The polar regions have been attracting more and more attention in recent years, fuelled by the perceptible impacts of anthropogenic climate change. Polar climate change provides new opportunities, such as shorter shipping routes between Europe and East Asia, but also new risks such as the potential for industrial accidents or emergencies in ice-covered seas. Here, it is argued that environmental prediction systems for the polar regions are less developed than elsewhere. There are many reasons for this situation, including the polar regions being (historically) lower priority, with less in situ observations, and with numerous local physical processes that are less well-represented by models. By contrasting the relative importance of different physical processes in polar and lower latitudes, the need for a dedicated polar prediction effort is illustrated. Research priorities are identified that will help to advance environmental polar prediction capabilities. Examples include an improvement of the polar observing system; the use of coupled atmosphere-sea ice-ocean models, even for short-term prediction; and insight into polar-lower latitude linkages and their role for forecasting. Given the enormity of some of the challenges ahead, in a harsh and remote environment such as the polar regions, it is argued that rapid progress will only be possible with a coordinated international effort. More specifically, it is proposed to hold a Year of Polar Prediction (YOPP) from mid-2017 to mid-2019 in which the international research and operational forecasting community will work together with stakeholders in a period of intensive observing, modelling, prediction, verification, user-engagement and educational activities.