Monday, April 5, 2010
Five Arctic states met last Monday in the Canadian city of Chelsea to bolster regional cooperation amid concerns of a military build-up and opposition to the tapping of its rich resources.
Representatives from Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the U.S. will participate in the Quebec talks.
The meeting comes as a global race for vast oil and gas reserves believed to be hidden beneath the seabed intensifies, raising fears of increased commercial activity spoiling the pristine environment.
"Over time, increased access to the region will result in new opportunities and challenges," Canadian Foreign Minister said in a statement.
"It is important that we plan now for the future," he said. "Arctic Ocean coastal states are in a unique position to set the agenda for responsible management of the region."
Each of the five Arctic nations claim overlapping parts of the region estimated to hold 90 billion untapped barrels of oil.
They pledged in 2008 to try to avoid territorial conflicts and balance economic opportunities with conservation of this fragile ecosystem.
"Increased development of Arctic oil and gas would not only contribute to the climate crisis that is devastating Arctic communities, it would also add more direct pressure to fragile ecosystems that are already stressed by the combined impacts of climate change and existing development." said Daniel T'seleie a climate change planner for Ecology North on behalf of the signatories.
The only alternative to the application of the Law of the Sea Convention (all States involved in the Arctic Ocean continental shelf have ratified the Convention except the USA.) would be a new treaty among only those States concerned with the Artic Ocean sea bed. The precedent for such a treaty is the Treaty on the Antarctic in which 12 countries ratified a treaty to create a legal framework to govern the southernmost continent. Some have presented this Antarctic model as a way to deal with US claims of the coastal shelf of Alaska, as the USA can not use the Law of the Sea Convention bodies.
Last week, Obama's new energy plan would allow exploratory drilling in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas in the Arctic Ocean as early as this summer, although no more lease sales would be held there through 2012. Drilling in Alaska's Cook Inlet would go forward through 2012, but the Bristol Bay area would be withdrawn from consideration through 2017.
So will the moratorium on all new fossil fuel exploration in the Arctic survive with all this international pressure ?