LONDON Coca-Cola will give 3 million euros ($4 million) to conservation group WWF over the next three years to help kickstart a campaign to protect the Arctic from the impacts of global warming, the world's biggest soft-drinks maker said.
The Europe-wide campaign, which launched on Thursday in London, is aimed at raising awareness and funding to help protect the natural habitat of the polar bear, which is under threat from climate change.
Scientists say the Arctic is currently warming twice as fast as the global average and summer sea ice is disappearing at a rate of about 11 percent a decade.
Ice thawed to a record low last year due to climate change. Most experts estimate the ice could disappear completely in summer in 30 to 40 years, though some scientists say it might thaw as soon as 2015.
The shrinking ice mass threatens many Arctic ecosystems and species. The polar bear, a well-worn symbol of global warming's effects on the region, is already feeling threatened.
As ice retreats, polar bears are forced to spend more time on land hunting for food. As a result, people in some Arctic communities have encountered more bears which can be dangerous for the people and the bears.
The campaign aims to raise awareness and funds in European countries for the plight of the polar bear. The money raised will go towards protecting an area in the Arctic where summer sea ice should last the longest, WWF and Coca-Cola said.
That area covers 1.4 million km sq in northern Greenland and northern Canada - equivalent to a region bigger than both France and Spain.
The money will also help WWF to study the polar bear population and habitat and help Arctic communities living close to an increasingly hungry polar bear population.
Coca-Cola said it hopes the campaign will bring the Arctic into people's homes.
As well as a new TV commercial in Europe, the company is launching more than 300 million Coca-Cola packs and cans showing a polar bear family travelling across the Arctic.
"Polar bears have been a much-loved part of our iconic Coca-Cola advertising for over 90 years and because of this strong tie, and our partnership with the WWF, we want to help create a future for polar bears and their Arctic home," said Hilary Quinn, Coca-Cola's Brand Director for North West Europe and the Nordics.
Details of the campaign are available at www.arctichome.eu ($1 = 0.7521 euros)
(Reporting by Nina Chestney)