( The Globe and Mail, 15 April 2013) -- China, India and big oil will all be welcome at a new circumpolar forum launched Monday by Iceland’s President Ólafur Grímsson in a move that seems certain to irk some northern nations. The Arctic Council – the group that includes Canada and the seven other circumpolar countries – has been grappling with a slew of demands for participation from China, India and other non-northern nations. Now the launch of the Arctic Circle, which Mr. Grímsson announced on the same day Iceland became the first western nation to sign a free-trade pact with China, will be seen as complicating, if not challenging, the primacy of the Arctic Council in the rapidly changing north. The Arctic Circle forum will be open to all. “Google is interested,” Mr. Grímsson said during a launch speech at the National Press Club in Washington, adding so too were those countries, such as France, currently frustrated by being relegated to non-speaking observer status at the Arctic Council. “We want to be an open tent or a public square,” Mr. Grímsson said, in a pointed reference to the limited membership and governmental Arctic Council that critics regard as exclusive and unwelcoming. “We hope to foster a new type of dialogue,” he said, starting in October when the first gathering of the Arctic Circle opens in Iceland’s capital Reykjavik. ... Mr. Grímsson was careful to say that the Arctic Circle wasn’t intended as a rival or replacement for the Arctic Council. But just as Davos – the high-profile annual gathering of political and business leaders, celebrities and NGOs – often eclipses the more staid and official fora, it’s clear that the Arctic Circle is intended as a high-profile, dynamic conference where India and Google and Greenpeace – and countless others with a stake in the Arctic – need not wait for years hoping they may be allowed to speak.
Posted 16 April 2013; 12:43:01 AM. Permalink
(UPI, 20 February 2013) -- NAIROBI, Kenya - Awareness of the issue of melting arctic sea ice is much higher than the international community's attention to the matter, a U.N. official said from Nairobi. Changing climate patterns means international oil and gas companies are looking to exploit the estimated 30 percent of the world's unrecovered natural gas and 70 percent of the world's undiscovered oil under in arctic waters. The U.N. Environment Program, in its annual report, said summer ice sheet in 2012 was 18 percent smaller than the previous low record set in 2007. "Changing environmental conditions in the arctic -- often considered a bellwether for global climate change -- have been an issue of concern for some time, but as of yet this awareness has not translated into urgent action," UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said in a statement. Problems with Shell's exploration campaign in northern Alaskan waters last year raised concerns about the potential risk of operating in extreme environments. UNEP said no plans for arctic exploration should move ahead without taking steps to ensure the pristine environment, and those who rely on it, is protected.
Posted 21 February 2013; 12:11:45 AM. Permalink
(Nunatsiaq News, 22 January 2013) -- Officials from China, South Korea and the European Union, all of whom seek a higher level of participation in circumpolar affairs, wooed the Arctic Council Jan. 22 at an Arctic conference in Tromsø, Norway. All three entities seek permanent observer status on the Arctic Council, an upgrade in status that could give them more influence over circumpolar issues. The Arctic Council will decide on new permanent observer applications at a ministerial meeting to be held this May in Stockholm, just before Sweden relinquishes the chairmanship to Canada. The Chinese ambassador to Norway, Zhao Jun, said in a keynote speech Jan. 21 that the accelerating pace of climate change “will significantly influence the landscape of global shipping, trade and energy supply,” matters that are of crucial interest to China. At the same time, he said the international community has so far approached these issues in a spirit of co-operation. “With expanding areas and a tremendous potential, the Arctic co-operation has become more and more institutionalized and mature,” Jun said. To that end, he said China believes the Arctic Council is the most important international forum for discussions about environmental protection and sustainable development in the Arctic.
Posted 1 February 2013; 7:54:13 AM. Permalink
(Nunatsiaq News, 18 January 2013) -- Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq, the federal minister responsible for the Arctic Council, is visiting Iceland, Denmark, Finland and Norway Jan. 14 to Jan. 22 to meet with government representatives, indigenous groups, and members of the business sector in each country, a news release said. The trip is to help prepare for Canada’s two-year chairmanship of the Arctic Council, which begins May 2013. The trip’s goal is to seek the views of Arctic Council states on “the themes Canada has set out for its chairmanship,” Aglukkaq said in the release. “Canada is committed to helping the North realize its true potential as a healthy, prosperous and secure region,” she said. ... The theme for Canada’s chairmanship will be: development for the people of the North, with sub-themes that include responsible Arctic resource development, safe Arctic shipping, and sustainable circumpolar communities. “The North is an integral part of our heritage, and holds tremendous promise for the future,” Aglukkaq said. She said there should be a greater focus on creating conditions in the North for economic growth, vibrant communities, and healthy ecosystems, she said. The trip will begin in Reykjavik, then goes on to Copenhagen and Helsinki before a final stop in Tromsø, Norway.
Posted 18 January 2013; 7:43:39 PM. Permalink
(Bob Weber/The Canadian Press via Yahoo! News, 3 December 2012) -- Canada will use its two years as leader of the circumpolar world to promote development and defend its policies, suggest federal politicians and documents. But Arctic experts and those involved with the Arctic Council worry that's the wrong approach at a time when the diplomatic body is dealing with crucial international issues from climate change to a treaty on oil spill prevention. ... "The issues have just escalated when you look at what's happening now with climate change," said Mary Simon, one of the negotiators of the agreement that created the council and a former Canadian ambassador for circumpolar affairs. "Even the predictions that were (made) two years ago are way out. The Arctic is being looked at very differently by nations — not just the eight that make up the Arctic Council, but other nations such as China and Japan." Think-tanks including the Munk-Gordon Arctic Security Program and the Rideau Institute have urged an agenda that gets out in front of emerging issues. They've suggested that Canada could promote the protection of Arctic fisheries, the reduction of so-called black carbon — or soot — that accelerates the loss of sea ice and the adoption of mandatory safety standards for Arctic shipping. "All of the issues are pressing," said Michael Byers, a professor of international law and an Arctic expert at the University of British Columbia. "Nobody can afford for the Canadian chair to sit on our hands for two years." But a discussion paper circulated at meetings held across the North to gather input suggests that Canada's top priority will be development.
Posted 10 December 2012; 1:18:54 PM. Permalink
(Barents Observer, 23 November 2012) -- Although the season is not yet completely over – there are still two Finnish icebreakers in westbound transit from Alaska to Denmark – some remarks on the 2012 season can be made. There has been a tenfold increase in the number of vessels using NSR during the last two years. This season 46 vessels have sailed the route, compared to 34 in 2011 and only four in 2010. The total cargo transported on the NSR this year is 1 261 545 tons – a 53 percent increase from 2011, when 820 789 tons was shipped on the route. 25 of the vessels sailed NSR eastbound, starting from Murmansk, Arkhangelsk or Baydaratskaya Bay. 21 sailed in a westbound direction, a report from Rosatomflot reads. The report is given to BarentsObserver by the Centre for High North Logistics, an international knowledge hub on Arctic transport and logistics for businesses. Petroleum products constitute the largest cargo group. A total of 894 079 tons of diesel fuel, gas condensate, jet fuel, LNG and other petrol products has been transported on 26 vessels in 2012. 18 of the tankers sailed from west to east, eight in the opposite direction. ... The second largest cargo group was iron ore and coal, which was transported along the route six times. The two Finnish icebreakers Nordica and Fennica will probably be the last vessels to use NSR this season. The vessels are underway from Alaska to Denmark.
Posted 10 December 2012; 10:48:17 AM. Permalink
(Jane George/Nunatsiaq News, 16 November 2012) -- Ministers from Canada and Norway, along with Arctic Parliamentarians, want the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East back at the Arctic Council. Canadian officials will continue to monitor what happens to the RAIPON, says Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq, also the federal minister responsible for the Arctic Council. That comment follows a recent move by Russia’s ministry of Justice to suspend the operations of RAIPON, a move that came under fire at a meeting of the Arctic Council this past week in Haparanda, Sweden. “Our government supports the promotion of basic values—freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law, Aglukkaq told Nunatsiaq News Nov. 16. Aglukkaq’s statement echoes that of the Nov. 14 statement from senior Arctic officials from the Arctic Council’s eight member nations — including Russia — and from the other five indigenous Arctic organizations which sit as permanent participants on the council. Their statement expressed concern about the suspension and its impact on RAIPON’s absence at the council, asking “the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation to facilitate, as appropriate, the fulfilment of RAIPON’s important role as a permanent participant in the Arctic Council.”
Posted 19 November 2012; 3:25:02 PM. Permalink
(Bob Weber/Globe and Mail, 15 November 2012) -- Canada’s term as head of the Arctic Council could get interesting before it even begins after Russia shut down a group that represents its northern aboriginals at international meetings. Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, who sits on the council and is an Inuk herself, says Canada is concerned about the move and has joined other members in “expressing their concern.” “Canadian officials will continue to monitor the situation closely,” she said on Thursday. “Canada and other Arctic states have requested that Russia and [the Russian Association of Indigenous People of the North] co-operate closely to resolve the situation.” The Russian government surprised Arctic officials from the council’s eight member states this week when that country’s Ministry of Justice suspended the operations of the Russian indigenous group. The group represents more than 250,000 northerners and is one of six organizations that stand for aboriginals on the council. Canada begins a two-year term as the council’s head in the spring.
Posted 19 November 2012; 3:24:18 PM. Permalink
(CBC North, 5 October 2012) -- The United States is again lobbying for an international ban on the trade of polar bear parts, after a previous attempt failed in 2010. Officials have submitted a proposal to reclassify the animals under Appendix I — as a species threatened with extinction — of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species or CITES. That would shut down the commercial trade of hides, teeth and claws. It would also effectively shut down international polar bear sport hunts. This is the second time the U.S. has tried to get a ban on the international trade of polar bear parts. In 2010, the first American proposal was defeated at a meeting in Qatar. Nunavut Tunngavik, the Nunavut land claims organization, is outraged by the move. "The polar bear population is very healthy right now and traditional knowledge says that the numbers are increasing,” said NTI vice-president James Eeteelook. Canada is home to about two-thirds of the world’s 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears. Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Terry Audla said he was disappointed by the American proposal.
Posted 12 October 2012; 11:46:10 AM. Permalink
(Eric Talmadge/AP via CTV, 16 April 2012) -- YOKOSUKA, Japan - To the world's military leaders, the debate over climate change is long over. They are preparing for a new kind of Cold War in the Arctic, anticipating that rising temperatures there will open up a treasure trove of resources, long-dreamed-of sea lanes and a slew of potential conflicts. By Arctic standards, the region is already buzzing with military activity, and experts believe that will increase significantly in the years ahead. Last month, Norway wrapped up one of the largest Arctic maneuvers ever -- Exercise Cold Response -- with 16,300 troops from 14 countries training on the ice for everything from high intensity warfare to terror threats. Attesting to the harsh conditions, five Norwegian troops were killed when their C-130 Hercules aircraft crashed near the summit of Kebnekaise, Sweden's highest mountain. The U.S., Canada and Denmark held major exercises two months ago, and in an unprecedented move, the military chiefs of the eight main Arctic powers -- Canada, the U.S., Russia, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland -- gathered at a Canadian military base last week to specifically discuss regional security issues. None of this means a shooting war is likely at the North Pole any time soon. But as the number of workers and ships increases in the High North to exploit oil and gas reserves, so will the need for policing, border patrols and -- if push comes to shove -- military muscle to enforce rival claims.
Posted 16 April 2012; 10:19:09 AM. Permalink
(Gemma Karstens-Smith/Postmedia News via Ottawa Citizen, 12 April 2012) -- Hans Island may look like nothing more than a big, vacant rock in Arctic waters, but for decades, it has been a political thorn in the side of both the Canadian and Danish governments. That thorn soon could be removed. Ownership of the barren, 1.3-square-kilometre piece of land — located in Nares Strait, between Canada's Ellesmere Island and Greenland, which falls under the Danish Crown — has been hotly contested since the current maritime borders were drawn up in 1973. Boundaries of the surrounding waters and seabeds are clear, but each country continues to claim the land mass as their own. The disagreement has led to some famous displays of sovereignty. Danish warships and naval personnel visited the island several times from the mid-1980s to early 2000s to maintain a flag. In 2005, Canadian soldiers ventured to the island to erect a Canadian flag and to build an inukshuk in an operation code-named "Exercise Frozen Beaver." Then-defence minister Bill Graham visited the island shortly after. The argument may be permanently resolved soon, however. Sources say Canada and Denmark are close to an agreement, which would see Hans Island split between the two nations, according to a report in the National Post. The reported agreement would create a border across the island — creating Canada's second international land border — by connecting the existing maritime boundaries, which stop on the low-water mark on the south side of the land mass and begin again at the low-water mark on the north side. "This dispute is really easy; you just have to connect the dots," said Michael Byers, an expert in Arctic sovereignty at the University of British Columbia. A spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Department could not comment on the reported agreement specifically. "Canada and Denmark are cooperating in developing a mutually agreeable way forward with respect to Hans Island," Ian Trites said.
Posted 14 April 2012; 10:03:11 PM. Permalink
(Christina Zander and Alexis Flynn/Dow Jones Newswires via NASDAQ, 12 April 2012) -- STOCKHOLM - The Arctic region is likely to attract investment of $100 billion or more over the coming decade, according to a report by independent policy institute Chatham House and the Lloyd's of London insurance market. Interest in the Arctic region has intensified in recent years as a boom in commodities has seen companies scramble for precious resources to satisfy growing demand from China, among others. A melting ice cap hasn't only opened up new shipping routes that significantly cut transport times and distances between Europe and Asia, it has also made the region's estimated rich deposits of oil, gas and minerals more accessible. The report, published Thursday, notes that oil and gas, mining and the shipping industries will be the biggest drivers and beneficiaries of Arctic economic development in the coming years, but it says the Arctic's economic future depends principally on local investment conditions and global commodity prices. "One thing that stands out most clearly from this report is the significant level of uncertainty about the Arctic's future, both environmentally and economically," said Richard Ward, chief executive of Lloyd's. "Some of the technologies that will help to shape that future, such as those involved in deepwater drilling and ice management are already tried, while others are still in their infancy or yet to be developed." Growing interest in four key sectors--mineral resources, fisheries, logistics and Arctic tourism--could, according to the report, generate substantial investment in the region over the next decade, especially in the minerals sector.
Posted 12 April 2012; 11:22:41 PM. Permalink
(AFP via Yahoo! News, 11 April 2012) -- Canada and Denmark are close to settling a decades-old territorial dispute over a tiny island in the Arctic, a Canadian newspaper said Wednesday. Negotiators have put forth a proposal to split down the middle Hans Island, a barren rock of 1.3 square kilometers (0.5 square miles) that sits between Ellesmere Island and Greenland, the National Post reported. The plan, which has yet to be approved by either nation, would give Canada a second land border and settle a spat that is seen as both absurd and essential for economic development and better environmental stewardship of the Arctic. But officials would not confirm a settlement has been reached. "Canada and Denmark are cooperating in developing a mutually agreeable way forward with respect to Hans Island," said Joseph Lavoie, spokesman for Canada's Foreign Minister John Baird. The snow-covered site is uninhabitable, but the onset of global warming is expected to bring ship traffic to the region and open it up to mining, fishing or drilling for oil and gas. The dispute over the island, which is less than 100 meters (330 feet) wide, dates back to 1973 when the border was drawn between Canada and Greenland, which is part of Denmark. Danes and Canadians have visited it often since then to lay claim to it, leading to diplomatic protests, vivid online campaigns and even a Canadian call for a boycott of Danish pastries. Denmark fears that losing the battle for Hans Island would undermine relations with its giant overseas territory Greenland, while Canada is concerned it could lose ground in a far more consequential dispute with the United States over the Beaufort Sea. In 2010, however, Ottawa vowed in its first policy statement on the far north to quickly settle border disputes with Denmark and the United States, in order to move forward on broader issues of Arctic resource development.
Posted 12 April 2012; 12:00:24 AM. Permalink
(Peter Apps/Reuters via Vancouver Sun, 6 April 2012) -- This year's frenzy of oil and gas exploration in newly accessible Arctic waters could be the harbinger of even starker changes to come. If, as many scientists predict, currently inaccessible sea lanes across the top of the world become navigable in the coming decades, they could redraw global trading routes -- and perhaps geopolitics -- forever. This summer will see more human activity in the Arctic than ever before, with oil giant Shell engaged in major exploration and an expected further rise in fishing, tourism and regional shipping. But that, experts warn, brings with it a rising risk of environmental disaster not to mention criminal activity from illegal fishing to smuggling and terrorism. ... With indigenous populations, researchers and military forces reporting the ice receding faster than many had expected, some estimates suggest the polar ice cap might disappear completely during the summer season as soon as 2040, perhaps much earlier. That could slash the journey time from Europe to Chinese and Japanese ports by well over a week, possibly taking traffic from the southern Suez Canal route. But with many of those key sea routes passing through already disputed waters believed to contain much of the world's untapped energy reserves, some already fear a rising risk of confrontation. There are fledging signs of growing cooperation -- the first ever meeting of Arctic defense chiefs in Canada later this month, joint tabletop exercises on polar search and rescue operations organized through the Arctic Council. But growing unease is also clear.
Posted 9 April 2012; 8:45:07 PM. Permalink
(Euractiv via Environmental News Network, 7 April 2012) -- Norwegian and Russian energy relations might be put at risk when it comes to the exploration and acquisition of untapped energy resources in the Arctic with both countries increasing their militarisation in the area, according to Stratfor, an Austin, Texas-based global intelligence company providing geopolitical analysis and commentary. "Norwegian Defence Minister Espen Barth Eide indicated March 28 that the Norwegian army 2nd Battalion would be renamed the "Arctic Battalion" and equipped to patrol the country's Arctic territory. ... The Arctic, which is estimated to hold vast untapped oil and natural gas reserves, has become more relevant to geopolitics over the past decade. ...Norway and Russia have been highlighting their territorial claims in preparation for potential mineral extraction. Competition in the Arctic will strain the countries' relationship, though a hard break in relations is unlikely as long as both benefit from bilateral cooperation, such as between their state energy companies, Statoil and Gazprom. However, Norway will work to contain Russia's influence in the Arctic by strengthening its military partnerships with other countries in the region. Norway's latest plans are part of a decade-long programme to modernise its military, with a stronger focus on the Arctic and Russia.... Russia ... has been operating along routinely for decades, [and] already has strong military capabilities there. Despite this militarisation, Russia and Norway continue their cooperation in the energy sphere. Lacking significant offshore arctic drilling technology, Gazprom relies on Statoil's technological capacity to develop Russia's Shtokman project in the Barents Sea.... The countries also continue a cooperative military relationship, exemplified by the POMOR annual naval exercises held in May. The true test of this working relationship in the Arctic will be the exploration and acquisition of untapped energy resources. At that point, the extent of the cooperation between Statoil and Gazprom will be an important indicator of the countries' wider bilateral relationship."
Posted 7 April 2012; 1:14:33 PM. Permalink
(Jane George/Nunatsiaq News, 29 March 2012) -- The Inuit Circumpolar Council received some good news this past week in Stockholm, Sweden, during a meeting of top officials from the Arctic Council’s eight member nations and its indigenous Arctic participants. The ICC learned that its “Sea ice is our highway” project will move ahead as an official Arctic Council project. This project, funded by Canada, the United States and Denmark, will look at how changes in the Arctic have affected Inuit and how Inuit are adapting to these changes. And it will include interviews “with as many Inuit from Chukotka to Greenland as we can within the budget,” said ICC-Canada’s president Duane Smith in an interview from Stockholm. The resulting document will become part of the Arctic Council’s ongoing Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment work, he said. The ICC project’s approval helps meet the call from the permanent participants, like ICC and the Sami Council, for the inclusion of more indigenous knowledge in the Arctic Council’s work.
Posted 30 March 2012; 4:09:48 PM. Permalink
(Arctic Council Indigenous Peoples' Secretariat via Twitter and FB, 28 March 2012) -- Permanent Participants attending the Arctic Council Senior Arctic Officials Meeting in Sweden. ICC Project "The Sea Ice is Our Highway: An Inuit Perspective on Transportation in the Arctic (to conduct survey of Inuit communities in Greenland, Alaska, Chukotka and Canada, workshop in 2012) has approved this morning under SDWG
Posted 28 March 2012; 2:47:05 AM. Permalink
(Charles M. Sennott/Ground Truth via GlobalPost Blogs, 27 March 2012) -- MEDFORD, Massachusetts - The Arctic Circle is the next gold rush with eight nations holding territory in the melting tundra all vying to stake a claim to the bountiful resources that lie beneath the ice flows. Or, the Arctic Circle is the next utopia, a global commons where mankind can work together to save the environment and the traditions of its indigenous people while responsible investors harvest resources the planet will need to survive. Or, it is all of these things. The truth is that the Arctic Circle is a tabula rasa, a place where political leaders, business investors, environmentalists, dreamers and schemers are all trying to assert their will and give shape to its uncertain future. What is clear is that the Arctic Circle holds the world’s largest supply of untapped resources, particularly oil and gas, as well as rare minerals. Most economists agree it stands to become the last great emerging market in the global economy. At an extraordinary conference this week at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Iceland’s President Olafur Grimsson gathered along with more than 50 leading diplomats, politicians, academics, environmentalists and business entrepreneurs to address the foreign policy, economic, environmental and security implications in the Arctic. At the conference, titled “Voyage of Re-Discovery: Panning for Wealth in the Warming Arctic,” a general consensus emerged that the combination of a growing scarcity of resources combined with scientific breakthroughs for extracting them from the bottom of the icy waters and new pathways that are opening up due to climate change has put the Arctic at center stage in geopolitical conversation. The conference seemed to focus most sharply on the need for a precise legal and political framework for the Arctic Circle to be established by the Arctic Council, which is made up of Canada, the United States, Russia, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Sweden and Finland.
Posted 27 March 2012; 11:20:54 PM. Permalink
(Sweden Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Ministry of the Environment press release, 26 March 2012) -- Close to 180 representatives from the Arctic Council's Member States, indigenous peoples and working groups will convene on 28 29 March during Stockholm Polar Week. The agenda will include one of the Swedish Chairmanship's most important tasks -- strengthening the Arctic Council. "During the meeting in Stockholm, we hope to make a number of significant decisions on the regulatory framework for the Council's new standing secretariat in Tromsö," says Sweden's Arctic Ambassador Gustaf Lind. One year ago, the Council's members decided also to develop a plan to improve the Arctic Council's strategic communication. The Chairmanship hopes to reach a consensus on the proposal now on the table. Participants will also receive a report about the ongoing activities of the Arctic Council's working groups. Several of the groups are currently involved in identifying areas in the Arctic that are particularly worthy of protection from an integrated perspective. A more in-depth discussion concerning how the Arctic Council will proceed with this is expected at the next Senior Arctic Official (SAO) meeting in November. The SAO meeting in Stockholm is the second during the Swedish Chairmanship and will conclude the round of Arctic Council negotiations before the Deputy Ministers' meeting in May. Mr Lind will tweet from the meeting in Stockholm (@sacochair). The hashtag for the week is #polarweek.
Posted 27 March 2012; 1:19:51 AM. Permalink
(Radio Sweden, 23 March 2012) -- Officials from the US, Canada, Norway, Iceland, Russia, Finland and Denmark will be in Stockholm to talk about the Arctic next week. When Sweden took over the Arctic Council’s chairmanship a year ago, expectations were high that environmental issues would get special attention. Partly because Sweden said they would. And partly because the country has no major vested interests – no Arctic coastline and no claim to the region's potentially huge oil and gas reserves. So has the last year lived up to expectations? When he began leading Arctic Council meetings a year ago Gustav Lind from the foreign ministry said there would a Swedish flavor to the informal organization of Arctic states in the coming year. Today he tells Radio Sweden there have many environmental projects and agreements on the agenda, and the group is close to an agreement on handling oil spills. Around the corner at the Swedish parliament, Bodil Cebellos from the Green Party says that if the Arctic Council had a flavour it would be distinctly oily. “I wish Sweden would use its voice to tell the other countries not to prospect for oil in the Arctic,” she says. The Foreign Minister, Carl Bildt, recently said Sweden would achieve nothing from lecturing Norway and other Arctic countries with major oil interests. Canada, which has more than a third of its territory in the Arctic, is pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol and continues to drill in controversial oil sands. What impact can Sweden or even the Arctic Council have on the biggest challenge facing the Arctic – climate change? Temperatures have risen twice as fast in the Arctic than in other parts of the globe and the latest research suggests it will be ice free in summertime within 40 years. Annika Nillson researches Arctic environmental issues at the Stockholm Resilience Centre. She says the organization has succeeded in raising awareness and tackling some significant pollution threats to the region. However, she adds that when it comes to climate change, it has a limited impact, as the member countries have very different priorities.
Posted 23 March 2012; 10:43:14 AM. Permalink
(Defence Professionals, 19 March 2012) -- The Arctic region is poised for greater regional significance as polar ice retreats in coming decades. Ship traffic likely will increase during summer months, and commercial activity focused on the sea floor is expected to grow. The Arctic is largely isolated, vast and environmentally extreme. Remote sensing may offer affordable advantages over traditional methods of monitoring the region—aircraft, satellites or manned ships and submarines—due to the great distances in the Arctic. To enable future capability for regional situational awareness and maritime security, DARPA’s Assured Arctic Awareness (AAA) program plans to develop new technologies to monitor the Arctic both above and below the ice, providing year-round situational awareness without the need for forward-basing or human presence. AAA seeks advances in sensor systems and related technologies—such as station-keeping capabilities—that are rugged enough to withstand Arctic conditions, economical to operate and environmentally responsible with minimal impact. DARPA seeks proposals that specifically take the perceived negatives of the harsh polar environment and turn them into positives for a suite of unique Arctic capabilities. “We’re looking for creative ideas for compelling component technologies and a vision for applying them to monitor the region—whether proposers have expertise in the Arctic or not,” said Andy Coon, DARPA program manager.
Posted 20 March 2012; 12:04:28 AM. Permalink
(Sweden Ministry for Foreign Affairs press release, 20 February 2012) -- On 21 February, Minister for Foreign Affairs Carl Bildt travels to London where he is to participate in a public seminar on the Arctic at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). He will discuss Sweden's current and future role with regard to regional security and other challenges in the Arctic. Climate change has led to the reduction of sea ice in the Arctic. This creates new business opportunities, and opens up new trade routes and possibilities to exploit natural resources. At the same time, the sensitive Arctic environment and its indigenous people are affected. International interest in the Arctic is increasing.
Posted 20 February 2012; 4:16:56 PM. Permalink
(Carl Meyer/Embassy, 8 February 2012) -- The United States and Canada should march in lockstep at the Arctic Council, as the US helps to develop natural resources in Canada's North, say Canadian and US officials. "We look forward to developing a common agenda at the Arctic Council, which we can advance during these four years of a shared North American chairmanship," said Richard Steffens, minister-counsellor for commercial affairs at the US Embassy. Mr. Steffens was speaking as part of a Feb. 3 panel at Northern Lights 2012, a four-day conference in Ottawa focusing on the Arctic and the North. The panel also featured the heads of mission of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden, as well as Canada's senior Arctic official, Sheila Riordon. The Arctic Council—an intergovernmental forum that deals with matters facing Arctic states and indigenous peoples—is set to be chaired by Canada from 2013 to 2015, and the US from 2015 to 2017. Ms. Riordon confirmed in her own speech that the two countries are now angling to collaborate. "There's a great deal of opportunity to look at ways that we can use the council from the North American optic to advance some of our shared interests and objectives," she said. The US is Canada's "closest neighbour and in many ways our premier partner in the region," added Ms. Riordon, who is director general of the energy, climate, and circumpolar affairs bureau at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. A Canada-US bloc would set the two nations apart from a Scandinavian bloc that has existed since 2006. Council documents note that the three last chairs—Norway, Denmark, and Sweden—pledged to follow a common set of priorities: climate change, environmental protection, the legacy of the 2007-08 international polar year, indigenous peoples, and the management of the council.
Posted 13 February 2012; 11:06:40 PM. Permalink
(Sweden Ministry for Foreign Affairs, 13 February 2012) -- On 14-15 February, the Arctic Council Sustainable Development Working Group will meet in Gällivare. The meeting is being organised under the Swedish Chairmanship of the Arctic Council, which lasts until 2013. Around 30 representatives of the eight member states, indigenous peoples and observer states will take part. Two weeks ago the Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG) met in Stockholm on Sweden's initiative to discuss the responsibility of enterprises operating in the Arctic for the climate and people in the region. In Gällivare, Sweden will inform other participants about continued work on that issue. Other discussions during the meeting on 14-15 February will start out from topics such as food safety, Swedish reindeer husbandry, the Arctic from an economic perspective and how to increase awareness of the human dimension in all Arctic issues. The participants will also visit the LKAB mine in Malmberget for a dialogue on the company's work on sustainability.
Posted 13 February 2012; 5:14:13 PM. Permalink
(Nordic Council News, 2 February 2012) -- The Arctic will be the theme of the first Nordic Council theme session of the year in Iceland on 23 March. The plenary debate, which will highlight Arctic issues from an environmental-, equality- and welfare perspective, will be broadcast live over the Internet from the Alting in Reykjavik. The many and complex political challenges faced in the Arctic is also one of three main themes for the Finnish Presidency of the Nordic Council in 2012. Promoting a form of development that guarantees the living standards of the Arctic people is one of the key issues. A balance has to be struck between the rights and needs of the people and protection of the fragile natural environment, particularly because global interest in exploiting Arctic natural resources is growing, as is interest in opening up Arctic transport routes. A variety of national, regional and global bodies are involved in Arctic issues. The winner of the Nordic Council Literature prize will be announced at the theme session for the first time this year. The award ceremony will be on March 22. The theme session will be held prior to the March meeting of the Nordic Council on 21-22 March.
Posted 2 February 2012; 6:27:59 PM. Permalink
(CBC Radio: The Best of the Current, 30 January 2012) -- So why is it that China is commissioning a second polar ice-breaker and India has plans to build one too? All this as both countries seek to join the ranks asking for observer status on The Arctic Council, a body of eight Northern nations including our own and six Arctic Indigenous groups including groups here. As Canada prepares to assume the Chair of the Arctic Council, we're asking who gets to makes plans for the far North.
(CBC News, 1 February 2012) -- China may use the upcoming visit by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to try convincing him that it deserves a more prominent role in the Arctic. Next year Canada begins a two-year term as chair of the Arctic Council, which comprises the eight nations that ring the North Pole. Even though it has no Arctic territories, China wants a place at that table. Zhang Junsai, the Chinese ambassador to Canada, told a Montreal audience on Wednesday that his country should be allowed to be there. "Of course, China wishes to be an observer," he said. The Arctic region may contain as much as one-quarter of the Earth's untapped oil and gas – reserves which will become more accessible as temperatures rise and polar ice caps melt. Meanwhile, China covets additional energy and resources to power its fast-growing economy and is already investing heavily in Canada's oilsands. That theme of energy exports is expected to play a central role in Harper's upcoming trip.
Posted 2 February 2012; 11:11:09 AM. Permalink
(CBC News, 25 January 2012) -- Organizers for the 2012 Arctic Winter Games’ cultural events took the stage Tuesday. Eight presenters got a chance to lay out their plans for the week of shows in Whitehorse which will take place alongside the sports. The theme for this year is "Winter Living". "We're trying to create that atmosphere where people get together and they go in the backyard and they light a fire and there's some music and they go inside to warm up. It's about celebrating who we are as a northern people. I just thought that weather-wise, you know, it's sort of how we winter. That's kind of the theme that inspired some of the work," said Laurel Parry, vice-president for culture and ceremonies for the games. Some of the features will include an exhibition of circumpolar beading. There will also be local dancers, musicians and snow carving. The new Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre and the MacBride museum will feature displays. The budget for the cultural games is $300,000. Patrick Roberge, who directed the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2007 Canada Winter Games is coming back to produce this year’s event on a $40,000 contract. The Arctic Winter Games start March 4.
Posted 30 January 2012; 2:37:44 AM. Permalink
(Jonathan Watts/The Guardian, 25 January 2012) -- Norway could shut China out of the Arctic Council if Beijing does not stop a campaign of diplomatic snubs imposed after the Nobel peace prize was awarded to Liu Xiaobo, a Norwegian newspaper has reported. If confirmed, Oslo's move would mark a bold confrontation with the world's fastest rising economic power and highlight the growing importance of the Arctic, which is opening up for navigation and mineral exploitation as it melts due to global warming. China's relations with Norway have been frosty since October 2010, when the Oslo-based Nobel committee announced that Liu, an imprisoned Chinese democracy activist, would be the next peace laureate. Although the Norwegian government has stressed that the Nobel committee is independent, Beijing has punished its host nation by cutting political and human rights dialogues. Until now, Norway has tried to use quiet diplomacy to ease the situation but, with little sign of progress, the Aftenposten, Norway's best selling newspaper, claims the government is preparing to up the stakes. Citing an unnamed high-level diplomatic source, the paper said Norway would find it difficult to agree to China's application to be a permanent observer on the Arctic Council while the current situation persisted.
Posted 26 January 2012; 6:16:12 PM. Permalink
(ENS, 17 January 2012) -- TORONTO, Ontario, Canada - Drawn by rapid climate changes in the resource-rich Arctic, China, India and Brazil, which have no Arctic territories, are knocking on the door of the increasingly influential Arctic Council looking for admission as permanent observers. The issue has divided existing members, with Russia and Canada most strongly opposed. It is among the major questions with which Canada will have to grapple as it prepares to chair the Arctic Council next year. The issue is on the agenda of a two-day meeting on the future of the Arctic Council, which opened today in Toronto. The second annual Munk-Gordon Arctic Security Conference has attracted more than 100 participants from 15 nations, including experts, national ambassadors and indigenous leaders. Full members of the Arctic Council are Canada, Russia, the United States, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Iceland and Denmark via Greenland - the eight countries with Arctic territory. Six northern indigenous groups - the Inuit Circumpolar Council, Arctic Athabaskan Council, Gwich'in Council International, Sami Council, Russian Association of the Indigenous Peoples of the North and Aleut International Association - are permanent participants. The Arctic Council is the only international organization that gives indigenous peoples a formal place at the table. Another six non-Arctic nations sit in as observers today: France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom. However, many more non-Arctic countries, which in addition to China, India and Brazil, include Japan, South Korea, the European Union and several individual European states, now want observer status, a step that some fear would increase the influence of non-Arctic participants. Many non-Arctic countries are interested in the Arctic as the "canary in the coal mine" on climate change. They are also interested in the potential access to the vast hydrocarbons and resources in the region and the cost-savings of using shorter Arctic shipping routes.
Posted 21 January 2012; 10:30:12 PM. Permalink
(AP via Anchorage Daily News, 7 January 2012) -- A Russian tanker carrying much-needed fuel for iced-in Nome was about 190 miles from its destination late Saturday afternoon and making slow but steady progress, a company official said. The city of about 3,500 people on the northwest Alaska coastline didn't get its last pre-winter fuel delivery because of a massive storm and could run out of crucial supplies before spring without the delivery. The 370-foot tanker was carrying more than 1.3 million gallons of fuel and was being shepherded through hundreds of miles of sea ice by the U.S. Coast Guard's only icebreaker. "They're navigating through ice right now, taking a direct route for now," said Jason Evans, the CEO of Sitnasuak Native Corp., one of the companies undertaking the delivery. "They considered going through patches where there might be thinner ice, but determined that would have taken them on a longer route." Evans estimated the ship traveled another 20 or 30 miles after a Saturday morning report. The ship is scheduled to arrive late Monday or perhaps Tuesday. If the mission is successful, it will be the first time fuel has been delivered by sea to a Western Alaska community in winter. The Russian tanker came upon ice about a foot thick very early Friday near Nunivak Island in the eastern Bering Sea, the Coast Guard said. The tanker is following the Healy, the Coast Guard's only functioning icebreaker -- a ship of special design with a reinforced hull made to move through ice. "It's going basically as planned," Evans said.
Posted 8 January 2012; 2:01:53 PM. Permalink
(Michael Byers/Toronto Star, 28 December 2011) -- NOVOSIBIRSK, RUSSIA - Arctic. There is no likelihood of Arctic states going to war.” The Russian foreign ministry’s representative in Siberia smiles as he quotes the Canadian Prime Minister, as reported in a U.S. diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks. Although Stephen Harper never expected that his conversation with NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen would be made public, the analysis was entirely correct. Here in Novosibirsk (pop. 1.5 million), people are more interested in trade and investment opportunities than geopolitical conspiracies. ... Siberia is larger than Canada and its resource industry more developed, in part a legacy of the Stalinist era drive for self-sufficiency. Fully 20 per cent of Russia’s GDP comes from this vast, sparsely populated territory. ... Russia also has massive deposits of oil and gas, both onshore and offshore. Earlier this year, Russia and Norway settled the Arctic’s largest sovereignty dispute — by dividing a contested portion of the Barents Sea exactly in half. ... Unlocking Russia’s Arctic treasure chest will require new transportation routes. Some Siberian officials envisage a railway to the Bering Strait and beyond through a tunnel to North America. It’s easy to dismiss the plan as unrealistic, until you remember that the Trans-Siberian Railway connecting Europe to China and the Pacific was once also only a dream. ... Russia is intent on turning the Northern Sea Route into a commercially viable alternative to the Strait of Malacca and the Suez Canal. There is just one fly in the ointment: the United States, which opposes Russia’s claim that key parts of the Northern Sea Route constitute Russian internal waters. Significantly, the Russian legal position is identical to that taken by Canada with respect to the Northwest Passage, where the only country that opposes Canada’s internal waters claim is, once again, the United States. During a conference in Novosibirsk, I explain that the Soviet Union had expressed support for Canada’s legal position when the U.S. sent an icebreaker through the Northwest Passage in 1985. A Russian professor asks the logical question: “Did Canada ever support the Soviet Union’s Northern Sea Route claim?” I reply that, although mutual recognition would have strengthened both countries’ legal positions, Canada could never have supported the Soviets in a Cold War dispute with the United States. The professor looks at me quizzically: “But the Cold War is over, nyet? Russia, after all, is about to join the WTO.”
Posted 31 December 2011; 1:43:41 PM. Permalink
(Mia Bennett/Foreign Policy Association, 01 December 2011) -- This year, the Arctic has witnessed a lot more cooperation and a lot less conflict. Whereas past years were marked by sovereignty squabbles, boundary disputes, and accusations of airspace intrusions, this year, events took a more peaceful turn. ... Encouragingly, Canadian and Russian tensions dissolved this year. Relations reached a high point when Canada’s Chief of Defence met with his counterpart in Moscow. More high-level visits also took place, with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg paying a visit to President Barack Obama in Washington D.C. Though their conversation mostly concerned non-Arctic affairs, they did touch briefly upon the circumpolar north. ... The Arctic Council is this year’s group of people for its members’ accomplishment in signing the first-ever agreement under the council’s auspices. The Search and Rescue Agreement, signed by all eight member states of the Arctic Council in Nuuk, Greenland this past May, will coordinate countries’ efforts to aid ships, planes, and other vessels in distress. More work still needs to be done in harmonizing cooperation between all of the countries, but the agreement is a major milestone in the 15 year history of the Arctic Council. As I mentioned before, the first ever SAR exercises took place in October, demonstrating that the eight countries are serious about SAR. The Arctic Council also grew in the eyes of foreign ministers in all of the Arctic countries this year, especially in the United States. For the first time ever, an American Secretary of State attended the ministerial meeting. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar also attended, highlighting the importance of the meeting and esteem of the council in Washington’s eyes.
Posted 31 December 2011; 12:14:32 PM. Permalink
(Heather A. Conley/Post Opinions, Washington Post, 23 December 2011) -- Santa Claus may see you when you’re sleeping, but NORAD makes sure it sees Santa pretty much round-the-clock. The North American Aerospace Defense Command not only follows Saint Nick’s sleigh ride with its famous NORAD Tracks Santa site, but it is also involved in a struggle over resources, border control and broader military presence right in Santa’s vast and magnificent home: the Arctic. In April, President Obama signed a new command plan that gives NORAD and the U.S. Northern Command greater responsibility in protecting the North Pole and U.S. Arctic territory. The Arctic region — covering more than 30 million square kilometers and stretching around the territorial borders of Canada, Denmark (via Greenland), Norway, Russia and the United States by way of the Alaskan coastline — is transforming before our eyes. And not just because the ice is melting. It’s increasingly the site of military posturing, and the United States isn’t keeping up with the rest of the world. In 2009, Norway moved its operational command to its northern territories above the Arctic Circle. Russia has plans to establish a brigade that is specially equipped and prepared for military warfare in Arctic conditions. Denmark has made it a strategic priority to form an Arctic Command. Canada is set to revitalize its Arctic fleet, including spending $33 billion to build 28 vessels over the next 30 years. Even China has entered the Arctic race; it constructed the world’s largest non-nuclear icebreaker to conduct scientific research in the Arctic.
Posted 30 December 2011; 6:11:19 PM. Permalink
(NOAA News, 15 December 2011) -- A recent mission marked the completion of a five-year collaboration between the United States and Canada to survey the Arctic Ocean. The bilateral project collected scientific data to delineate the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles from the coastline, also known as the extended continental shelf (ECS). The U.S. has an inherent interest in knowing, and declaring to others, the exact extent of its sovereign rights in the ocean as set forth in the Convention on the Law of the Sea. For the ECS, this includes sovereign rights over natural resources on and under the seabed including energy resources such as: oil and natural gas and gas hydrates; “sedentary” creatures such as clams, crabs, and corals; and mineral resources such as manganese nodules, ferromanganese crusts, and polymetallic sulfides. The 2011 joint Arctic mission spanned nearly six weeks in August and September and was the fourth year to employ flagship icebreakers from both countries, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy and the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Louis S. St-Laurent. “This two-ship approach was both productive and necessary in the Arctic’s difficult and varying ice conditions,” said Larry Mayer, Ph.D., U.S. chief scientist on the Arctic mission and co-director of the NOAA-University of New Hampshire Joint Hydrographic Center. “With one ship breaking ice for the other, the partnership increased the data either nation could have obtained operating alone, saved millions of dollars by ensuring data were collected only once, provided data useful to both nations for defining the extended continental shelf, and increased scientific and diplomatic cooperation”.
Posted 17 December 2011; 9:14:19 PM. Permalink
(Mia Bennett/Foreign Policy Blogs, 1 December 2011) -- This year, the Arctic has witnessed a lot more cooperation and a lot less conflict. Whereas past years were marked by sovereignty squabbles, boundary disputes, and accusations of airspace intrusions, this year, events took a more peaceful turn. ... Encouragingly, Canadian and Russian tensions dissolved this year. Relations reached a high point when Canada’s Chief of Defence met with his counterpart in Moscow. More high-level visits also took place, with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg paying a visit to President Barack Obama in Washington D.C. Though their conversation mostly concerned non-Arctic affairs, they did touch briefly upon the circumpolar north. ... The Arctic Council is this year’s group of people [of the year] for its members’ accomplishment in signing the first-ever agreement under the council’s auspices. The Search and Rescue Agreement, signed by all eight member states of the Arctic Council in Nuuk, Greenland this past May, will coordinate countries’ efforts to aid ships, planes, and other vessels in distress. More work still needs to be done in harmonizing cooperation between all of the countries, but the agreement is a major milestone in the 15 year history of the Arctic Council. ... Next year, even more of the Arctic sea ice will likely be gone in the summer of 2012. This does not bode well for the future of polar bears, subsistence lifestyles, and the environment in general in the Arctic. However, for the shipping industry, it’s good news. In 2012, we can expect more shipping activity in the Arctic, especially along the Northern Sea Route, which Russia is working hard to develop.
Posted 5 December 2011; 3:58:50 PM. Permalink
(Trude Pettersen/BarentsObserver, 30 November 2011) -- Angus Robertson, a prominent MP in the British Parliament and a leading member of the pro-independence Scottish National Party, has issued a call for Scotland to embrace its long-latent "Nordic" identity and to join with neighboring Norway and nearby Iceland — as well as Canada and all other Arctic nations — to "properly engage with our wider geographic region” Canada.com writes. A referendum of the Scottish electorate on the issue of independence from the United Kingdom is planned to be held in either 2014 or 2015. Arctic sea traffic and a more northward military focus would absolutely be a priority for an independent Scotland, Robertson says, adding that looming prospect of new northern shipping routes is not something the U.K. authorities do not pay much attention to. Robertson argues that British neglect of the North's potential is damaging Scotland's future economic prospects at a time when "our neighbours' multilateral engagement" on Arctic issues "is extremely serious and they are working closely together." Citing opportunities such as oil-and-gas development, mineral extraction, shipping and the emergence of new fisheries, Robertson said SNP leaders are thinking about the challenges ahead of the independence referendum and predicted the massive changes impacting on the High North and Arctic will become a significant feature of the years and decades ahead in Scottish politics. Both Angus Robertson and Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, who leads the pro-independence SNP majority government in Scotland's legislature, recently have made visits to Norway. After meetings with officials in Oslo last year, Robertson called on the British government to bolster its commitment to RAF Lossiemouth, a military base in his constituency on Scotland's northern coast, arguing that this base allows easy and cost-effective transit to and from Norway and a capability commitment able to address the challenges facing the Arctic and the High North.
Posted 1 December 2011; 2:42:28 PM. Permalink
(Radio Sweden, 22 November 2011) -- Sweden has only had the chairmanship for the Arctic Council for six months. But the center-right coalition government's strategy for the next two years has already been criticized by Greenpeace and the opposition parties. The arctic areas are heavily affected by global warming. Glaciers and sea ice are melting more extensively than ever before. As the ice withdraws it opens up for new transport routes and many companies, such as oil and fish industries, see the opportunity to exploit new natural resources. Greenpeace and the other opposition parties in the parliament want the government to take a stricter stand towards future oil exploitation in the region. "They aim too low", says Therese Jacobson from Greenpeace. "If we globally want to reach the goals we have set for the climate politics, which the Swedish government says it is protecting, we can not open for new exploitation of oil fields in the arctic areas", says Gustaf Fridolin, one of the Green Party's two spokepersons. On the contrary, the minister of environment, Lena Ek, says there are no international legal regulations that make it possible for one state to stop oil activity by another state."We are trying to enforce or develop new regulations on environmental impact assessments. That is, as far as we see it, the only legal improvements we can develop within reasonably short notice. Politically, you can always speak about what to do or not and we have very strong views about the strategy for the arctic areas. But we have to do this together with two super powers, USA and Russia, so it's not as easy as wishful thinking", says Lena Ek.
Posted 23 November 2011; 12:08:19 AM. Permalink
(Vladimir Isachenkov/AP via Toronto Star, 11 November 2011) -- MOSCOW—President Dmitry Medvedev said Friday that Russia must invest more in the Arctic amid tough competition from other nations for the region's mineral riches. Medvedev said in televised remarks to workers in the far eastern city of Khabarovsk that Russia will take the necessary security steps and other moves to protect its interests in the polar region. "We simply must continue our research of the Arctic Ocean and the Arctic in general, because if we fail to do that other countries will take control," Medvedev said. "It's our shores, and it's our sea." "We will defend our interests in the region, naturally including security issues," he added.
Posted 14 November 2011; 3:55:18 PM. Permalink
(Barents Observer, 27 October 2011) -- The recent decision by the Government of Canada to dramatically cut funding to the University of the Arctic will have an impact on not only the ability of Canadian students to participate in UArctic Programs, but also on thousands of other students around the circumpolar world who benefited from them. "The funding decision from Canada is regrettable, and means that at least two of UArctic’s signature programs – the Circumpolar Studies undergraduate program and the north2north student mobility program – now face significant challenges," says UArctic President Lars Kullerud in a press release. As BarentsObserver reported, The Canadian government has cut three quarters of the University of the Arctic’s budget - from a total of more than $700,000 down to about $150,000. UArctic has already taken steps, however, to ensure the continuity of service of programs like Circumpolar Studies. This undergraduate program has a unique history, in which Canadians and Canadian institutions have played a key role. The curriculum was developed through the collective efforts of scientists, indigenous experts, and academics from across the circumpolar region who shared a vision that northerners should have a common understanding of the region that derives from their own perspectives, rather than from southern capitals. The value of the work done in Canada can be seen clearly across the pole in places like Bodø, Norway, Fairbanks, Alaska, Prince George, Thunder Bay and Nunavut in Canada, Rovaniemi, Finland and Yakutsk, Russia, where students who live and study in the North are taught the same Circumpolar Studies Program. At the Northeastern Federal University in Yakutsk, Russia, for example, every first year student takes BCS100 – Introduction to the Circumpolar World – which resulted in over 3000 students there learning from the same material as their colleagues in Canada, Alaska, and the Nordic countries. The main impact of Canada’s cut in funding is that the University of Saskatchewan, which has provided tremendous support to UArctic by hosting the Undergraduate Office, is no longer financially able to continue in that role. The Northeastern Federal University in Yakutsk will take over the hosting of the Undergraduate Office.
Posted 29 October 2011; 12:10:29 PM. Permalink
(Robert Sibley/Postmedia News, 28 October 2011) -- OTTAWA - A new Great Game is making a quiet appearance in Canada's Arctic. In a speech Friday in Beijing, the Danish ambassador to China, Friis Arne Peterson, said the communist country has "natural and legitimate economic and scientific interests in the Arctic" even though it lacks a coastline in the rapidly thawing polar region. He went on to say that his government would like to see China given permanent observer status in the eight-member Arctic Council, which currently includes Canada, Russia, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden and the United States. China has applied to become a permanent observer in the forum. "The Danish government would like to see China as a permanent observer, and I think that others (in the Arctic Council) are likewise willing to do that," the ambassador told a group of journalists. That assumption is both questionable and problematic, according to scholars and analysts who specialize in Arctic affairs. Some suggest the Danish ambassador was not only trying to leverage Denmark's influence in the Arctic Council, but soliciting Chinese investment to help the Danes exploit Greenland's natural resources. And from China's perspective, they say, the ambassador's remarks reflect China's interest in gaining access to resources and increasing its geopolitical clout. "This is what people mean when they talk about the Great Game returning to the Arctic region," says Rob Huebert, a political scientist and the associate director of the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary. "What we're seeing here is the changing geopolitical realities in terms of the arrival of China as a much more assertive country in the international system."
Posted 29 October 2011; 11:28:45 AM. Permalink
(Kathrin Keil/The Arctic Institute, 25 October 2011) -- As reported earlier, one potential conflict in the Arctic exists between state interests and the social and economic demands of Arctic inhabitants. Another such conflict can be anticipated between Arctic in- and outsiders as the region becomes increasingly accessible. These conflicts all have different dimensions. A potential area of conflict arises between Arctic and non-Arctic states. China, South Korea, Japan, Italy and the European Union as a whole have in recent years applied to become permanent observers to the Arctic Council, but so far without success. These entities have, however, already served as ad hoc observers to the Council. China has been the most outspoken of all non-Arctic states in opening participation in Arctic governance to non-Arctic actors. The crucial argument, also articulated by Indian representatives, is that the Arctic is a global common and a common heritage of mankind and thus must be accessible to all interested in Arctic research, environmental protection, resource exploration, and navigation. Advocates of this argument have stated that “an end to the Arctic states’ monopoly of Arctic affairs is now imperative” and that the “Arctic states should strike a balance between their national interests and the common interests of the international community”.
Posted 26 October 2011; 11:32:34 AM. Permalink
(Voice of Russia, 5 October 2011) -- Russia has made a single voluntary contribution worth 10 million euros to the Arctic Council to support clean up work on the Arctic North. The clean up is part of the nature-conservation projects under the agreement signed by Russia's Natural Resources Minister Yury Trutnev and Managing Director of Nordic Environment Finance Corporation (NEFCO) Magnus Rystedt. Russia is the first country which signed this document, Trutnev said. He added that Russia has already started clean up work on Franz Joseph Land and Wrangel island. The Arctic Council comprises Russia, Canada Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and the US.
Posted 14 October 2011; 3:47:59 PM. Permalink
(Brian Kemp/CBC News, 23 September 2011) -- Just days after Gen. Walt Natynczyk, Canada's chief of defence staff, left Moscow after meeting his counterpart last weekend, a Russian official announced that the country would be increasing its Arctic military presence, a move that could increase tensions in the resource-rich area. Anton Vasilev, a special ambassador for Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was quoted this week by the Interfax news agency as saying his country would be beefing up its presence in the Arctic, and that NATO was not welcome there. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was in Iceland this week meeting with the country's leaders, with the Arctic being at the top of the agenda, local media reported. Putin, according to the Moscow Times, then announced that Russia would be ordering three nuclear and six diesel icebreakers to be delivered by 2020, with the goal of expanding transportation in the Arctic. In July, Russia said it would create two specialist brigades to be based in the Arctic. It's not known if the latest announcement is tied to that declaration or if additional forces will be moved to the region. A brigade can typically contain up to a thousand soldiers. The Canadian military said in a news release that the purpose of Natynczyk's three-day visit to Moscow last weekend was "to gain the Russian perspective on a range of issues to improve and develop Canada's bilateral military relationship with Russia."
Posted 4 October 2011; 11:54:08 PM. Permalink
(Kristofer Bergh/SIPRI Update, July/August 2011) -- July 2011 saw the lowest extent of Arctic sea ice for that month since satellite measurements began in 1979. An increasingly accessible Arctic, and the economic and other potential benefits it offers, has sparked new interest in the region, not only among those states with territory in the Arctic but also among a range of non-Arctic states and organizations. To date, the Arctic states have sought to deal with Arctic matters among themselves, while keeping non-Arctic countries and organizations at arm’s length. Such an approach risks raising tensions over the Arctic and could prove strategically and economically counterproductive. Although there are considerable environmental risks involved with the exploitation of the Arctic, the receding sea ice could make accessible not only a wealth of natural resources but also unprecedented opportunities for sea traffic. The implications of this go far beyond the Arctic states.
Posted 26 August 2011; 1:00:28 PM. Permalink
(Mike Blanchfield/The Canadian Press via Winnipeg Free Press, 9 August 2011) -- OTTAWA - It took a major Arctic military exercise to help thaw old Cold War suspicions between Canada, the U.S. and Russia, according to a Canadian Forces report. And despite an "immense" language barrier, the Department of National Defence heralded the success of last summer's groundbreaking joint exercise with its former Cold War adversary. The report offers a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes tensions that led up to the historic attempt at military co-operation, dubbed Exercise Vigilant Eagle. It comes as the second version of Vigilant Eagle took place this week in Alaskan airspace. The exercise was originally set for 2008 but had to be cancelled when relations between Russia and the West plummeted after Moscow's invasion of neighbouring Georgia. "Accordingly, a measure of uncertainty and a perceptible note of suspicion were evident to military planners as the exercise was resurrected," Canadian Col. Todd Balfe, the deputy commander of Norad's Alaskan region, wrote in his report on the 2010 exercise. Norad is the joint Canada-U.S. command that defends against threats to North American airspace. Considered the jewel of Canada-U.S. defence relations, it was established 53 years ago essentially to monitor for Russian missile or bomber attacks. Many Canadian officers in Norad found it "challenging, for example, to explain to Russian officers the bi-national nature of this organization and to fully convince them that air defence was indeed a shared U.S.-Canadian responsibility," Balfe wrote. He noted that planners had to overcome the "memory of decades of antagonism and confrontation during the Cold War" to build new co-operation and communication between Russia and the two Norad allies. "Not surprisingly, communication between former Cold War adversaries was an immense obstacle." Planners used Internet technology such as Skype and Yahoo Chat to break down the barriers and ease the burden on translators, wrote Balfe.
Posted 10 August 2011; 4:44:51 PM. Permalink
(Offshore Shipping Online, 11 July 2011) -- The Oil & Gas Producers Association (OGP) recently announced that eight member companies have agreed to establish a Joint Industry Programme (JIP) for Arctic Oil Spill Response Technology. The JIP will concentrate on the challenges to oil exploration in Arctic and sub-Arctic regions that are not found in more temperate areas. According to OGP Technical Director John Campbell, the JIP will focus in particular on minimising the risk of offshore spills amidst sea ice and testing the suitability of spill response resources where operators will encounter periods of darkness, extreme cold and the presence of sea ice. Overall, he said, the aim will be to improve industry capability and co-ordination in the area of Arctic oil spill response. Over an initial three year funding period, the JIP hopes to raise more than US$20 million to carry out research investigations and related field activities in areas such as dispersant use in broken ice, the fate of dispersed oil beneath ice, oil slick trajectory modelling in ice and in poor visibility conditions, tracking oil in and beneath ice, and mechanical recovery in ice-strewn waters.
Posted 12 July 2011; 11:36:21 AM. Permalink
(UPI, 13 May 2011) -- NUUK, Greenland - Despite international recognition of the environmental importance of the arctic, officials at a Greenland conference suggested human interests prevail. The eight-member Arctic Council agreed to its first legally binding agreement over multilateral interests in the region. With melting sea ice exposing areas thought to be rich in natural resources, Moscow is trying to convince the international community that it has a greater claim to the arctic. A 1982 convention gives bordering nations the right to extend arctic claims if the government can prove its continental shelf extends beyond a 200-mile limit. Nevertheless, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said political conflict over the region was a thing of the past, the EUobserver reports.
Posted 23 May 2011; 6:39:17 PM. Permalink
(BarentsObserver, 13 May 2011) -- Denmark handed over its chairmanship role in the Arctic Council to Sweden on Thursday during the biennial ministerial meeting in Nuuk, Greenland. The council's member states also signed a legally binding treaty to cooperate in search and rescue efforts in the event of a disaster in the Arctic. The treaty calls for council members to demonstrate and live up to their capacity to cooperate in search and rescue efforts after a plane crash, an oil spill, a ship sinking or other disaster. Foreign affairs ministers from Norway, Russia, Sweden, Finland, Iceland and Denmark as well as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former health minister of Canada Leona Agglukkaq signed the treaty at a ministerial meeting in Nuuk, Greenland on Thursday. Member nations also pledged to develop international standards for oil spill prevention and response preparedness to be modeled after the search and rescue treaty. The intergovernmental forum is expecting increased shipping traffic and offshore oil and gas activity in the region as the extent of summer sea ice in the Arctic Ocean diminishes, offering easier navigation routes. Sweden will chair the Arctic Council until 2013.
Posted 17 May 2011; 2:49:15 PM. Permalink
(Sweden Ministry for Trade press release, 17 May 2011) -- The Swedish Riksdag, with the Speaker acting as host, has announced that the Fifth Parliamentary Barents Conference will be held in Luleå on 19-20 May. Environmentally sustainable economic growth, industry and trade, and also infrastructure, are on the agenda. About one hundred parliamentarians from Finland, Norway, Russia and Sweden will attend the conference. Minister for Trade Ewa Björling will give the opening address as representative of the Swedish Chairmanship of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council. The event is intended for members of national parliaments and representatives of counties and regions within the Barents region, as well as indigenous peoples' organisations and relevant organisations connected to the parliamentarians and governments. Sweden is organising the conference in its capacity as Chair of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council in 2009-2011. The previous conference - the Fourth Parliamentary Barents Conference - was held in Syktyvkar, Russia, in 2009 by the Russian State Duma.
Posted 17 May 2011; 2:40:52 PM. Permalink
(CBC News, 9 May 2011) -- Re-elected federal cabinet minister Leona Aglukkaq will represent Canada at a high-level meeting of Arctic nations later this week. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has asked Aglukkaq, who was most recently health minister, to attend the Arctic Council's ministerial meeting in Nuuk, Greenland, on Thursday, federal officials confirmed to CBC News on Monday. will be joined by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, and foreign affairs ministers from Russia, Norway, Iceland, Finland, Sweden and Denmark.
Posted 9 May 2011; 7:18:49 PM. Permalink
(Canadian Studies Center, University of Washington) -- The Center co-sponsored the February educator workshop, Who Owns the Arctic?, with the World Affairs Council (WAC). WAC produced a tremendous resource guide downloadable here with extensive resources on Arctic studies.
(CBC News, 5 May 2011) -- Arctic search and rescue and the environment will be among the topics that leaders from eight northern nations, including Canada, are set to discuss in Nuuk, Greenland, next week. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are among the high-level leaders who are expected to attend the Arctic Council's ministerial meeting next Thursday. The Canadian government has yet to say who will represent Canada at the ministers' meeting. The most recent foreign affairs minister, Lawrence Cannon, lost his seat in Monday's federal election. Representatives from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland will also be in Nuuk. Senior Arctic officials will meet before the ministers, starting on Monday. Many items are on the Nuuk meeting agenda, including the signing of an Arctic search and rescue coordination treaty. The treaty will require member nations to co-ordinate with each other in the event of a plane crash, cruise ship sinking, big oil spill or other major disaster in the Arctic. Once signed, the treaty will become the first legally binding agreement to be reached by the Arctic Council's eight member countries.
Posted 5 May 2011; 9:04:46 PM. Permalink
(Barents Observer, 5 May 2011) -- Russia allocates €10 million to the Arctic Council over the next two years. The Russian Government will today discuss the question of concluding a treaty between Russia and the Nordic Environment Finance Corporation on participation in the Arctic Council’s Project Support Instrument (PSI), B-port reports. Signing of the agreement will take place during the Arctic Council’s Ministerial Meeting in Nuuk, Greenland on May 12. Russia’s contribution to PSI will be €10 million in the period 2011-2013. The Project Support Instrument (PSI) was established by the Arctic Council in March 2005, and is a financial initiative that aims to focus on actions preventing pollution of the Arctic. The PSI is a mechanism for financing specific priority projects already approved by the Arctic Council, NEFCO’s website reads.
Posted 5 May 2011; 12:10:41 PM. Permalink
(Randy Boswell/Postmedia News, 4 May 2011) -- Canadian wildlife officials have delivered a shipment of 30 wood bison from a national park in Alberta to a historic buffalo stomping ground in sub-Arctic Russia — part of a unique, intercontinental gift of natural heritage aimed at boosting the species' long-range chances of survival. The bison airlift, carried out in late March, was the second transplant of the Canadian beasts in the past five years to the Siberian republic of Sakha, where Russian biologists are trying to recreate a long-vanished ecosystem once dominated by the related steppe bison before its extinction about 10,000 years ago. The remarkable wildlife export — made possible with a heavy Russian transport aircraft that required special permission to land at the Edmonton airport — is a showcase project this year for Parks Canada, which is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its creation as an distinct branch of the federal government. ... The arrival of the Canadian animals is a "huge deal" for wildlife specialists in Sakha, said Shury, "because bison haven't been present in that part of the world for over 10,000 years." The first transfer of 30 bison in 2006 was successful, he said, but the additional animals are necessary to achieve enough genetic diversity for the Siberian herd to become self-sustaining. "Once they build up enough of a breeding population," Shury said, "they'd like to release bison into the wild and restore a large herbivore into that landscape that hasn't been there for a long, long time."
Posted 4 May 2011; 11:30:24 PM. Permalink
(Arctic Council News, 27 April 2011) -- The 7th Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting is fast approaching. The meeting takes place in Katuaq, the Nuuk Cultural Center, on 12 May 2011. On the Ministerial agenda are items such as "Challenges and opportunities for the Arctic Council in a changing Arctic" and signing of two important documents; the Nuuk Declaration and the Search and Rescue (SAR) agreement. See final draft agenda here. The Nuuk Declaration is the Ministers' common statement on the work of the Arctic Council, which outlines the direction for the incoming Swedish chairmanship. The SAR agreement, which will be the first ever legally binding agreement among the Arctic states negotiated under the auspices of the Arctic Council, will strengthen the cooperation on search and rescue between the Arctic States. The Ministers will also welcome various new reports from the Arctic Council Working Groups, including a major report on Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic, that emphasizes the need for increasing Arctic resilience. Other reports deal with mercury and short lived climate forcers (soot). A photo exhibit, 'Views from Greenland', will be presented at the meeting venue. The exhibition shows the results of a photo competition that ran from 8 till 29 April 2011. In the competition, the people of Greenland were encouraged to send photos representing their views on climate, health and living conditions in Arctic. More than 200 pictures were received from photographers from all over Greenland who wanted to make sure the Arctic Council became aware of their opinion.
Posted 27 April 2011; 3:01:09 PM. Permalink
(Jacob Resneck, KMXT via APRN, 18 April 2010) -- Kodiak- Flagship cutters from the U.S. and Russian coast guards are in Kodiak this week as the two nations meet to strengthen cooperation in enforcing in each other’s fishing grounds in the Bering Sea. The U.S. Coast Guard’s National Security Cutter Bertholf is in port preparing for its first patrol in the North Pacific. Moored alongside is its Russian counterpart, the cutter Vorovsky which arrived from Russia on Sunday.
(RIA Novosti, 7 March 2011) -- KALININGRAD - Russian lower house of parliament, the State Duma, will ratify a maritime border demarcation treaty with Norway within a month, Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov said on Monday. Last year Russia and Norway signed a deal to delimit their maritime border in the Barents Sea and Arctic Ocean after 40 years of negotiations. Both countries have been disputing the 175,000 square km area since 1970. The absence of defined maritime border often resulted in detentions of fishing vessels in the region. The agreement has also paved the way for the lifting of a 30-year-long moratorium on oil and gas extraction in the previously disputed zone. "We were discussing the vital issue for our states [maritime border demarcation pact]...Norway has ratified the pact. Russia has just started the ratification. We are planning to settle it within a month," Lavrov told a meeting with his Norwegian counterpart, Jonas Gahr Store in Russia's Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad. Russia, however, is still in a dispute with Canada over the Lomonosov Ridge in the Arctic Ocean, with both countries trying to persuade a UN commission that it is an extension of its own continental shelf. The sides have agreed that scientific evidence should resolve the dispute.
Posted 7 March 2011; 2:14:23 PM. Permalink
(Icenews, 12 February 2011) -- Embattled Air Greenland is exploring opportunities to start a direct service between Greenland and Canada. The airline has no plans to open any new routes this year, but hopes to start flying to Canada in 2012 at the earliest, KNR reports. The airline will later this month send a group of specially selected members of Greenland’s self-rule government on a tour of Canada. The tour will take in Iqaluit, St. Johns, Halifax and Goose Bay — all earmarked as possible Air Greenland destinations. The Danish consul to Nunavut, Kenn Harper, is a long term proponent of an Air Greenland service to Iqaluit. He is now lobbying Canadian authorities to give the company preferential terms for using Iqaluit airport given the strong cultural ties between Nunavut and Greenland. Harper told CBC news that such a new air route would help the tourist sector, as well as economic ties between Nunavut and Greenland. Air Greenland enjoys a near monopoly on domestic transport, as there are no roads or railways between Greenlandic towns; but its international service has been dealt an unlikely blow by Iceland’s domestic airline, Air Iceland.
Posted 17 February 2011; 9:01:02 PM. Permalink
(John Ibbitson /Globe and Mail, 27 January 2011) -- Negotiators are now confident that Canada and Denmark will resolve their dispute over Hans Island, and sooner rather than later. Relations between the two countries have grown irritable at times in recent years because of their competing claims to the barren bit of rock perched halfway between Ellesmere Island and Greenland. Also in dispute is a patch of the Lincoln Sea even farther north. But the two countries are in negotiations and have embarked on a joint mapping exercise, and both Canadian and Danish officials, speaking on background, said they were confident of reaching an agreement before Canada deposits its claim over the Arctic seabed to the United Nations in 2013. Shared jurisdiction of the island is one possibility; another is running the border down the middle of the uninhabited, 1.3-square-kilometre knoll, which would give Canada a land border with Denmark. In a recent poll, a large majority of Canadians said that asserting and protecting Arctic sovereignty should be Canada’s foremost foreign policy priority. In a statement to The Globe and Mail, Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon insisted that it was. “We continue to exercise our sovereignty in the Arctic while also making progress on outstanding boundary issues,” Mr. Cannon said. In fact, negotiations are beginning to bear fruit after years in which Canada refused to discuss competing claims. The United States and Canada have long disagreed over where the border between Alaska and Yukon should be drawn, as it projects into the Beaufort Sea. While the Americans have sought a negotiated settlement, Canada preferred to agree to disagree. But there is oil under the seabed, and petroleum companies are anxious to get at it.
Posted 27 January 2011; 4:52:48 PM. Permalink
(CBC News, 17 January 2011) -- The Canadian Polar Commission wants to become a more prominent player in polar affairs, including Arctic issues such as research and economic development, says its new board chairman. Bernard Funston said the national commission wants to be at the centre of activity in Canada's Arctic such as scientific research, tourism, mining exploration and more. "A more active and relevant polar commission is what we're aiming for," Funston told CBC News. The Canadian Polar Commission is a federal advisory agency set up in 1991 to promote, monitor and disseminate research in the polar regions. Funston and nine new directors were appointed in November to the polar commission's board. The commission had been without a board for about two years. The board, which held its first meeting earlier this month, includes former N.W.T. premier Nellie Cournoyea, Arctic sovereignty expert Rob Huebert, and Harry Winston Diamond Corp. executive Robert Gannicott. Funston said the board is developing a strategy with clear objectives for the commission. One of its first goals is to open at least one office in Canada's northern territories, he added. "We're going to re-establish the northern office — at least one northern office and perhaps more," he said. "We're looking at how to do this effectively and broadly." Funston said the commission board wants to develop its international contacts, set research priorities and bring people together to discuss issues related to northern research, aboriginal knowledge and economic development. Huebert said he would like to see the Canadian Polar Commission play a similar role as the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, which helps set that country's polar agenda. "If you look at the legislation, it [the Canadian Polar Commission] was given probably just as much power as the American polar commission," said Huebert, associate director of the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary. "I think that we can do a lot in moving the whole agenda for how we approach polar science and co-ordination." Funston said the United States has already expressed interest in collaborating with Canada on mutual areas of interest.
Posted 17 January 2011; 4:10:28 PM. Permalink
(Thomas Nilsen/BarentsObserver, 11 January 2011) -- A delegation from Russia’s Arctic Yamal Peninsula is in Finland this week to discuss the plans for active tourism cooperation. The plan is to create an Arctic tourism centre in the city of Salekhard, the capital of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Region, reports Voice of Russia. Finland has over the last decades created massive winter tourism in Lapland, and the delegation from Yamal will study the Finnish experiences.
Posted 16 January 2011; 2:44:41 AM. Permalink
(Bob Weber/CP via Toronto Star, 6 January 2011) -- The federal government is downplaying suggestions that a new international agreement on Arctic search and rescue will force Canada to upgrade its capabilities in the region. The agreement, negotiated by the eight Arctic countries and expected to be signed in May, assigns legal areas of responsibility to each nation and lays out how each will work together in the event of an emergency in the Far North. Canada is already well-placed to live up to its obligations once the treaty is formally signed, says a response from the Department of Foreign Affairs. “Canada has established aeronautical and maritime search and rescue systems in the Arctic,” said the department in an emailed response. “The draft aeronautical and maritime search-and-rescue agreement will serve to improve search and rescue effectiveness and efficiency in the Arctic through enhanced co-operation and co-ordination amongst Arctic states. “Key provisions in the draft agreement include: designation by all Arctic states of their respective responsible search and rescue authorities, agencies and co-ordination centres; principles for conducting, cooperating and coordinating search and rescue operations; and developing best practices including conducting joint search-and-rescue training exercise as appropriate.” The department did not make anyone available for an interview or immediately respond to follow-up questions.
Posted 8 January 2011; 3:36:17 PM. Permalink
(Bob Weber/The Toronto Star, 4 January 2011) -- The federal government is poised to sign an international treaty that will make Canada legally responsible for search and rescue in its part of the Arctic. Northern experts say the deal, expected to be signed in May, could pressure Canada into upgrading its capabilities in the region. And, they add, it shows new resolve by the eight nations in the Arctic Council to show the rest of the world that they intend to set the rules for the uppermost reaches of the planet. “By ratcheting up the capabilities of the Arctic Council, countries like the United States, Russia and Canada are essentially saying, ‘No, we have matters under control. We are making laws for this area. You can relax,’ ” said Michael Byers, an international law professor at the University of British Columbia who has written extensively on the Arctic. The deal — quietly reached last December in Reykjavik, Iceland — divides the North into search-and-rescue regions and coordinates emergency response efforts between council members, which include Canada, the United States, Russia, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland. “The agreement targets the changed reality in the Arctic where, due to climate change, increasing transportation opportunities have emerged in recent years and are only to increase,” says a document from the Icelandic government. “Until now, (we) have lacked a coordinated emergency response scheme for the Arctic Ocean and airspace.” Canadian officials confirmed the existence of the agreement Tuesday, but nobody was immediately available to comment on it.
Posted 5 January 2011; 11:16:58 AM. Permalink
(Nordic Council News, 22 November 2010) -- The Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers will be opening the Nordic Week in Archangel on 23 November and visiting Moscow for talks with the Russian Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Nordic countries and the Northwest Russian regions are traditional partners due to geography and historical links. This year marks the 15th anniversary of official cooperation between the Nordic Council of Ministers and Northwest Russia. Over a thousand projects in many fields have been implemented and almost one million people have participated in various joint Russian-Nordic initiatives since the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Information Office was set up in St. Petersburg in 1995. The Nordic Council of Ministers Contact Centre was set up in Archangel in 1998. On 23 November Halldór Ásgrímsson, the Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers, will be opening Nordic Week, which then runs until 26 November.
Posted 22 November 2010; 2:10:34 PM. Permalink
(T. Villinger/Arctic Council News, 27 October 2010) -- On 19-20 October, the Senior Arctic Officials of the Arctic Council met at the beautiful Nordic House in Tórshavn, the Faroe Islands, to talk about relevant Arctic issues. The 132 delegates discussed the many ongoing projects undertaken by the various Arctic Council Working groups and Task forces, i.e., Snow Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic (SWIPA), Contaminants, Shipping, and Search and Rescue. Discussions on improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the Arctic Council, and on developing new Communication and Outreach guidelines, were discussed at length. The outcome of this meeting will form an important background for the ongoing preparations for the May 2011 Ministerial Meeting in Nuuk, Greenland. Upon final approval, the meeting report will be made available to all from the Arctic Council website.
Posted 28 October 2010; 12:25:02 AM. Permalink
(Iceland Review, 15 October 2010) -- Foreign Minister of Iceland Össur Skarphédinsson and Peter G. MacKay, Canadian Minister of National Defense, signed an agreement on defense cooperation today. It forms the basis for further cooperation in defense matters between the two countries. The agreement includes increased consultation, further exchange of information and collaboration on education and on-the-job training. It also assumes increased collaboration regarding training and visits, a press release explains. The agreement was signed alongside a summit in Brussels attended by the foreign affairs and defense ministers of NATO countries. Since 2006, Iceland has made agreements on defense cooperation with Norway, Denmark the UK and US. Click here to read more about the NATO summit.
Posted 15 October 2010; 3:00:12 PM. Permalink
(Fisheries and Oceans Canada press release via Marketwire, 12 October 2010) -- OTTAWA, ONTARIO - The Honourable Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, announced today that the five Arctic coastal states, Canada, Denmark, Norway, the Russian Federation and the United States, under the leadership of Canada, have established the Arctic Regional Hydrographic Commission. "The establishment of the Arctic Regional Hydrographic Commission is an important step in building synergy among the Arctic Ocean Coastal states and will help to improve safety of life at sea," said Minister Shea. "The establishment of this Commission will contribute to protecting the ecosystem and promote social and economic development in the North." The Commission will promote technical cooperation in science, technology and chart making to establish and promote common standards and help to define the needs for new hydrographic products and services including surveys. ... Under the Oceans Act, the Canadian Hydrographic Service is responsible for conducting hydrographic surveys, producing and distributing official government navigation charts in paper and electronic forms, and a wide range of supporting nautical publications to help guide mariners safely.
Posted 13 October 2010; 10:42:35 PM. Permalink
(Krista Mahr/Ecocentric via Time.com, 12 October 2010) -- Arctic security wonks are gathering in Cambridge this week for a workshop on the challenges ahead for environmental security in the Arctic. Sound familiar? It should: When Russia planted a flag on a seabed in Russia's Arctic waters in the summer of 2007, the specter of a circumpolar military race hung over the globe as other nations with Arctic borders, including the U.S., scrambled to chart out their claims and, by doing so, secure rights to tap into valuable natural resources and sea routes being exposed by melting sea ice. That has flurry faded over the course of the past three years, and as Simon Shuster wrote on Time.com last week, Russia has recently taken a mellower stance promoting peace at the top o' the world. But as the private sector's ability to access Arctic oil and gas has come more clearly into focus this summer, NATO is concerned. ... Included on the agenda of the NATO conference, which is being held from Oct. 13-15 at the University of Cambridge's Scott Polar Research Institute, are topics ranging from the state of the polar ice cap (soupy) to international law governing arctic waters (murky). And in case you think it all sounds like a big polar snooze, it may interest you to know there is also an "icebreaker" reception on the schedule. Who says Arctic security isn't fun!
Posted 12 October 2010; 2:30:52 PM. Permalink
(BarentsObserver, 4 October 2010) -- MURMANSK - Regional politicians from all the four countries in the Barents Region last week assembled to discuss the future of regional cross-border cooperation. The conference, which was organized on the initiative of the Murmansk regional Duma, was held in Murmansk and was attended by representatives from all the countries in the Region. The event focused on the development of regional cooperation in the period 2010-2013. The Barents cooperation has been successfully developing for many years. That is largely thanks to cooperation between regional and national levels. Runar Sjaastad, the Head of Finnmark County Council, pointed out that on the Norwegian side the northern Norwegian county of Finnmark has been a key stakeholder in the cross-border cooperation.
Posted 6 October 2010; 9:52:30 PM. Permalink
(BarentsObserver, 17 September 2010) -- Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre see the opening of the honorary consulate in Arkhangelsk as a completion of some of the visions launched with the establishment of the Barents cooperation in 1993. This Friday the honorary consulate in Arkhangelsk was opened. With Norway's Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and the Governor of Arkhangelsk Ilya Mikhailchuk present, Norway's honorary consulate to Arkhangelsk was opened on Friday in front of nearly 200 Norwegians and several Arkhangelsk citizens. The officially opening was performed by the Foreign Minister of Norway, Jonas Gahr Støre. It is the director of the Norwegian Barents Secretariat’s Arkhangelsk office, Andrey Shalyov, who has been appointed as new honorary consul. It is 72 years since the last Norwegian Consulate in Arkhangelsk was shut down, under tragic circumstances in the late 30ties. Foreign Minister Støre said that since the establishment of the Barents cooperation in 1993, there has been a close cooperation on all levels between Norway and Arkhangelsk. "The opening of this honorary consulate is the completion of the Norwegian presence in all parts of the Barents Region. We can see this as a completion of the visions launched by the establishment of the Barents cooperation in 1993. At the same time we see the need for this office due to the increased activities and the possibilities of development which we see in this region," said Jonas Gahr Støre.
Posted 19 September 2010; 5:57:55 PM. Permalink
(Reuters via The Star Online, 7 September 2010) -- OSLO - Norway and Russia have agreed to a final delineation of their Arctic maritime border and will sign a treaty next week, Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday. In April, Stoltenberg and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed an initial agreement on the border after four decades of negotiations, paving the way to open the potentially oil- and gas-rich region for offshore exploration. "There is agreement on exactly where the boundary line should be and on cooperation in the region, including on energy. This is what we shall sign and make public next week," Stoltenberg told Norwegian state broadcaster NRK. "That we have in place an agreement, means we can open up for business in this area," Stoltenberg added. NRK said the signing ceremony would take place on Sept. 15. The border deal gives Norway a chance to extend its oil boom as North Sea reserves are depleted but Stoltenberg said it would be years before the region is opened up for oil and gas activities. The disputed territory covered 175,000 square km (67,600 sq miles), an area about half the size of Germany, mainly in the Barents Sea between proven petroleum reserves on the Russian and Norwegian sides.
Posted 6 September 2010; 6:32:37 PM. Permalink
(RIA Novosti, 6 July 2010) -- Russian Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology Yury Trutnev has approved a strategy for polar bear preservation in Russia, according to a statement published on Tuesday. The ministry's statement said the strategy aims to determine the mechanisms of preserving animal populations in the Russian Arctic and reduce the negative impact of human activity in their habitats. "The strategy is consistent with a five-party agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears [achieved] in 1973 signed in Oslo (Norway) and an agreement between the Russian and the U.S. governments on the preservation and utilization of the Alaska-Chukotka polar bear population, concluded in Washington in 2000," the statement said. "It is also intended to ensure adequate populations of this unique animal in the changing climate in the Arctic and control the growth of human impacts on the marine and coastal ecosystems of the northern circumpolar basin," it continued. There are from 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears in the wild, including up to 7,000 in Russia.
Posted 21 July 2010; 10:33:10 PM. Permalink
(CBC via Alaska Dispatch, 6 July 2010) -- The 11th Inuit Circumpolar Council general assembly wrapped up its conference Friday in Nuuk, Greenland, by calling for an urgent Inuit leaders summit on resource development. Sixty-five Inuit delegates from Russia, Alaska, Canada and Greenland spent five days in Greenland's capital discussing issues of mutual concern, including uranium development and offshore oil and gas drilling. Delegates passed the Nuuk Declaration, which calls on the council to lobby member nations of the Arctic Council to confirm their commitment to that forum. The ICC is a permanent participant on the Arctic Council along with eight northern countries: Canada, Denmark — including Greenland and the Faroe Islands — Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States. Akkaluk Lynge, president of the Inuit Circumpolar Council in Greenland, who was elected at the assembly as the ICC's new chair, said the assembly is concerned about a recent meeting by governments of the five countries — Canada, Russia, the United States, Norway and Denmark, which administers Greenland — that border the Arctic Ocean. Inuit were not included in those discussions, he said. "We are the only ones that are living in the Arctic, in the Arctic coastal areas," Lynge said. "No one else does, except for oil explorers and mineral resources developers. We are staying there the whole winter."
Posted 8 July 2010; 8:51:48 PM. Permalink
(Government of Sweden press release, 20 May 2010) -- Representatives of the Barents countries met in Umeå on 18-19 May to discuss raw material and energy assets in the region. Minister for Enterprise and Energy Maud Olofsson invited her counterparts to this meeting, which was the first of its kind within Barents cooperation. The meeting focused on strengthening the region through more effective use of natural resources and the potential for renewable energy. It discussed how to strengthen growth and increase job opportunities in the region, and how to strengthen understanding of the strategic importance of the region, both in the EU and globally. "Having been on the periphery, we are now the centre of attention. The entire world needs raw materials and renewable energy, and this can provide many new jobs in the region. I believe in increased cooperation in the area of knowledge; businesses in the region face the same kinds of issues and challenges. One example is how to make most effective use of our forests," says Ms Olofsson. A declaration was adopted at the meeting, establishing that the region holds very great economic potential and stating that we must move together towards sustainable development. It also highlighted the importance of shaping policy and market conditions so as to stimulate investment, innovation and entrepreneurship towards a green economy. Work will now continue on a more concrete level in the working groups that form part of the cooperation process.
Posted 20 May 2010; 2:34:55 PM. Permalink
(Jane George/Nunatsiaq News via Canada.com, 6 May 2010) -- MONTREAL - The Arctic Council wants to play a greater role in developing joint international policies for its eight member nations, said Else Berit Eikeland, Norway's ambassador to Canada. Since 1996, the Arctic Council — which includes Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia and the United States — has served mainly as a high-level forum to advance circumpolar co-operation, to protect the Arctic environment, and to promote the economic, social and cultural health of its members. But discussions are now underway to strengthen the role of the Arctic Council and give the forum a much stronger role in international policy making, Eikeland said Wednesday at a polar shipping conference in Montreal. "We want discussion in the Arctic Council, and we want it to open up," she said. Eikeland hinted that the Arctic Council — which plans to meet next month in Greenland to discuss Arctic oil drilling — may get a permanent secretariat and permanent funding instead of relying on money handed out sporadically by its members. The chair of the council rotates between the countries, and Canada is slated to chair the organization from 2013 to 2014. "Pragmatic" and "practical" co-operation will continue to be the guiding principle for Arctic states, Eikeland said, pointing to a recent agreement between Norway and Russia that resolves a long-standing boundary dispute in the Arctic Ocean. This deal paves the way for the 2013 recognition of Arctic Ocean boundaries under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Posted 9 May 2010; 8:27:15 PM. Permalink
(Bob Weber/The Canadian Press via Brandon Sun, 5 May 2010) -- Environmentalists warn that Ottawa must be vigilant as Greenland welcomes offshore oil drilling in the Eastern Arctic immediately adjacent to Canada's territorial waters. Earlier this week, Greenland accepted bids to drill in Baffin Bay near the mouth of Lancaster Sound, where Canada hopes to establish a marine conservation area. The vast, thinly populated territory — which controls its own resources as part of a deal with Denmark — hopes to drill along thousands of kilometres of the maritime border it shares with Canada. That work is expected to begin this summer. Canada has accepted an invitation to meet with Denmark and the other six members of the Arctic Council this June in Ilullissat, Greenland. The meeting, which is to focus on protecting the Arctic environment, will include discussions on offshore oil drilling. "It will be part of it," said Danish embassy spokesman Jakob Henningsen. "They will be discussing offshore oil and gas." A spokeswoman from Canada's Foreign Affairs Department confirmed Canada's participation. "Canada will participate at a meeting on the Arctic environment," said Ambra Dickie in an email. She would reveal no other details. In addition to the eight Arctic Council members, representatives from northern aboriginal groups will also be present, Henningsen said The icy waters between Greenland and Canada are considered to hold one of the great prizes of Arctic resource development. The U.S. Geological Survey ranks the West Greenland-East Canada Basin seventh out of 25 Arctic regions with energy potential. It is estimated to hold the equivalent of more than 17 billion barrels of oil, with the chance of finding oil or gas in the area anywhere from one in three to virtually 100 per cent.
Posted 9 May 2010; 10:26:22 AM. Permalink
(WWF press release, 26 April 2010) -- Copenhagen, Denmark - A new, warmer Arctic cannot continue to operate under rules that assume it is ice-covered and essentially closed to fishing, resource exploration and development and shipping, WWF said today as it launched a group of reports on protecting a newly accessible, highly vulnerable environment with profound significance for global climate, the global economy and global security. The International Governance and Regulation of the Marine Arctic reports [link to all three in one document] were launched as Russian president Medvedev visits Norwegian capital Oslo for talks which include arctic issues and just before the Arctic Council meets in Greenland. “The melting of the arctic ice is opening a new ocean, bringing new possibilities for commercial activities in a part of the world that has previously been inaccessible,” said Lasse Gustavsson, incoming Executive Conservation Director for WWF-International and currently CEO of WWF-Sweden. “What happens in the Arctic has a global environmental and economic impact. For instance, more than a quarter of the fish eaten in Europe comes from the Arctic, and yet we do not have effective rules for fishing in newly accessible areas.” ... The first report analyzes how today’s international legal regime meets the challenges posed by the unprecedented rapid change taking place in the Arctic. It concludes there are large gaps in governance and management regimes, with loopholes that could allow irreparable damage to the marine environment, its biodiversity and Indigenous peoples. The responsibilities and mechanisms for keeping marine resource extraction within sustainable limits are unclear and so are the responsibilities and mechanisms for preventing or responding to pollution accidents and shipping disasters. While the second report outlines the options, the third report proposes a new arctic framework convention as a solution that could address the urgent gaps. “We challenge arctic governments to advance alternatives that would work equally well to safeguard the region,” said Gustavsson. “WWF shows that it is not possible to simply deny that problems exist, or to insist that there are already adequate responses to the problems.”
Posted 25 April 2010; 7:16:34 PM. Permalink
(RIA Novosti, 19 April 2010) -- WASHINGTON - Russia may become a leader in the protection of the Arctic environment and northern indigenous peoples, the head of the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change said in an interview with RIA Novosti. Patricia Cochran, who heads the U.S.'s Alaska Native Science Commission, said rapid climate change is the main problem which faces the Arctic, causing a number of concerns, such as "food safety and security, erosion and permafrost impacting community housing and infrastructure, safe traveling with loss of stable sea ice." Among other problems, Cochran said, are land and resource development that is not coordinated with the needs of Arctic residents, as well as the loss of cultural identity by indigenous peoples, and health-related issues. The Russian Geographic Society in cooperation with RIA Novosti will hold the International Arctic Forum titled "The Arctic: Territory of Dialogue", which will bring together environment experts from across the world, on April 22-23 in Moscow. "Working together and recognizing rights of all involved is an important step in resolving these problems. Open discussion among organizations, states and communities is vital. Forums that include all actors as equal participants provided richer dialogue and more appropriate actions," Cochran said. She said Russia had an "important role" in the dialogue as an "area critical to future development." "Russia has the opportunity to provide worldwide leadership in setting the stage and setting the bar to standards that meet the needs of all people," the expert said.
Posted 18 April 2010; 11:10:10 PM. Permalink
(Stefan Nicola/UPI, 31 March 2010) -- BERLIN - A 40-year-old conflict between Russia and Norway over an Arctic sea boundary will likely be over next month, an expert told United Press International. "I think there will be an agreement announced on the Barents Sea border dispute," when Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is in Oslo April 26-27, Rune Rafaelsen, the secretary-general of the Barents Secretariat, a diplomacy group focusing on regional cooperation financed by Norway's foreign ministry, told UPI in a telephone interview. "What's the reason for me to say this? Well, why would Medvedev spend two days in Norway if there was nothing new to announce? Also, Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg met (Russian Prime Minister) Vladimir Putin two weeks ago in Helsinki in talks that hadn't been planned. Those are indications that we might have an agreement." Russia and Norway have for the past four decades disagreed over boundaries in the Barents Sea, which is believed to hold vast amounts of oil, gas and precious metals. Relations between both nations are nevertheless strong, with Moscow inviting Norway's StatoilHydro to join Gazprom in tapping the Shtokman fossil fuel deposit in the Barents Sea. Climate change is causing Arctic ice sheets to melt, with the oceans in the region possibly ice-free during the summer months. This is opening a new Atlantic-Pacific shipping channel and makes the vast natural resources lying under the seabed more accessible.
Posted 5 April 2010; 12:36:52 AM. Permalink
(Robert H. Wade/Financial Times Comment, 4 March 2010) -- Sir, Your article “Exploring the openings created by Arctic melting” (March 2) highlights China’s growing interest in emerging sea routes across the Arctic. One reason is that the distance from Chinese ports to European and east coast North American ports is much shorter across the Arctic than through Suez or around the Horn. Chinese planners anticipate building giant ice-strengthened container ships able to use the shorter route as the ice melts. But the cargoes would have to be shifted to smaller ships to enter their destination ports. Where would the transshipment port be located? One obvious place is Iceland, which sits at the entrance to – or exit from – the Arctic ocean. It has several fjords suitable for such a port. This may help explain China’s more-than-usual friendship with tiny Iceland. The Chinese embassy is the biggest in Reykjavik by far. When the president of Iceland paid a state visit to China in 2007 he was received with all the pomp and ceremony of the head of a major state. And when Iceland was campaigning for a seat on the security council in 2008, China backed it publicly and helped to raise support from mini states in the Pacific and Caribbean. ...
Posted 8 March 2010; 1:48:38 PM. Permalink
(Jackie Shymanski/Winnipeg Free Press, 6 March 2010) --The Future History of the Arctic by Charles Emmerson. The Canadian Arctic is remote, cold and basically a big unused backyard. According to British author and geopolitical specialist Charles Emmerson, that's all going to change: rising temperatures will mean increasing interest in the most remote region of this country, as untold wealth in natural resources becomes accessible. The Arctic is coming of age. London-based Emmerson, a Global Leadership Fellow and associate director of the World Economic Forum, doesn't waste a page on the debate over global warming — for him it is a fait accompli. He instead explores Arctic history, writing in great detail of the five Arctic nations — Canada, Russia, the United States, Denmark and Norway, and then considers the coming impact to each and the world as the Arctic heats up and becomes strategic to energy resources and global trade. The Future History of the Arctic is not light going, however, and the reader should be prepared to spend time with this book.
Posted 7 March 2010; 3:04:48 AM. Permalink
(Arctic Council News, 23 February 2010) -- In Denmark Ms.Lene Espersen was appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs on 23 February 2010. In her capacity as Minister for Foreign Affairs Lene Espersen is automatically the Chair of the Arctic Council. Former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Per Stig Møller continues in the Danish Government as Minister for Culture.
Posted 28 February 2010; 12:06:53 AM. Permalink
(CBC News, 11 February 2010) -- Arctic indigenous groups are criticizing Canada's decision to leave them out of an upcoming meeting of Arctic nations in Quebec next month. Federal Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon recently announced that he will host a meeting of foreign ministers from the Arctic Ocean coastal countries of Norway, Russia, Denmark (which includes Greenland) and the United States on March 29 in Chelsea, Que. The Arctic leaders will discuss ways to pursue responsible economic development in the North, Cannon said in a release. "I think it's vitally important that Arctic indigenous voices are heard at this meeting [and] that our participation is taken into consideration," Cindy Dickson, executive director of the Arctic Athabaskan Council, told CBC News. The five coastal nations border on the Arctic Ocean, and leaders from each country are trying to extend their sovereign claims over a larger area of the Arctic seabed, under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Discussions about Arctic issues are usually held at the Arctic Council, which has representatives from governments and northern indigenous groups. But officials from the five countries have started meeting independently of the Arctic Council, first in Ilulissat, Greenland, in 2008, and now in Quebec next month. "It's our concern that we see some of the states involved in the Arctic Council now … move the discussions out of the Arctic Council and to create kind of separate bodies," said Gunn Britt Retter of the Saami Council in Norway. In announcing the upcoming meeting, Cannon said it will reinforce "ongoing collaboration in the region, including in the Arctic Council." But Dickson said she is especially displeased that indigenous groups are not being invited to a meeting where northern economic development will be discussed. Both the Arctic Athabaskan Council and the Inuit Circumpolar Council plan to lobby the federal government to include them in next month's summit. Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada president Duane Smith told CBC News that his organization has contacted various government officials, and plans to correspond with Cannon shortly. The Arctic meeting will take place right before Cannon hosts the G8 foreign ministers' meeting in Gatineau, Que., on March 29 and 30.
Posted 11 February 2010; 11:30:22 AM. Permalink
(David Holthouse/Alaska Dispatch, 8 January 2010) -- Vester Eyland, a small island off the west coast of Greenland, near the mouth of Disko Bay, has long been known for producing some of the best sea kayakers in the world. "The island draws big waves, so it's not easy to paddle and hunt, compared to other places off the coast of the main country, where the water is calm and flat," says famed sea kayaker Maligiaq Johnsen Padilla (pronounced muh-LIG-ee-ahk YOON-sen pa-DEE-uh), 27, whose mother's ancestors are from Vester Eyland. Padilla grew up in Sisimiut, a town on the edge of the Arctic Circle, just south of Disko Bay. He learned to subsistence hunt and sea kayak from his Vester Eyland relatives, for whom knowing how to right, or "roll" a capsized kayak is more survival skill than sport. They hunt in seas where the wind and waves batter kayaks like unruly children slapping at bathtub toys. Padilla's great-grandfather was killed near Vester Eyland in 1929 when a harpooned seal yanked his kayak with enough force in rough water to snap his spine. Though he still hunts for seals, fish and Auks (diving birds related to sea puffins), Padilla is better known outside the Sisimiut area for his prowess in world-class sea kayaking competitions. He's the only person in history to win the Greenland National Kayaking Championships four times, beginning in 1998 at the age of 16, when he became the youngest Greenland kayak champion ever. Last month, Padilla traveled to Alaska to participate in Generation I, a touring series of workshops, demonstrations and community discussions in Northwest Alaska that took place Dec. 28 through Jan. 8 in Kotzebue, Kiana and Selawik. (Here's a slideshow from the event.) Generation I — a play on "I" representing both personal identity and Inuit culture — was inspired by a recent "Hope and Resilience in Suicide Prevention" seminar, in Nuuk, Greenland, that was organized and funded by the Inuit Circumpolar Conference [now Council] in conjunction with the government of Greenland. Suicides among Inuit, and especially Inuit youth, in both Alaska and Greenland are tragically high. But in Greenland, they're decreasing. The "Hope and Resilience" seminar attributed the positive shift in large part to three factors: affirming the self-worth of Inuit teenagers, promoting a deeper sense of Inupiat cultural identity, and putting youths in contact with positive role models. [See the YouTube video]
Posted 10 January 2010; 11:19:40 AM. Permalink
(ENS, 18 December 2009) -- COPENHAGEN, Denmark - The Obama administration will commit $5 million towards international cooperation to reduce black carbon emissions in and around the Arctic. Nancy Sutley, who chairs the White House Council on Environmental Quality, announced the new commitment Thursday at the UN climate summit in Copenhagen. Black carbon, or soot, is composed of fine particles that are produced from the incomplete combustion of diesel fuel, wood, crop waste and other biomass, oil, refuse, and, in some cases, coal. Black carbon pollution has well known and significant adverse impacts on human health. Science shows that these emissions play a significant role in warming the Arctic and accelerating ice melt. Sutley said the United States anticipates these funds will be matched by other nations to develop and implement mitigation efforts, which will help reduce Arctic warming while yielding direct public health and ecosystem benefits. In launching the new initiative, Sutley cited the 2009 Tromsø Declaration of the Arctic Council, in which the eight member nations recognized that “protecting the Arctic against potentially irreversible impacts of anthropogenic climate change depends mainly on substantially reducing global emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.” The Arctic Council highlighted the role of “short-lived climate forcers” such as black carbon, methane, and tropospheric ozone on Arctic climate change. It stated that reducing emissions of these forcers has “the potential to slow the rate of Arctic snow, sea ice and sheet ice melting in the near term.” The Arctic Council further decided “to establish a task force on short-lived climate forcers to identify existing and new measures to reduce emissions of these forcers and recommend further immediate actions that can be taken.” ... Sutley said that she is encouraged that Norway and Sweden have already expressed interest in participating in the context of Arctic Council cooperation.
Posted 19 December 2009; 11:42:25 PM. Permalink
Welcome to the Arctic Governance Project. This is a dynamic website providing several opportunities for visitors to offer insights and opinions on Arctic Governance. The Project invites all interested parties to contribute to the dialogue through the website.Climate change – coupled with globalization—has triggered a rapidly accelerating cascade of events leading to profound environmental and socioeconomic changes in the Arctic—both on land and at sea. In response, demand is growing for science-based innovation in the conservation, management and governance of Arctic resources. This demand, in turn, has generated an outpouring of new ways of thinking about governance in the Arctic—resulting in a range of concrete proposals and policy alternatives for sustaining arctic communities, ecosystems and biodiversity.The project draws on the insights from traditional ecological knowledge and cutting edge scientific knowledge.The Project has assembled an array of global perpectives and proposals on governance solutions in its Arctic Governance Compendium. The Project's leadership and a diverse cross-section of researchers and stakeholders will subject these proposals to careful scrutiny at the the Tromsø Summit in January 2010.
Posted 7 December 2009; 10:29:15 PM. Permalink
(UArctic News, 23 November 2009) -- University of the Arctic along with The Scandinavian Seminar College, a non-governmental institution and the Danish Society for Futures Studies has cooperated to publish A Key Player in the Arctic, the University of the Arctic and the Challenges Ahead.
Posted 25 November 2009; 11:06:09 AM. Permalink
(Barents Observer, 25 November 2009) -- Cooperation between countries in the Arctic region and protection of Russia’s interests in the region are amongst the topics up for discussion in the Russian Federation Council today. The Russian Federation Council’s committee for issues concerning the Arctic and indigenous peoples of the North today holds Parliament hearings on Russia’s efforts to upkeep life sustenance in the Arctic, web site B-port.com reports. The participants in the hearings—members of the Federation Council, deputies in the State Duma and representatives from federal and regional authorities—will discuss Russia’s participation in international organizations and trends in international cooperation. Among the speakers in the hearings are the Head of the committee Gennady Oleynik, Ambassador-at-large for Russia’s involvement in the Barents regional cooperation Anton Vasilyev and Vice President in the Association for the indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East [RAIPON] Dmitry Berezhkov.
Posted 25 November 2009; 10:41:01 AM. Permalink
(Tana Lowen Stratton/Arctic Council News, 17 November 2009) -- In a successful two-day meeting in Copenhagen, the Arctic Council Senior Arctic Officials approved a number of reports and from the Council’s working groups and discussed two new task forces. The first Senior Arctic Official (SAO) meeting of the Danish Chairmanship of the Arctic Council (2009-2011) took place on 12-13 November in Copenhagen. The SAO Chair, Mr. Lars Møller, was very satisfied with the decisions taken at the meeting, "The meeting was very productive and we achieved our objectives. I am especially delighted that we now are well prepared for the Arctic Council activities at COP 15." On climate change, SAOs approved the Arctic Council report on the Greenland Ice Sheet to be presented to the UN Climate Conference in December. Information about the Arctic Council will also be presented at an "Arctic Venue" during the CoP15. SAOs agreed that the Key Messages of Arctic Council's Arctic Biodiversity Trends - 2010: selected indicators of change report will be submitted to the Convention on Biological Diversity for inclusion in the upcoming third Global Biodiversity Outlook report. SAOs approved work on a set of priorities for follow-up activities to respond to the recommendations in the Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment (AMSA) 2009 Report. These include an Arctic Council review of the global and regional measures that are in place for the protection of the Arctic marine and coastal environment, and to enhance cooperation in oil spill prevention.
Posted 18 November 2009; 2:06:48 PM. Permalink
(BarentsObserver, 10 November 2009) -- Bodø University College in Nordland, Norway, and the Pomor State University in Arkhangelsk, Russia, are expanding their cooperation through combined teaching on Bachelor’s level. The Centre for Northern Studies at The Faculty of Social Science at Bodø University College this autumn extends its cooperation with The Pomor State University by offering the students to take 90 study points as electives in language and culture specialist programs in Russia. So far, 20 students have chosen this study profile, the college’s web pages read. Bodø University College and the Pomor State University have been cooperating for 12 years. The cooperation started with projects in the field of social work and has since developed into today's Bachelor of Circumpolar Studies. A new Master in Arctic Social Work is now being developed together with Director Marina Kalinina at the Norwegian-Russian Centre at The Pomor State University. As BarentsObserver reported, the Pomor State University will be included in the new Northern (Arctic) Federal University, which is being established in Arkhangelsk. It is planned to be Russia’s center for education and research on the Arctic. "With extended cooperation and well-established Bachelor of Circumpolar Studies we are well positioned to take part in this development," says Head of the Centre for Northern Studies at The Faculty of Social Science at Bodø University College Bjørn Sagdal.
Posted 11 November 2009; 1:07:06 AM. Permalink
(Naval Postgraduate Schools press release, 2 November 2009) -- We are pleased to announce the publication this week of Barry Scott Zellen's second nonfiction book on the transformation and modernization of the Arctic region: Arctic Doom, Arctic Boom: The Geopolitics of Climate Change in the Arctic, published by Praeger. The second of a three-volume project exploring the foundations of security, stability and sovereignty in the modern Arctic, it examines the challenges and opportunities of a polar thaw; considers the impacts on geopolitics, international security, and international commerce; and discusses what a “post-Arctic” world might look like. The book includes an introduction by former Alaska Governor and U.S. Interior Secretary Walter J. Hickel, and a foreword authored by Professor Daniel J. Moran of the Department of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School. ... the author argues that the twilight of the reign of ice in the Arctic marks the dawn of a new geostrategic pivot and economic powerhouse—a rich new navigable “Mediterranean” basin full of beneficial promise for the future of the Arctic rim nations, the indigenous Arctic peoples, and human history. Zellen surveys the history of the global strategic and military importance of the Arctic region through the bifocal lenses of neorealism and geopolitics, with particular attention to its role as the Cold War’s Northern Front. He shows how the dramatic acceleration of melting in the Arctic in the present decade is thrusting the Arctic back onto the center stage of geostrategic concerns, posing a hard choice for the circumpolar nations between cooperative development of the Arctic’s vast, hitherto inaccessible resources, or a new cold war among military antagonists and economic rivals. Zellen compares and evaluates the contending models for the Arctic’s future development put forward by such figures as former Alaska Governor and U.S. Interior Secretary Walter Hickel; Arctic expert and International Relations theorist Oran Young; Major-General (ret.) Richard Rohmer; and Arctic environmental journalist and author Ed Struzik.
Posted 2 November 2009; 10:12:48 PM. Permalink
(UArctic News, 2 November 2009) -- UArctic member organizations in Sweden gather
in Abisko, Sweden, for two days of meetings to discuss participation in
UArctic's programs and coordination of fundraising activities in
Sweden. Christer Jonasson from Abisko
hosts the meeting. Lars Kullerud, President of UArctic, also
participates in the meeting. "We look forward to increased engagement
in UArctic from all Swedish members. Also, as currently we don't have a
UArctic Office in Sweden, we look forward to Swedish members to come
forward to take a leadership role in a UArctic activity."
Posted 2 November 2009; 7:33:59 AM. Permalink
(ENS, 30 October 2009) -- KANGERLUUSUAQ, Greenland - A polar bear conservation and management agreement between Greenland, Canada and Nunavut was signed today at Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. The pact caps months of work by all three parties to protect bears in hunting areas shared by the Canadian territory of Nunavut and Greenland, including Baffin Bay and Kane Basin. Canada is inhabited by 15,500 of the estimated 25,000 polar bears in global polar regions. Of the 13 polar bear subpopulations in Canada, those in the Kane Basin and Baffin Bay are shared exclusively between Nunavut and Greenland. Canada's Environment Minister Jim Prentice, Nunavut's Minister of the Environment Daniel Shewchuk, and Greenland's Minister of Fisheries, Hunting and Agriculture Ane Hansen put their names to the Memorandum of Understanding aimed at ensuring the protection of these shared polar bear populations. The MOU proposes the creation of a Canada-Greenland joint commission that would recommend a combined total allowable harvest, and a fair division of the shared harvest. The joint commission also would be used to coordinate science, traditional knowledge, management and outreach activities. Environment Minister Prentice said, "The Government of Canada is committed to working collaboratively to protect one of Canada's true natural, and national, symbols." Prentice called the polar bear "an iconic animal, whose rare and rugged beauty stands as a stark reminder that Canada is one of the world's true Nordic nations." Earlier this year, Prentice hosted a National Roundtable on polar bears with the territories, the provinces, wildlife management boards and others who have a polar bear management and conservation role. At the meeting, the need to form an agreement on managing shared polar bear subpopulations was identified as a high priority. "The Memorandum of Understanding will help ensure conservation and sustainable management of Kane Basin and Baffin Bay polar bear populations into the future," Prentice said today.
Posted 1 November 2009; 8:34:13 PM. Permalink
(BarentsObserver, 30 October 2009) -- "The EU is an Arctic entity," EU Commission representative Fernando Garces highlighted in a seminar last week. He also reiterated the Commission’s desire for permanent observer status in the Arctic Council. Speaking in the seminar “Regional Cooperation for regional growth” in Murmansk last week, EU Commission representative Fernando Garces highlighted that the EU’s Communication on the Arctic from last year is a step in the process of making a comprehensive EU Arctic Policy. The EU has a lot to contribute with in the Arctic, he underlined, and added that it is about time that the Commission gets permanent observer status in the Arctic Council. As BarentsObserver has reported, the Arctic Council has so far turned down the Commission’s request for higher status. In his presentation, the commission representative also said that cross-border relations in the northernmost parts of Europe have a positive and pragmatic approach. As a matter of fact, cross-border relations in the High North can serve as a model for EU-Russia cooperation, the EU Commission representative maintained. "The further north, the better East-West relations," Garces said, admitting that other European regions should learn from the northerners. The Commission representative praised cooperation within the frames of Northern Dimension, the EU’s main cooperation instrument in the northernmost parts of Europe. He stressed that it has been a success to include Russia and Norway on equal terms in the Northern Dimension policy from 2006. He also said that he is happy to see current Russian progress in the signing of the joint EU-Russia CBC ENPI programmes–programmes which will become the backbone for East-West project cooperation in Europe. Mr. Garces, a representative of DG Relex, the EU’s foreign affairs body, had been invited to Murmansk by the North Norway, North Finland and North Sweden EU offices in Brussels, as well as the Norwegian Barents Secretariat.
Posted 1 November 2009; 6:07:11 PM. Permalink
(RedOrbit, 31 October 2009) -- Canada and Greenland are taking steps to protect populations of polar bears that live between the two countries, officials announced on Friday. Canada's Environment Minister Jim Prentice announced this during a conference call after he signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) along with Greenland's Minister of Fisheries, Hunting and Agriculture, Ane Hansen and Prentice's Nunavut territory representative Daniel Shewchuk. The deal suggests the writing of a partnered committee that would advocate a total yearly number of polar bears to be harvested and an equal separation of the hunt. Hunting polar bears has been illegal since 1973, but the Arctic's indigenous peoples do not follow this ban due to reverence of their traditions, regardless of scientists' oppositions over how the pelts have been separated. The committee will also align science, conventional information and outreach programs. "The government of Canada is committed to working collaboratively to protect one of Canada's true natural, and national, symbols. An iconic animal, whose rare and rugged beauty stands as a stark reminder that Canada is one of the world's true Nordic nations," Prentice stated. Hansen emphasized that it was "important that traditional knowledge is used together with science" in the development, as Shewchuk noted that the MOU "will help us make the wisest possible management decisions for our polar bear populations."
Posted 1 November 2009; 5:39:47 PM. Permalink
(CBC News, 28 October 2009) -- A much-anticipated polar bear conservation agreement between Greenland, Canada and Nunavut will be signed Friday. Federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice is travelling to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, to sign the agreement, which involves the Canadian and Greenland governments as well as the Nunavut territorial government. All three parties have been working for months on a conservation agreement that covers hunting areas shared by Nunavut and Greenland, including Baffin Bay and Kane Basin. Polar-bear hunting in those two areas by Inuit from Nunavut and Greenland has caused international controversy in recent years, with biologists arguing that the combined level of hunting is not sustainable. Greenland has cut its polar-bear hunting quota in Baffin Bay to 68 bears a year, and Nunavut officials are under pressure to follow suit. Hunters in Nunavut can currently take up to 108 polar bears in Baffin Bay, but the territorial government wants to slash that to 64, introduce a new reduced quota or impose a complete moratorium on polar-bear hunting in the area. But Inuit who hunt polar bears in Baffin Bay have said the polar-bear population is actually rising, not decreasing. Friday's agreement is expected to pave the way for joint decisions on the size of the hunt and prompt new bear studies in the affected regions.
Posted 30 October 2009; 7:43:02 AM. Permalink
(Arctic Peoples, 19 October 2009) -- The Permanent Participants of the Arctic Council have proposed the establishment of an Indigenous Peoples Community Action Initiative (IPCAP Initiative). RAIPON has been the driving force. The Initiative was welcomed by the Arctic Council Ministerial Meetings in Salekhard (October 2006) and in Tromsø (March 2009) where it is stated in the Tromsø Declaration that the Ministers: “... Welcome with appreciation the creation of a new Project Steering Group to address contaminants in indigenous peoples’ communities in remote areas of the Arctic ...”
Posted 19 October 2009; 2:40:49 PM. Permalink
(Tony Hopfinger/Alaska Dispatch, 4 September 2009) -- In another sign that the Arctic is warming, a coordinated rescue was in the works Thursday for an ill German passenger aboard a cruise ship not far from the oil fields of Prudhoe Bay. It's an unlikely place to find a cruise ship, but this new Arctic frontier is becoming busier with commercial traffic. The report of the ill passenger off the northern Alaska coast came the same day as a new study claims the Arctic is now at its warmest in 2000 years. As of Thursday afternoon, the Coast Guard Rescue Coordination Center in Juneau reported that Alaska Clean Seas and oil company BP were helping arrange for the transfer of a 27-year-old German woman suffering possibly from appendicitis aboard the cruise ship Bremen about 30 miles west of Prudhoe Bay. The Bremen has been at sea since it left Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, in mid-August, according to the Hapag-Lloyd Cruises' website. The ship was due to arrive to Barrow on Friday, then head south to Point Hope on Saturday, and end up in Nome on Monday morning. Ships like the Bremen have been sailing across the Northwest Passage more frequently in recent years as new, relatively ice-free shipping lanes open up. The Coast Guard, Homeland Security and other federal agencies have raised safety and security concerns about the increasing traffic of commercial ships sailing past the top of Alaska, where the border is wide open and there is little oversight. In previous years, ships carrying German passengers have docked off the shores of Barrow and freely brought the tourists ashore in boats for short visits.
Posted 4 September 2009; 4:08:28 PM. Permalink
(Murray Brewster/The Canadian Press, 31 August 2009) -- OTTAWA - Canada's chief of defence staff met quietly with his Danish counterpart to strengthen military co-operation in the Arctic just days after the Conservative government mounted a solo display of military prowess in the Far North. The unannounced discussions between Gen. Walter Natynczyk and Admiral Tim Sloth Jorgensen took place over several days last week, and were only made public in a Danish news release. Ottawa has been silent on the visit, which included a stop at Canada's most northern military outpost, Canadian Forces Station Alert. "As the ice melts, it will change shipping routes - probably resulting in a rise in ship traffic," said the Danish military release. "This has led Arctic nations to examine the potential for closer co-operation in the region. Both Denmark and Canada have made moves in that direction." A spokeswoman for Natynczyk played down the issue, saying discussions among military leaders are nothing unusual and don't garner much interest or attention by the media. "They've met in the past," said Maj. Cindy Tessier. "The CDS (chief of defence staff) has so many counterparts. There was no intent not to be public with this." A northern expert says the trip marked the first time a senior foreign military figure had visited Canada's Arctic.
Posted 1 September 2009; 12:13:32 AM. Permalink