals should aim at developing innovative approaches to address only one of the following options:

  • Area A: Local and transboundary Pollutants in the Arctic – risks and challenges in a One Health approach
    • Actions are expected to identify, assess, and analyse major impacts and risks of remote and local sources of pollution on the health, well-being and food security of Arctic societies and ecosystems and beyond, and propose adaptation and resilience strategies.
    • Actions should improve the understanding of the interactions between the changing climate system, changes in biological diversity and pollutant levels, including climate-driven ecosystem changes that are affecting natural emissions, such as wetlands (CH4), wildfires (CO2, black carbon), pollutant deposition or transfer and bioaccumulation in marine systems. They should analyse the cultural, socio‑economic and health impacts on residents of the Arctic, their livelihood and food security, as well as adverse effects on the marine and terrestrial biodiversity of the region. They are expected to contribute to a better understanding of long-distance transport of marine plastic litter in the Arctic and air transport of micro plastics, as well to the dynamics between melting ice and increasing discharges of, for example, mercury in the marine ecosystem, and their impact on ecosystems and food safety.
  • Area B: Pollution and health risks linked to permafrost thaw
    • Rising temperatures induce thawing of permafrost, bringing an extra layer of complexity for assessing pollution and health risks in the Arctic environments. Greenhouse gases released from thawing permafrost threaten to cause irreversible changes in the Arctic and other regions. Thawing permafrost causes change in mechanical properties of soils, which in turn deteriorates stability and service-life of built infrastructure and increases coastal erosion.
    • Actions should address and analyse the adverse effects and pollution risks linked to permafrost thaw, infrastructure degradation and failure, and other associated risks for the environment and human health and well-being. Actions will focus on an improved quantification of these effects, as well as emerging contaminants and re-emission of legacy contaminants due to melting cryosphere or thawing permafrost.
    • Actions are expected to improve the understanding of the impacts of permafrost thaw on the health of humans, plants, animals, and wider environment, in a One Health approach, including critical infrastructure, water and food security aspects, and wider socio-economic, demographic and cultural impact.
    • Proposals should assess the impact, trends and new scenarios on ecosystem services, including exploring ecosystems management techniques with special attention to community or nature-based solutions. Potential measures should focus on developing community-oriented decision support systems, and co-design mitigation and adaptation measures.

For both options, proposals should focus on an improved quantification of these effects and explore pathways to minimise risks and should be linked with state-of-the-art climate change predictions coupled with socio-economic models; assess the ecosystems' responses to risk factors and how these responses are affecting the well-being of indigenous populations and local communities but also health of the environment, in a One Health approach; identify adaptation and mitigation strategies, aiming at building resilient Arctic socio-ecological systems.

Proposals are expected to adopt a system thinking or transdisciplinary approach, with simultaneous analysis of environmental, societal, climatic and biodiversity impacts, their relationships and interlinkages, and positive and negative feedbacks. The participation of technical sciences, social sciences and humanities disciplines is important for addressing the complex challenges of this topic, as well as engaging local communities in the research process, as appropriate.

International cooperation is encouraged, with a strong linkage with the ongoing activities under the All-Atlantic Ocean Research and Innovation Alliance and encouraging participation from countries that take part in the Arctic Science Ministerial meetings.

Actions under this topic should plan on a close collaboration among each other and with the EU Polar Cluster. Actions should build upon and link with past Horizon 2020 projects (e.g., Nunataryuk and Arctic PASSION), EU Polarnet 2, Copernicus, Sustaining Arctic Observing Networks (SAON).

Synergies and complementarities with HORIZON-CL5-2024-D1-01-02: Inland ice, including snow cover, glaciers, ice sheets and permafrost, and their interaction with climate change; HORIZON-CL6-2023-COMMUNITIES-11: Participation and empowerment of Arctic coastal, local, and indigenous communities in environmental decision-making; HORIZON-CL6-2023-ZEROPOLLUTION-01-2: Integrated assessment and monitoring of emerging pollutants, and activities under the Arctic-Atlantic Lighthouse of the EU Mission Restore our ocean and waters.

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Expected effects and impacts

In line with the European Green Deal’s zero pollution ambition, successful proposals should contribute to protecting Arctic ecosystems. They should analyse main pollution sources in a climate change context, and examine ways to prevent or eliminate pollutants, consequently protecting environmental and human health and the quality of aquatic ecosystems. This will contribute to the implementation of the new EU policy for a peaceful, sustainable and prosperous Arctic, to the follow-up of the 3rd Arctic Science ministerial meeting and to the work of the Arctic Council.

Expected results
  • Advanced scientific understanding of the impacts of pollution in the Arctic, including marine litter, emerging pollutants and plastic pollution, as well as diverse chemical discharges, and its interactions with the changing climate and thawing permafrost;
  • Advanced understanding of the main ecological, socio-economic and health associated risks and challenges, following a One Health approach;
  • Resilience and adaptation strategies identified for both ecosystems and human communities, in relation to the changes in Arctic. Design solutions and pathways for ecological and societal mitigation and adaptation;
  • Contribute to making the case for the designation and, if applicable, contribute to the establishment management plans of MPAs in international Arctic waters.
  • Assessment and monitoring tools developed for pollution impacts, using participatory approaches, citizen science and involving local and indigenous communities;
  • Contribute to the implementation of the EU policy for the Arctic and the follow-up of the 3rd Arctic Science Ministerial meeting.

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Regions / countries for fundingEU Member States, Overseas Countries and Territories (OCT)
Moldova (Moldova), Albania (Shqipëria), Armenia (Հայաստան), Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bosna i Hercegovina / Босна и Херцеговина), Faeroes (Føroyar / Færøerne), Georgia (საქართველო), Island (Ísland), Israel (ישראל / إِسْرَائِيل), Kosovo (Kosova/Kosovë / Косово), Montenegro (Црна Гора), Morocco (المغرب), North Macedonia (Северна Македонија), Norway (Norge), Serbia (Srbija/Сpбија), Tunisia (تونس /Tūnis), Türkiye, Ukraine (Україна), United Kingdom
eligible entitiesEU Body, Education and training institution, International organization, Natural Person, Non-Profit Organisation (NPO) / Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), Other, Private institution, incl. private company (private for profit), Public Body (national, regional and local; incl. EGTCs), Research Institution incl. University, Small and medium-sized enterprise (SME)
Mandatory partnershipYes
Project Partnership

To be eligible for funding, applicants must be established in one of the following countries:

  • the Member States of the European Union, including their outermost regions
  • the Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) linked to the Member States
  • third countries associated to Horizon Europe - see list of particpating countries

Only legal entities forming a consortium are eligible to participate in actions provided that the consortium includes, as beneficiaries, three legal entities independent from each other and each established in a different country as follows:

  • at least one independent legal entity established in a Member State; and
  • at least two other independent legal entities, each established in different Member States or Associated Countries.

Any legal entity, regardless of its place of establishment, including legal entities from non-associated third countries or international organisations (including international European research organisations) is eligible to participate (whether it is eligible for funding or not), provided that the conditions laid down in the Horizon Europe Regulation have been met, along with any other conditions laid down in the specific call topic.

A ‘legal entity’ means any natural or legal person created and recognised as such under national law, EU law or international law, which has legal personality and which may, acting in its own name, exercise rights and be subject to obligations, or an entity without legal personality.

Specific cases:

  • Affiliated entities — Affiliated entities (i.e. entities with a legal or capital link to a beneficiary which participate in the action with similar rights and obligations to the beneficiaries, but which do not sign the grant agreement and therefore do not become beneficiaries themselves) are allowed, if they are eligible for participation and funding.
  • Associated partners — Associated partners (i.e. entities which participate in the action without signing the grant agreement, and without the right to charge costs or claim contributions) are allowed, subject to any conditions regarding associated partners set out in the specific call conditions.
  • Entities without legal personality — Entities which do not have legal personality under their national law may exceptionally participate, provided that their representatives have the capacity to undertake legal obligations on their behalf, and offer guarantees to protect the EU’s financial interests equivalent to those offered by legal persons.
  • EU bodies — Legal entities created under EU law including decentralised agencies may be part of the consortium, unless provided for otherwise in their basic act.
  • Joint Research Centre (‘JRC’)— Where provided for in the specific call conditions, applicants may include in their proposals the possible contribution of the JRC but the JRC will not participate in the preparation and submission of the proposal. Applicants will indicate the contribution that the JRC could bring to the project based on the scope of the topic text. After the evaluation process, the JRC and the consortium selected for funding may come to an agreement on the specific terms of the participation of the JRC. If an agreement is found, the JRC may accede to the grant agreement as beneficiary requesting zero funding or participate as an associated partner, and would accede to the consortium as a member.
  • Associations and interest groupings — Entities composed of members (e.g. European research infrastructure consortia (ERICs)) may participate as ‘sole beneficiaries’ or ‘beneficiaries without legal personality’. However, if the action is in practice implemented by the individual members, those members should also participate (either as beneficiaries or as affiliated entities, otherwise their costs will NOT be eligible.

The Joint Research Centre (JRC) may participate as member of the consortium selected for funding.

other eligibility criteria

Activities are expected to achieve TRL 3-5 by the end of the project.

For the Technology Readiness Level (TRL), the following definitions apply:

  • TRL 1 — Basic principles observed
  • TRL 2 — Technology concept formulated
  • TRL 3 — Experimental proof of concept
  • TRL 4 — Technology validated in a lab
  • TRL 5 — Technology validated in a relevant environment (industrially relevant environment in the case of key enabling technologies)
  • TRL 6 — Technology demonstrated in a relevant environment (industrially relevant environment in the case of key enabling technologies)
  • TRL 7 — System prototype demonstration in an operational environment
  • TRL 8 — System complete and qualified
  • TRL 9 — Actual system proven in an operational environment (competitive manufacturing in the case of key enabling technologies, or in space)

To ensure a balanced portfolio, grants will be awarded to applications not only in order of ranking but at least also to one project within the area A that is the highest ranked, and one project highest ranked within the area B, provided that the applications attain all thresholds. Proposals shall clearly indicate the area they are applying to.

Additional information

Agriculture & Forestry, Fishery, Food, Soil quality, 
Air Quality, Biodiversity & Environment, Climate & Climate Change, Water quality & management, 
Health, Social Services, Sports
Relevance for EU Macro-RegionEUSAIR - EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region, EUSALP - EU Strategy for the Alpine Space, EUSBSR - EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, EUSDR - EU Strategy for the Danube Region
UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN-SDGs)
Additional Information

All proposals must be submitted electronically via the Funders & Tenders Portal electronic submission system (accessible via the topic page in the Search Funding & Tenders section). Paper submissions are NOT possible.

Proposals must be complete and contain all parts and mandatory annexes and supporting documents, e.g. plan for the exploitation and dissemination of the results including communication activities, etc.

The application form will have two parts:

  • Part A (to be filled in directly online) contains administrative information about the applicant organisations (future coordinator and beneficiaries and affiliated entities), the summarised budget for the proposal and call-specific questions;
  • Part B (to be downloaded from the Portal submission system, completed and then assembled and re-uploaded as a PDF in the system) contains the technical description of the project.

Annexes and supporting documents will be directly available in the submission system and must be uploaded as PDF files (or other formats allowed by the system).

The limit for a full application (Part B) is 45 pages.

Call documents HE-Work Programme 2023-2024, Cluster 6, Destination 4 (608kB)
ContactNational Contact Points for Horizon Europe

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