( 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
(CBC News, 7 March 2013) -- A proposal by the United States to ban cross-border trade in polar bears and their parts was defeated Thursday at an international meeting of conservationists, marking a victory for Canada's Inuit over their big neighbour to the south. Delegates at the triennial meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, rejected Washington's proposal to change the status of the polar bear from a species whose trade is merely regulated, not banned. The proposal fell far short of the two-thirds needed to pass, garnering 38 votes in favour, 42 against and 46 abstentions. A similar proposal was defeated three years ago at the last CITES meeting. While support for most of the meeting's 70 proposals covering the trade in other species fell along predictable lines, the U.S. proposal made for some odd bedfellows. Russia endorsed Washington's proposal, which was also supported by a cluster of animal humane societies. Canada was joined in opposition by some of the larger conservation organizations, including the CITES Secretariat and the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network, better known as TRAFFIC. The worldwide population of polar bears is estimated to be 20,000 to 28,000, with about two-thirds in Canada. The United States had contended that climate change was dangerously shrinking the bears' habitat, and that pre-emptive measures were needed to save them. ... The U.S. delegation said it was disappointed that the trade ban proposal had failed.
Posted 9 March 2013; 1:37:21 AM. Permalink
(David M. Herszenhorn/New York Times via Anchorage Daily News, 4 March 2013) -- MOSCOW -- With relations between Russia and the United States increasingly frosty because of entrenched disagreements over Syria, child adoptions, missile systems and other issues, the two countries have quietly joined forces to help polar bears. Russia and the United States, two of the five countries where polar bears live, are now the main allies pushing for greater protection for the bears under a global treaty on endangered species, which is being reviewed this week at a conference in Bangkok. "It really seems that both countries were willing to put aside their differences in order to work together to help save the polar bear," said Jeffrey Flocken, North American regional director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare. Russia's decision to cooperate with the United States not only defies a recent wave of anti-Americanism here, but it also reverses Moscow's opposition to a similar U.S. proposal at the endangered species conference three years ago. The impetus for this shift may be the increasing danger to polar bears and the return to the presidency of Vladimir V. Putin, who often expresses his personal affection for wildlife and has declared 2013 to be the "Year of the Environment" in Russia.
Posted 4 March 2013; 5:35:49 PM. 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
(Mia Bennett/Foreign Policy Blogs via Eye on the Arctic via Alaska Dispatch, 12 February 2013) -- Australia and the Arctic aren't often mentioned in the same sentence. One tends to hear more about Australia and Antarctica, since the country has an Antarctic Division and carries out scientific research at the icy continent not so far away from Tasmania. But I think that a comparison of Australia and the Arctic, particularly the Northern Territory (NT) and the Canadian Arctic, is a fruitful one. When I came across an Economist article on the NT from last September entitled "Northern lights," I began thinking about the lands under the Aurora Borealis and Australis. Both Australia and the Arctic seen as exotic and remote, albeit at opposite ends of the earth. The NT constitutes Australia's landmass but contains only one percent of the population. Canadian territories, which make up 39.5 percent of the country's land, are similarly sparsely populated, with only 100,000 people (0.3 percent of the population). Both the NT and Canada's territories are resource-rich frontiers with large indigenous populations. The indigenous populations in the NT and in northern Canada, particularly Nunavut, are a higher percentage of the overall population than in the rest of Australia and Canada, respectively. Yet although both regions are in countries that enjoy some of the world's highest living standards, they are relatively underdeveloped hinterlands.
Posted 20 February 2013; 11:20:25 PM. Permalink
(RIA Novosti, 11 February 2013) -- BLAGOVESHCHENSK, February 11 (RIA Novosti) – Police in Russia’s Far East Amur Region have seized some 600 kilograms (1,320 pounds) of mammoth tusks from residents of the neighboring Republic of Yakutia, the regional interior affairs department said on Monday. “Police found 71 tusks weighing about 600 kilograms at a warehouse [in Blagoveschensk],” the department said, adding three men were planning to sell the tusks to Chinese nationals. Police are currently investigating whether the fossils were obtained legally. The world market price of mammoth tusk is almost equal to the price of silver. One kilogram is worth 5,000 rubles ($166) at international auctions in Yakutsk, capital of Yakutia. Some 90 percent of the mammoth remains found so far have come from Yakutia. The region’s extreme weather conditions and permafrost allow scientists to find their remains largely intact.
Posted 11 February 2013; 3:49:39 PM. Permalink
(Nikita Sorokin/Voice of Russia, 1 February 2013) -- Russia’s Regional Development Ministry continues consultations with experts on a proposed ‘Law on the Russian Arctic’. According to the United States Geological Survey, the bed of the Arctic Ocean contains one fourth of the world’s reserves of oil and natural gas. This treasure trove is quickly opening as climate change melts the Arctic Ice Cap. Dr Mikhail Babenko is an oil and gas expert of the Worldwide Fund for Nature: "Seabed minerals, fish and promising transport routes are also becoming available. In 2012, traffic along the Northeast Passage from Europe to Asia posted a sharp rise. Many governments are now after tapping these resources for the sake of speeding up economic growth." Dr Sergei Pryamikov is in charge of international cooperation programmes at Russia’s Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute in St Petersburg: "Active Arctic exploration brings together some 15 nations. The treaty on the Svalbard Archipelago now brings together as many as 40. Importantly, China, Japan, South Korea and India are also showing great interest in Arctic resources. Several countries advocate a borderless international zone in the Arctic Ocean. Russia, however, continues to insist that Arctic borders do exist, and drawing them must comply with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea."
Posted 11 February 2013; 1:55:47 PM. 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
(Brett Smith/RedOrbit, 26 December 2012) -- Some conservationists are calling for increased restrictions on the buying and selling of rugs and other goods made from polar bears—citing the animal’s threatened status. Others disagree—saying climate change is the bears’ biggest threat and focusing on their trade de-emphasizes the true reason behind their endangerment. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which has long championed the polar bears’ cause, takes the position that climate change, not international trade, is their most significant threat. “If we were tempted to support (a ban) on the basis of trade being a major threat, it is not,” Colman O’Criodain, WWF’s wildlife trade policy analyst, told BBC News. “You could say that this is just a distraction factor and that it could have the effect of making people think something has been done to address the threat when the net effect will be almost negligible,” he added. Officials at the Humane Society International/UK disagree, citing a 375 percent increase in the number of polar bear skins offered at auction over the past five years as evidence that the animals are being hunted more than ever. ... Where some see a battle to protect polar bears by banning the trade of certain products, others see a move to de-emphasize the activities responsible for climate change. “The American government is using the threat of climate change to justify banning the international trade in polar bear parts while utterly failing to do anything to reduce their own activities,” Inuit spokesman James Eetoolook of the Nunavut Tunngavik told BBC News. In denouncing a potential ban, Eetoolook’s group cited their own research study, released earlier this year and conducted in the western side of Hudson Bay, which found the local polar bear population numbered around 1,000 animals and was possibly expanding. “This is not about climate change. This is about how polar bears were used to draw attention to climate change. It was dangerous and wrong for scientists to use incomplete data to make predictions,” Eetoolook said back in April when the study was released.
Posted 3 January 2013; 1:21:35 PM. Permalink
(Talking Retail, 20 December 2012) -- Coca-Cola is bringing back its much-loved iconic polar bears to our screens as part of a new integrated campaign. The 30-second TV advert and supporting activity aims to encourage brand love and celebrate togetherness this winter. The content-rich campaign builds the light-hearted and fun tale of a family of polar bears through an initial 30-second advert, national outdoor advertising, Sky 1 channel partnership and exclusive Arctic-themed downloads. The campaign also marks a return to the much-loved polar bears for the Coca-Cola brand, after appearing across various advertising campaigns for the past 90 years. To celebrate, a 30-second animated advert, entitled ‘Snow Bear’, will launch from New Year’s Day, bringing to life the iconic polar bears. The advert shows a family of polar bears in the Arctic, working together to make a snow bear. It includes the tag line ‘Open Happiness’ in order to drive awareness and capture the optimism, positivity and inspiration of the brand.
Posted 20 December 2012; 9:21:59 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
(CBC News, 10 December 2012) -- A climatologist in the United States says the Arctic Circle should be a no-fly zone for major commercial flights. In a new report, Mark Jacobson, a professor of civil engineering at Stanford University in California, says black soot from commercial jets is attracting heat from the sun. Airlines first started flying over the Arctic in 1998, when Russia agreed to allow other countries to fly planes in its airspace. Now, more than 50,000 planes fly through the Arctic Circle every year. Jacobson says that could be a major cause of Arctic melting. “One of the effects of the aircraft is they emit a lot of soot into the upper atmosphere and the sunlight is absorbed by that soot, and the air heats up, so you get this kind of elevated, heated air layer where the aircraft fly,” Jacobson said. However, if large planes flew outside of the Arctic Circle, they would burn more fuel. However, Jacobson argues the warming effect would not be as great. The professor says he doesn't expect airlines to start rerouting flights around the Arctic Circle any time soon: he said airlines save more than $100 million a year in fuel costs by using the Arctic Circle as a shortcut.
Posted 10 December 2012; 11:02:14 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
(IceNews, 8 October 2012) -- Iceland’s film leaders have chosen The Deep to represent the country at the upcoming Academy Awards in Hollywood. The Baltasar Kormakur production, which depicts a fishing boat accident in the icy waters off the Iceland’s coastline, has been selected as the island nation’s contender for the category of best foreign-language film, the Icelandic Film and Television Academy announced on Thursday. The Deep, based on a true story from 1984, stars Olafur Darri Olafsson, whose character manages to make his way to shore as the only survivor after his vessel sinks. The film debuted at the Toronto Film Festival and received high praise from critics for its gripping underwater scenes. The filmmakers are hoping the picture will become the second-only Icelandic production ever nominated for an Oscar. The first came in 1992 via Children of Nature, directed by Fridrik Thor Fridriksson. Five films will be selected as nominees for this year’s award; they will be revealed by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on 10 January, whilst the Oscar ceremony will take place in Los Angeles on 24 February.
Posted 14 October 2012; 4:29:23 PM. Permalink
(IceNews, 11 October 2012) -- Greenland’s Oscar Committee has nominated Inuk as the Danish territory’s contender at this year’s Academy Awards in California. The film, which depicts the life of troubled 16-year-old Nuuk resident, will compete with films from around the world for the category of Best Foreign Language Film at the 85th edition of the Academy Awards, officials said on Monday. The American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will select five final nominees for the category’s Oscar; their selections will be revealed on 10 January while the award ceremony will take place in Hollywood on 24 February. Inuk has already gathered substantial critical acclaim and has taken home more than 20 awards at various international film festivals. Filmmakers said the production was shot on location amid Greenland’s typical frigid conditions and casting agents commissioned local teenagers from an area children's home as well as area hunters as actors. As reported by Nuntasiaq Online, Inuk co-producer and co-writer Jean-Michel Huctin describes the film: “Created as an original road-movie on the sea ice, Inuk is both an authentic story of Greenland today and a universal story about the quest for identity, transmission and rebirth after the deepest of wounds.” Inuk’s producers are currently amid negotiations for the film’s general release in the US, Canada and Australia, and the full-length feature is already scheduled for an early 2013 release in Germany, South Korea, Switzerland and Austria.
Posted 14 October 2012; 4:06:27 PM. Permalink
(Iceland Review, 13 October 2012) -- Chinese investor Huang Nubo’s company Zhongkun Grímsstaðir ehf. has reportedly offered to pay USD 5 million (ISK 615 million, EUR 3.86 million) for a 60-year lease of the piece of land Grímsstaðir á Fjöllum in Northeast Iceland, according to a draft agreement. This is USD 3 million less than originally estimated. According to an unreleased agreement between Zhongkun Grímsstaðir ehf. and Gáf, a private limited company owned by the Norðurþing municipality in North Iceland, the use of water and other natural resources such as geothermal heat are limited to the operation of tourist services with the exemption of Gáf, visir.is reports. Bergur Elías Ágústsson, chair of Gáf and director of the Norðurþing district council, said that they do not want to waive their rights to the use of the local resources. Bergur says that any decisions would need to be made in agreement with not only Gáf but with the zoning authority in the area, which in this case is the municipality of Norðurþing. The agreement states that the rental price will be paid for “in ISK with the best available rate.” Bergur Elías declined to comment on the amount offered.
Posted 14 October 2012; 4:00:23 PM. Permalink
(Collin West/Bloomberg Businessweek, 12 July 2010) -- This blog will capture my personal experience as our team of four attempts “one of the last great firsts.” If successful, our crossing will be the first rowing expedition to travel from continent to continent for a total of 1,300 miles. What will we learn about ourselves and the Arctic along the way? Visit this blog regularly to find out as we explore this question in real time. But today, the Arctic Row expedition finally starts. I am sitting on the first of four flights as we make our way to Inuvik, a tiny town that sits 2 degrees north of the Arctic Circle. Our first stop is Edmonton, Canada. My excitement builds as the towns get progressively smaller. While in Inuvik, we will make final preparations on our boat, including packing our supplies and film gear for our documentary Into Thin Ice. Then we will drop our boat in the MacKenzie River about 70 miles north of the Arctic Ocean and commence our record-breaking attempt.
Posted 17 July 2012; 5:02:27 PM. Permalink
(Carl Bildt, Minister for Foreign Affairs Sweden, speech at Carleton University 17 May 2012) -- I am deeply honored to speak here today at the Carleton University. Our two countries - Canada and Sweden - are connected in many ways. We share a similar culture and lifestyle. Our societies are based on the same set of fundamental values. And in both our countries we have a tradition of strong attachment to nature, despite an equally strong tradition of rough and forbidding weather conditions. More than anything, however, I believe we are linked together by geography: by the fact that both Canada and Sweden are countries that stretch into the vast, remote and cold part of the world called the Arctic. This simple fact has had a major impact on our history. It will - perhaps to an even greater extent - shape our future. And for many of us it will always be part of what it means to be Swedish and - I presume - Canadian. Take our national anthems as an example. While you are singing of "The True North strong and free", we sing "Thou ancient, thou free, thou mountainous North". Simply put, we are both Northerners.
Posted 18 May 2012; 2:30:53 PM. Permalink
(Sweden Ministry for Foreign Affairs, 14 May 2012) -- Minister for Foreign Affairs Carl Bildt will travel to Canada this week for political discussions primarily focusing on issues on the Arctic agenda. Mr Bildt will also visit the Arctic areas in Canada. Sweden currently holds the chair of the Arctic Council, which is a forum for cooperation between the five Nordic countries, Canada, Russia and the USA. The Arctic areas face many challenges and it is important to find a balance between environmental considerations and economic development for the Arctic to be able to develop. "Arctic region issues are a high priority for the Swedish Government and it is therefore important to discuss these issues with a central Arctic actor like Canada," says Mr Bildt. Sweden has held the chair of the Arctic Council since May 2011 and will pass on the Chairmanship to Canada at the foreign ministers' meeting in Kiruna in May 2013. On 16-17 May, Mr Bildt will be in Ottawa for talks with Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird, Minister of National Defence Peter Mackay and Minister of Health and Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency Leona Aglukkaq. On 17 May Mr Bildt will deliver a key policy speech at Carleton University under the heading 'Arctic Challenges and the Future Perspectives of Arctic Cooperation'. On 18-19 May Mr Bildt will visit Iqaluit in northern Canada, where he will meet Premier of Nunavut Eva Aariak and others.
Posted 16 May 2012; 4:08:24 PM. Permalink
(PennEnergy, 8 May 2012) -- The black gold rush on the roof of the world accelerated on Saturday. Norway's Statoil ASA (NYSE ADR: STO) signed a massive deal with Russian behemoth Rosneft in a venture that may require more than $100 billion over the next few decades. Specifically, the company aims to help Rosneft develop untapped oil resources in the Arctic, as Moscow struggles to gain a competitive advantage given declining oil production in Siberia. It's the third recent oil partnership for Rosneft. ... In the wake of Russia's slumping reserves and production in Siberia, the Kremlin has been looking for ways to incentivize producers to help Rosneft increase production. Tax breaks have been one way, but companies also want a little bit of insurance when they work with Moscow. Just last month, Exxon and Rosneft agreed to begin finalizing their initial $3.2 billion Arctic deal that would require about $200 billion for joint projects in the next decade alone, and the development of 10 ice-proof platforms for the Kara Sea that would cost about $15 billion each.
Posted 9 May 2012; 12:03:08 PM. Permalink
(Nunatsiaq News, 8 May 2012) -- This week and next, 500 representatives from the 370-million indigenous peoples who live around the world are meeting in New York at the United Nations for the 11th session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples. The forum, which meets for 10 days each year, is a high-level advisory body that deals with indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, environment, education, health and human rights. Five years after the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted, a great deal remains to be done to realize the objectives contained in that landmark document, UN deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro said May 7 at the opening of the 11th session of the forum. “We continue to hear stories of struggles and exploitation of indigenous peoples around the world. It is time for those stories to change,” Migiro said. “Let us instead move towards the day when indigenous peoples are heard, listened to and empowered.” Almost 2,000 indigenous participants from all regions of the world are taking part in the two-week session to advanced the rights and well-being of indigenous peoples.
Posted 8 May 2012; 10:47:06 PM. Permalink
(Yereth Rosen/Reuters, 23 April 2012) -- A soccer ball that bobbed onto the shore of a remote Alaska island is likely the first salvageable debris from last year's Japanese tsunami that could be returned to its owner, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The ball, found on Alaska's Middleton Island, bears writing that identifies its place of origin, said Doug Helton, operations coordinator for NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration, which is tracking debris from the tsunami. According to a translation provided by Tokyo-based journalists, the ball is from the Osabe School in the Iwate Prefecture, an area that was hit by the devastating tidal wave unleashed March 11 by the magnitude 9 earthquake off Japan's northeastern coast, Helton said Sunday. Beachcombers and cleanup workers in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest have found debris, including sports equipment, that was likely set adrift by the tsunami, Helton said. But this soccer ball stood out because it had identifying information. The ball was found by David Baxter, a technician at a radar station on Middleton Island, a remote site in the Gulf of Alaska.
Posted 24 April 2012; 11:12:53 AM. Permalink
(Mia Shanley/Reuters, 20 April 2012) -- REYKJAVIK - China signed accords on energy cooperation and the Arctic in Iceland on Friday as Premier Wen Jiabao started a tour of northern Europe that will focus on Chinese investment in a continent eager for funds and to trade with the rising world power. Centrepiece of the trip will be a visit to Germany, where Wen and Chancellor Angela Merkel will on Sunday and Monday burnish industrial ties that have done much for both economies. That the prime minister of the world's most populous nation should stop first, however, on a remote island of just 320,000 has raised hopes for an injection of Chinese cash into an economy ravaged by the bursting of a financial bubble in 2008 - but also suspicion of Beijing's hunger for natural resources. A Chinese developer is fighting a government decision last year to bar him from buying a vast tract of land which some had suggested might be a cover for a possible future naval base and part of a wider strategy to gain a foothold in the region. Over two days, Wen, who trained as a geologist, will see volcanic geysers and electricity plants where Iceland captures geothermal energy. Friday's meetings between Wen and Icelandic Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir resulted in agreements to cooperate in the Arctic region, in marine and polar science and in geothermal energy.
Posted 21 April 2012; 5:19:39 PM. 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
(IceNews, 5 March 2012) -- A three week Icelandic air space patrol mission by the German Luftwaffe begins today while discussion continues about a possible Nordic takeover. Iceland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Össur Skarphéðinsson, says that air cover has been arranged for the country for the next two years. Iceland has no military of its own. There are serious discussions in progress about whether the Nordic countries should take over Iceland’s air defence from NATO. The US Air Force last took responsibility for Icelandic air space in August and now the Germans have taken over. There are around 150 German air force personnel taking part in the Icelandic operation and they have brought four F4 fighters with them; as well as some 40 shipping containers and a variety of motor vehicles. Exercises will take place this week around Akureyri and Egilsstaðir. The Minister for Foreign Affairs told RÚV that the German patrols and exercises are standard in nature and that the Americans will come in the summer and be followed by the Portuguese air force later in the year. Regular air patrols have been organised for the next two years and will be similar in nature to patrols over the Baltic nations and form part of the wider NATO preparedness mission over European airspace.
Posted 2 April 2012; 2:48:15 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 of Foreign Affairs, 27 March 2012) -- On Tuesday 27 March, Minister for Trade Ewa Björling and her Finnish colleague Alexander Stubb will open the Nordkalotten border service office in Haparanda/Torneå. "One of the most important functions of border services is to help people and companies with cross-border business. I am very pleased that we now have border service offices at all our borders," says Dr Björling. Dr Björling's visit to Tornedalen is part of the Norrland initiative that started in Kiruna on 23 March. The initiative involves visits to several of the counties in Norrland for discussions on how to create conditions for favourable development in the north. The aim is to present an action programme for increased regional exports in 2013.
Posted 27 March 2012; 3:37:22 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
(Yvonne Villarreal/Los Angeles Times, 25 March 2012) -- There's a world out there where a finger of ice can destroy everything in its path. Where strobes of green light dance across the sunless sky. Where unicorn-like creatures roam the sea. And it's not the stuff of CGI-loaded blockbuster fantasy film. It's "Frozen Planet, "a seven-part Discovery Channel and BBC mega-series exploring the Earth's arcane polar regions. (It premiered last week, but its first installment will repeat Sunday just before the second episode.) Made by the documentary team behind 2006's groundbreaking "Planet Earth" and narrated by Alec Baldwin, "Frozen Planet" is epic in scope and cinematic in execution, demonstrating how far nature documentary series have come. "This is not your grandfather's 'Wild Kingdom,'" said "Frozen Planet" executive producer Alastair Fothergill, referring to the show launched in the '60s that studied wild animals in their natural habitat. "There's been a long history and lots of different techniques that have been tried since then to document nature." ... Nine months of preproduction research went into the project, with a 10- to 15-page script set as a guideline. "We had to work out how we spend our money," Fothergill said. "And we try to be calculated and film novelty, because you don't want the dedicated natural history audience to say, 'We've seen every wild beast in Serengeti.' The bar is constantly getting higher and higher." To get those scenes required much trial and error — and a lot of waiting. Cameramen battled howling winds and sub-zero temperatures to shoot a never-before-caught-on-camera "wave wash," in which a pod of orcas cooperate to wash a seal off an ice floe — in a six-week trip, they witnessed more than 20 before getting the image viewers see. And director Chadden Hunter and his team scoured Wood Buffalo National Park for weeks, lugging equipment while wearing snowshoes and cross-country skis, to capture the dramatic scene of wolves closing in on bison prey that made it into the series. ...
Posted 25 March 2012; 5:13:51 PM. 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
(CBC News, ) -- The U.S. Consul General for British Columbia and Yukon thanked Yukoners with a bronze plaque Thursday for their help on 9/11 and the days afterwards. Two Korean Air 747’s bound for the United States were diverted to Whitehorse back on September 11th, 2001. Anne Callaghan said Canadians across the country opened their homes and hearts to stranded Americans that day. "The U.S. government has been presenting bronze plaques to various Canadian communities in appreciation." she said. “Neither terrorism nor adversity can conquer free people,” Callaghan said, “We are grateful to stand with neighbours who are willing to share the burdens of trying times and to work together for good. Our profound gratitude goes to all Canadians for the many acts of kindness and support rendered in the wake of September 11, 2001.” Callaghan just recently began her job at the U.S. consulate in Vancouver. She said she's keen to support the already strong ties between Yukon and Alaska. “One thing that's been very gratifying for me here is to see the extent of the cooperation between Yukon and Alaska, on the educational front, on the trade front, it's deep and it's heartfelt and anything we can do to help promote that we will.” Yukon premier Darrell Pasloski accepted the plaque on behalf of the territory.
Posted 23 March 2012; 10:36:07 AM. Permalink
(Jeff Hecht/New Scientist, 20 March 2012) -- THE retreat of sea ice is bringing 21st-century communications to the Arctic. In mid-August, construction should start on the first submarine fibre-optic cables to cross the Arctic Ocean, providing digital shortcuts between London and Tokyo, Japan. Two cables are planned through the fabled North-West Passage above North America, while a third is planned along the Russian coast. The longest of these links will become the world's longest single stretch of optical fibre. Sea ice and icebergs pose unique challenges. Ships rated to work in ice-ridden waters are needed to lay the cable, and operations are possible for only a few months of the year. Yet there are advantages to laying cables in the Arctic, says Denis Tsesarenko, a director of the Polarnet Project, which is building the Russian Optical Trans-Arctic Submarine Cable System (ROTACS). Once laid, the cable should be largely safe from the biggest threats to cables in warmer waters: fishing trawlers and ships' anchors are extremely rare in the Arctic. Meanwhile, a 15,600-kilometre link via the Canadian Arctic, to be built by Arctic Fibre of Toronto, Canada, will cut the present round-trip time, or "latency", between London and Tokyo from 230 milliseconds to 168 milliseconds, claims company president Doug Cunningham. Reduced transmission time will be a boon for high-frequency traders who will gain crucial milliseconds on each automated trade. Optical amplifiers will boost signal strength every 50 to 100 kilometres. The firm also plans to drill a tunnel 40 metres deep to take a shortcut through the Boothia isthmus in the Canadian Arctic—a thin strip of land that connects the Boothia peninsula to the mainland. Isolated Arctic communities will also be connected by extra sections of cable that branch off from the main one. A third project, by Arctic Link, a firm based in Anchorage, Alaska, is planned to begin in 2014.
Posted 20 March 2012; 1:57:41 PM. Permalink
(Randy Boswell/Postmedia News ᔥ canada.com, 16 March 2012) -- Environmentalists and Arctic aboriginal groups are urging speed limits on ships and other rules to protect marine mammals as the Northwest Passage and other polar transportation routes become more heavily travelled in an era of retreating sea ice. The U.S.-based Wildlife Conservation Society and native organizations, including the Inuit Circumpolar Council, issued a call on Friday for northern countries to acknowledge the rising risks to northern marine creatures resulting from the "rapid increase in shipping in the formerly ice-choked waterways of the Arctic." Of particular concern, the groups stated after a three-day workshop on the issue, is the Bering Strait between Russia and Alaska, an ecologically rich but relatively narrow choke point for ships travelling through both the Northern Sea Route north of Russia and the Northwest Passage through Canada's Arctic islands. Among the species at risk from increased shipping are bowhead and beluga whale, walrus, several kinds of seals and the polar bear, the groups said.
Posted 18 March 2012; 1:05:58 AM. Permalink
(Nordic Council News, 15 March 2012) -- Whenever an accident occurs in Arctic waters, it is not immediately clear which country is responsible for the rescue operation. The Nordic Council theme meeting next week will urge the finance ministers to come up with a funding model. Heavier cruise-ship traffic around Greenland is just one reason why better emergency services are needed in the North Atlantic. The Council has called for joint Nordic funding in the past, but so far to no avail. Now, it intends to recommend that the finance ministers set up a working group to look at potential solutions. The theme Session in Reykjavik will also discuss the safety aspects of extracting oil and natural gas in the Arctic Region. The Council wants to take the next step, and progress from the current agreement about cleaning up after environmental incidents to a new agreement that regulates the mining industry and minimises the risk of accidents.
Posted 18 March 2012; 12:14:17 AM. Permalink
(Jane George/Nunatsiaq News, 16 March 2012) -- It’s official: Norway can bring home the Maud, although some people in Cambridge Bay may miss the familar sight of the half-sunken wreck outside their community. Canada’s cultural property export review board, which met March 15 in Ottawa, has directed the Border Services Agency to issue an export permit to the Norwegian group that’s eager to bring the ship once sailed by polar explorer Roald Amundsen back to Norway. The board said in its March 16 decision that “the Maud is of outstanding significance to Canada, but that its loss would not significantly diminish the national heritage.” A statement from Canadian Heritage said “the board was sensitive to both sides of the story of the Maud and appreciated all the relevant information presented by the expert examiner and the appellant, the Norwegian Embassy. The Board recognized the shared heritage of Canada, Norway and the world, and after careful consideration of the criteria under the Act, determined that an export permit will be granted for the Maud.” “That is great news for us and we can now go ahead making plans and prepare ourself for the great challenge to finally bring Maud home,” said Jan Wanggaard, manager of the Maud Returns Home project. “It’s a great responsibility we now take on and we will work hard to make this project something everyone can be proud of at the end of the day both in Canada and Norway.” Last December, the Canadian Border Services Agency turned down a request for a federal export permit for the Maud, once sailed by Norway’s Amundsen, the first European adventurer to travel the Northwest Passage in 1906 and the first person to reach the South Pole December 1911. The Norwegian investors wants to raise the Maud with balloons, drag the hulk over to a barge and then tow it from Nunavut back to Norway — a 7,000-kilometre journey. There, the Maud would be exhibited at a futuristic museum in Asker, a suburb of Oslo — where anything to do with Amundsen remains a huge draw.
Posted 16 March 2012; 5:10:04 PM. Permalink
(AP via Washington Post, 27 February 2012) -- STOCKHOLM - Chick peas, fava beans and other seeds from a facility in Syria are among the 25,000 new samples being deposited this week in an Arctic seed vault built to protect food crops from wars and natural disasters, officials said Tuesday. The latest additions mean that the Svalbard Global Seed Vault — a master backup to the world’s other seed banks — has now secured more than 740,000 samples since it opened in a remote Norwegian archipelago in 2008. That represents an estimated three-quarters of the biological diversity of the world’s major food crops, said Cary Fowler, executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, which maintains the vault with Norway’s government and the Nordic Genetic Resources Center. With the shipment from the Syria-based International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas, almost its entire collection is now backed up in Svalbard, Fowler told The Associated Press. “I think the events unfolding in Syria obviously underline the importance of having safety duplication outside of a country,” he said, adding the facility had not been damaged in the military crackdown on an anti-government uprising. He noted that wars destroyed seed banks in Iraq and Afghanistan. Another one in Egypt was looted during last year’s uprising. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault — sometimes referred to as a doomsday vault — is designed to withstand global warming, earthquakes and even nuclear strikes.
Posted 27 February 2012; 11:36:17 PM. 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
(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
(Vladivostok Air press release, 4 January 2012) -- Vladivostok Air is proud to announce the resumption of seasonal service between Anchorage, Alaska, and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Russia, this coming summer. This weekly service will run from July 12 to September 13, 2012, with departures on Thursdays. Flights arrive in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky in the morning, allowing for fishermen to get to their rivers the day of arrival and for transit travelers to make connections to other Russian cities. See full details on our Kamchatka page. Commencing late February, 2012, tickets for these flights will go on sale via all major ticketing reservations systems, and may be booked through any quality travel agent. Vladivostok Air is also working with travel partner Kamchatintour in Russia and US travel agents to create exciting travel packages to Kamchatka. Business travel services will also be offered. FAM trips for North American trip operators are also being coordinated. Details will be available soon.
Posted 26 January 2012; 6:27:09 PM. 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
(Barents Nova, 23 January 2012) -- Supply tenders are announced for the Russian Optical Trans Arctic Submarine Cable System (ROTACS) telecommunication project intended to connect Europe and Asia via Murmansk. ROTACS will connect Europe and Asia via the shortest possible geographical route across the Arctic, opening a new chapter in the history of global submarine telecommunications, says Polarnet, the project operator. At the first stage of the project implementation, 6 fibre pairs of an undersea 17,000 km-long cable system will link England, Japan, China and Russia through cable stations in the cities of Bude (England), Tokyo (Japan), and Russia's Murmansk, Vladivostok, and Anadyr. The estimated cost of this phase will be $860 million. At the second stage, for the price of $500 million there will be installed cable branches to connect the undersea-based trunk line with Russian telecom providers based on the shore. Stage 3 will need other $500 million to install an onshore line closing the circle of cables through the central part of Russia. The last stage will be backed up by Rosneft. Overall costs come up to $2 billion. ROTACS is the first system to be built along the trans-Arctic geographic route. In mid-October 2011, the Russian Governmental Commission for Federal Communications and Information Technology granted its approval of the project. The ROTACS project will start in Q2 this year and is optimistically scheduled to finish in 2014. Meanwhile, a Canadian Arctic Fibre Inc., is developing a 15,600 km submarine cable which is to provide a low latency route between Northern China and Japan to Northern Europe through Canada 's North West Passage.
Posted 24 January 2012; 12:54:07 PM. Permalink
(Randy Boswell/Postmedia News via Vancouver Sun, 20 January 2012) -- In the midst of a Cold War-esque spy scandal involving a Canadian naval officer accused of passing secrets to a foreign entity, Canadian scientists have quietly accomplished something likely to prove far more effective than espionage or military posturing in affirming — and extending — Canada's sovereignty in the North: They've published two academic studies about Arctic Ocean geology that lend solid support to the country's ambitious claims for new undersea territory in the region. Canada's formal bid to take possession of vast stretches of Arctic Ocean seabed isn't due until the end of 2013, the deadline for this country's submission to the United Nations agency responsible for approving new offshore territorial claims governed by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. And under rules agreed to by all five Arctic coastal countries — Canada, Russia, the U.S., Norway and Denmark — scientific evidence compiled from decades of mapping and analyzing the Arctic sea floor will ultimately determine who controls the rich oil-and-gas deposits and other resources believed to lie below the rapidly retreating polar ice. The recent, peer-reviewed publication of new data bolstering Canada's claims, says the federal government's chief of Arctic mapping, marks another major milestone in a decade-long quest that could eventually add an area of underwater territory to Canada as big as the Prairies. "These are the kinds of papers that analyze the new data," says Halifax-based Natural Resources Canada geoscientist Jacob Verhoef, "and set the stage for what we think are going to be the key components of the submission." The scientific studies wouldn't weave well into the plot of a spy thriller. One of them appeared in last month's Journal of Geophysical Research and is titled: "The Crustal Structure of the Alpha Ridge at the transition to the Canadian Polar Margin: Results from a seismic refraction experiment." The other, appearing as a book chapter in the newly published proceedings of an international geological symposium, is titled: "Submarine Landslides in Arctic Sedimentation." But together with a paper published in 2009 on the bedrock connections between the North American continent and Lomonosov Ridge — an undersea mountain range reaching from Ellesmere Island and northwest Greenland to Siberia — the new studies will help underpin Canada's claims for ownership of huge areas of ocean floor beyond the country's continental shelves.
Posted 24 January 2012; 12:49:12 AM. Permalink
(Barents Observer, 17 January 2012) -- Denmark has appointed its first permanent Arctic ambassador whose primary task will be to coordinate activities connected to the country’s Arctic strategy. Ambassador Klaus A. Holm is appointed to the post and will, according to Foreign Minister Sovndal, ensure progress in the Arctic and ensure the Danish National Community a visible position in the international debate on the Arctic. "Profound changes are happening in the Arctic now that gives us challenges and opportunities. We are determined to solve these together with Greenland and the Faroe Islands," he says to Danmarks Radio. Ambassador Klaus A. Holm has been employed in the Foreign Ministry since 1980 and has served at the Danish embassy in Paris and London and at the EU representation in Brussels.
Posted 23 January 2012; 9:12:15 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
(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
(Randy Boswell/Postmedia via Vancouver Sun, 15 December 2011) -- It became the focus of an intense bidding war this week at a major auction of aboriginal art in France: a 150-year-old wooden "mosquito mask" from the Tlingit people of the Pacific Northwest, a Canadian historical treasure that was expected to fetch about $40,000 but drew a top bid of nearly $400,000 before the hammer finally came down at a Christie's saleroom in Paris. The eventual buyer, an unidentified European collector, prevented a rival Canadian bidder from repatriating the rare object to this country.... ... The mask sold in France was added to the collection of a U.S. museum in 1949 — when the relic was already almost a century old — but was sold into the private art market in 1970. Christie's described the object as Canadian but noted that the Tlingit people were moving freely between B.C. and Alaska when the object was created. "The mosquito mask of our sale was an exceptional piece with a rare provenance," said Charles-Wesley Hourde, an aboriginal art specialist at Christie's in Paris. The mask's great age, its "protruding nose and the freshness of the pigments explain the success of the piece," he added. "We had multiple phone bids from American Indian and modern art collectors." The mosquito mask was worn in ceremonies by a "clown character" who would try to make his audience laugh, said the Christie's sale catalogue. The mask's vibrant colours were produced with graphite, manganese and red ochre, and "the pigments were ground in stone mortars and mixed with salmon eggs chewed to a smooth paste, resulting in a rich, textured paint."
Posted 19 December 2011; 4:13:48 PM. Permalink
(CBC News, 17 December 2011) -- The federal government has denied an export permit for the Baymaud shipwreck resting in waters off Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. A group of investors wants to move the 100-year old wreck to Norway to be the centerpiece of a museum. The ship, originally named the Maud, was built to the specifications of Arctic explorer Roald Amundsen. Amundsen, a national hero in Norway, led the first successful sailing expedition through the Northwest Passage in the early 1900s. He sailed the Maud to the Arctic in the hopes of reaching the North Pole, but after several unsuccessful attempts, Amundsen was not able to pay his debts and the Maud was eventually seized by creditors. The ship was sold to the Hudson Bay Company in 1926 and renamed the Baymaud. It was used as a floating warehouse and wireless station in Cambridge Bay until it developed a leak and began sinking in 1930. It is owned by people in the Norwegian community of Asker, who purchased the wreck from the Hudson Bay Company for $1 in 1990. The Norwegian group’s application for an export permit was refused earlier this week. "We were a bit surprised,” said Jan Wanggaard, a spokesperson for the group Maud Returns Home. ... Wanggaard said they are asking for a review of the decision to deny the export permit. That will likely take place in March. Wanggaard said the Canadian government wants to know more about how the extraction of the boat will take place, and also wants more archeological studies to be done. "We are willing to negotiate this because we want very much to bring this ship home."
Posted 19 December 2011; 12:01:58 PM. Permalink
(Alex DeMarban/Alaska Dispatch, 5 December 2011) -- A Native corporation's decision Monday to ask a Russian icebreaker to deliver an emergency shipment of fuel added an exclamation point to Alaska demands that the U.S. Coast Guard boost its Arctic presence as climate change opens ice-locked regions to development. "This is an example where we have to increase our icebreaking capability and have the ability to receive fuel in these ports, because we're going to have a lot more activity up north," said Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska. The Coast Guard has reported an increase in vessel traffic through the Bering Strait and expects more as tourism, Arctic shipping and petroleum development ramp up in coming years. The Renda, a 371-foot double-hulled vessel that recently muscled through five-foot thick ice, was the only ship the Sitnasuak Native corporation could find to break through Nome’s sea ice and deliver 1.5 million gallons of fuel to the town of 3,600, said Jason Evans, Sitnasuak chairman. The unusual fuel delivery, apparently unprecedented in Western Alaska, arose because sea ice around Nome recently prevented a fuel barge operated by an Alaska company from delivering the fuel. ... ...only the privately owned Renda, one of eight marine tankers in Russia that can punch through thick sea ice, said Evans. He couldn't find similar ships in the U.S. There are none in the North Pacific or Arctic seas, though they do exist in the Great Lakes, said Mikhail Sheshtakov, supply and logistics manager for Vitus Marine. Evans said his company's search highlighted the nation's limits in the high Arctic. "We're definitely behind in terms of how many vessels we have and their abilities, and it's something we might want to look at with proposed offshore oil and gas development and new vessel routes opening in the Arctic," said Evans. "The Russians have known this is coming and have developed Arctic shipping expertise. The U.S. should also."
Posted 8 December 2011; 4:18:58 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
(ENS, 1 December 2011) -- WASHINGTON, DC - The Arctic is entering a new state with warmer air and water temperatures, less summer sea ice and snow cover, and changed ocean chemistry, finds the annual Arctic Report Card. Less habitat for polar bears and walruses but increased access to feeding areas for whales characterizes the new Arctic pattern. The 2012 Arctic Report Card was prepared by an international team of scientists from 14 different countries and issued today by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA. "This report, by a team of 121 scientists from around the globe, concludes that the Arctic region continues to warm, with less sea ice and greater green vegetation," said Monica Medina, NOAA principal deputy under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere. "With a greener and warmer Arctic, more development is likely," Medina said. "Reports like this one help us to prepare for increasing demands on Arctic resources so that better decisions can be made about how to manage and protect these more valuable and increasingly available resources." The Report Card tracks the Arctic atmosphere, sea ice, biology, ocean, land, and Greenland. This year, new sections were added, including greenhouse gases, ozone and ultraviolet radiation, ocean acidification, Arctic Ocean primary productivity, and lake ice.
Posted 2 December 2011; 3:57:41 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
(Reuters, 27 November 2011) -- A multimillionaire Chinese developer is livid at Iceland's rejection of his plan to build a sprawling resort, saying it reveals western "hypocrisy and deep prejudice". Foreigners also wrongly assume Chinese companies automatically have ties to China's military, Huang Nubo said in comments published in Chinese media on Sunday. The Iceland government on Friday rejected a bid by Huang to buy 300 sq km (186 sq miles) on the island nation because it did not meet legal requirements on foreign ownership. Some commentators had said the plan raised questions over regional security because of Iceland's strategic location in the Arctic where a number of nations are competing for resources, suggesting that Huang could be a surrogate for Chinese expansionism. "I'm not buying land, I'm investing in tourism infrastructure," Huang said in an interview with Sina Finance, an online news service. "The difficulties that Chinese enterprises encounter are numerous, like the view that state-owned enterprises represent your country, that whatever your background is you're a military business and touch on national security." ... "The denial reflects the unjust and parochial investment environment facing private Chinese enterprises abroad," he told the [China Daily] newspaper. Huang had agreed to pay 1 billion Iceland krona ($8.3 million) to buy Grimsstadir farm in northeast Iceland, where he planned to build a golf course, hotel and outdoor recreation area. But Iceland's Interior Ministry said on Friday that the deal did not meet legal requirements for land sales to companies outside the European Economic Area, including that company directors must be Icelandic citizens or permanent residents for at least five years, and that 80 percent of shares in purchasing firms should be held by Icelandic citizens.
Posted 28 November 2011; 3:07:58 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
(Reuters via Arabian Business, 13 November 2011) -- Qatar is in negotiations to take a stake in an Arctic liquefied natural gas (LNG) project under development by number-two Russian gas producer Novatek, Qatar's energy minister said on Sunday. The Yamal project will develop the South Tambey field located in the Arctic area of the Yamal peninsula. "Qatar is very much interested in investment generally in oil, gas and petrochemicals. Yamal is an important project and we are really interested in participating in its development," the minister, Mohammed al-Sada, told reporters on the sidelines of an event on Sunday. "We are in active discussions and negotiations with our partners," Sada said. Resources from the condensate and gas field are expected to produce 5 million tonnes of LNG per year when production starts in 2016 and reach 15 million tonnes per year in 2018.
Posted 14 November 2011; 4:16:52 PM. 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
(Vladimir Isachenkov/AP via Yahoo! News, 11 November 2011) -- 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 fareastern 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. Russia, the United States, Canada, Denmark and Norway have all been trying to assert jurisdiction over parts of the Arctic, believed to hold up to a quarter of the Earth's undiscovered oil and gas. With shrinking polar ice opening up new opportunities for exploration, Russia, Canada and Denmark have said they would file claims with the United Nations that an undersea 1,240-mile (2,000-kilometer) mountain range that crosses the polar region called the Lomonosov Ridge is an extension of their respective territories.
Posted 13 November 2011; 11:22:50 AM. Permalink
(Robert Hall/BBC News, 12 November 2011) -- There are calls for recognition for the sailors on the WWII Arctic Convoys who risked their lives to transport crucial supplies and munitions from Scotland to Russia. Although the bravery of the crews is not disputed, the men who served on the ships have never been officially recognised with a British campaign medal.
Posted 13 November 2011; 11:15:11 AM. Permalink
(Voice of Russia, 9 November 2011) -- Who has a right to a share of “the Arctic pie”, only coastal nations or all of the countries of the world? The coastal countries insist that the Arctic Region is their domain, and geographically, they have a reason for thinking so. While trying to settle any issues of discord within the Arctic Council, Russia, the United States, Canada, Norway and Denmark have each developed their own strategy for tapping the resources of the disputed region. In September 2008, Russia adopted The Basic Principles of State Policy regarding the Arctic, and Norway its Northern Strategy. In January 2009, the United States passed its Arctic Doctrine, and in the summer of 2009 Canada introduced its Northern Strategy. Some of the provisions of the four strategies overlap. The Arctic Region is described as a strategic resource base for each of the nations and for the world as a whole. In addition, each state is to undertake the tasks of developing the economic and social spheres, protecting the environment, improving the management of, and promoting scientific research in its sector of the Arctic. ... This [past] summer, a Chinese businessman acquired 300 square kilometers of wilderness in the northeast of Iceland. This might be Beijing’s first move towards claiming part of the Arctic. The Arctic states are sure, however, that they are capable of addressing the problems facing the region on their own. Whatever the outcome, given that resources from the Arctic will be supplied to other countries as well, the development of the Arctic will benefit all countries of the world.
Posted 10 November 2011; 2:25:11 PM. Permalink
(Nunatsiaq News, 5 November 2011) -- When negotiators from more than 120 countries worked last week in Nairobi, Kenya towards a global agreement to reduce mercury emissions, Parnuna Egede, environmental advisor to the Inuit Circumpolar Council-Greenland, was there to represent the Inuit voice in the negotiations. More than 700 representatives from governments and non-governmental organizations gathered at the headquarters of the United Nations Environment Programme in Nairobi to discuss the future global treaty on mercury, which they hope to reach by 2013. That binding agreement would aim to reduce emissions of mercury to protect the environment and human health. “The pollution comes primarily from more southerly latitudes, where it is transported over long distances by winds and ocean currents to the Arctic, and then becomes concentrated in the food chain and ultimately to us. So we follow the UN negotiations closely, because the end result will have a direct effect on our health,” Egede told Greenland’s Sermitsiaq/AG newspaper. The most recent negotiations, which started on Oct. 31 and wrapped up Nov. 4, were the third of five sessions to address the release of mercury into the environment. That release occurs mainly from energy production and industrial activities, small-scale gold mining, consumer goods like cosmetics, medical instruments such as thermometers, and mercury-containing hazardous wastes from batteries and fluorescent lamps. Mercury is listed by the World Health Organization as one of the top 10 chemicals of public health concern because human exposure to mercury can damage the nervous system and cause behavioural disorders. When released, mercury persists in the environment where it circulates between air, water, sediments and soil. Mercury has toxic effects on humans and wildlife and can enter the food chain through contaminated fish. Almost all mercury found in Arctic marine mammals, seabirds and freshwater fish comes from industry far to the south, mainly from metal and cement production in east Asia, carried north by winds, ocean currents and rivers.
Posted 5 November 2011; 10:51:52 PM. Permalink
(Copenhagen Post Online, 5 November 2011) -- Profound environmental changes in the Arctic are creating new possibilities for economic activity in the area. This is most strongly felt in Greenland, which with its vast potential reserves of oil, gas, industrial minerals, and unique tourist attractions, is fast becoming a hot spot for foreign investors. Kuupik Kleist, Greenland’s political leader, said he expects foreign investors, including from China, to play an important role in the future development of Greenland. “I think that China together with other nations is taking a huge interest in the Arctic area in general and specifically in Greenland, and we have seen quite a number of visitors from China over the last couple of years,” Kleist told Xinhua in an exclusive interview Thursday. “We don’t really have that much co-operation for the time being, but I know that Chinese companies are showing an interest in Greenland,” he added. While Chinese tourists are already braving the Arctic’s icebergs and freezing temperatures to experience its harsh beauty, deeper financial co-operation is also underway. “Greenland is also showing an interest in China: my minister for minerals (and industry) and labor is going to China today on an official visit. I would see a future co-operation as a very positive one and we welcome the Chinese interest,” he observed. Lying high in the Arctic Circle, Greenland is the world’s biggest island, and is an autonomously governed territory of Denmark.
Posted 5 November 2011; 10:47:32 PM. Permalink
(AP via Eye on the Arctic, 28 October 2011) -- Facebook is to build a new server farm on the edge of the Arctic Circle — its first outside the United States — to improve performance for European users, officials of the social networking site said Thursday. It will also expose them to potential eavesdropping from a Swedish intelligence agency, according to Sweden's Pirate Party, a group opposing government interference with the internet. Facebook confirmed Thursday it had reviewed potential locations across Europe and decided on the northern Swedish city of Luleå for the data center partly because of the cold climate — crucial for keeping the servers cool — and access to renewable energy from nearby hydropower facilities. The move reflects the growing international presence of the California-based site, which counts 800 million users worldwide. "Facebook has more users outside the U.S. than inside," Facebook director of site operations Tom Furlong told The Associated Press. "It was time for us to expand in Europe." He said European users would get better performance from having a node for data traffic closer to them. Facebook currently stores data at sites in California, Virginia and Oregon and is building another facility in North Carolina.
Posted 29 October 2011; 12:07:42 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
(Doug O'Harra/Alaska Dispatch, 18 October 2011) -- A Russian sailing ship -- said to be the world's fastest frigate — has found the leading edge of tsunami debris from the devastating Japanese earthquake in the middle of the Pacific Ocean about 2,000 miles southeast of Japan and 2,600 miles southwest of Cook Inlet. And this Alaska-size patch of flotsam appears to be on schedule for its Pacific Northwest debut in 2014. The bizarre sightings of bobbing TV sets, refrigerators, wash basins, boots and at least one small boat from Japan offer the first confirmation of a computer simulation developed to track the trajectory of millions of tons of garbage on its multi-year trip toward the beaches of Hawaii and Alaska. Once snarled on shore or fouled on reefs, this immense litter of plastics, wood, metal and fabric might set in motion a second tragedy — the entanglement and poisoning of North Pacific marine life.
Posted 21 October 2011; 1:28:19 PM. Permalink
(BBC Sport, 21 October 2011) -- The 2012 Olympics are still eight months away but for Belgium's identical athlete twins - the Borlées - the road to London is about to take a diversion, across an Icelandic glacier. Kevin and Jonathan will spend a week trekking 80km across the Langjökull ice cap, climbing to 1,300m as temperatures drop to -15°C. The 400m runners are taking part in a team-building exercise with seven other potential 4x400m Belgian team mates. Check the BBC site for updates on their progress.
Posted 21 October 2011; 1:09:23 PM. Permalink
(Asahi Shimbun, 20 October 2011) -- Japan is set to join an international scramble to develop an oil field in the Arctic Circle as parts of its strategy to diversify sources of supply. A quasi-public investment firm, funded by an independent administrative agency and several leading Japanese companies, will tender a bid for the right to develop an oil field off the coast of Greenland next year. The oil field, located northeast of the Danish territory, lies on a continental-shelf floor between 100 and 500 meters below surface. It covers an area of about 50,000 square kilo meters and is the closest known oil field to the north pole. The government of Greenland will announce next year the areas where it will allow exploratory drilling. The site to be opened for exploration covers 30,000 square kilo meters. Bidding will be carried out following the announcement. Among the organizations funding the investment firm, called Greenland Petroleum Exploration Co., are Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp. (JOGMEC), an administrative agency handling natural resources-related matters; INPEX Corp. a leading natural resources producer; Idemitsu Kosan Co., a major oil supplier; and trading house Sumitomo Corp. The winner of the bidding will be announced in mid-December 2012 after screening.
Posted 21 October 2011; 1:05:34 PM. Permalink
(RIA Novosti via Voice of Russia, 12 October 2011) -- Russia and Norway have agreed to coordinate measures preventing violations of the Spitsbergen archipelago status, stated Russia’s FM Ministry Sergei Lavrov at the Barents Euro-Arctic Council in Sweden’s Kiruna. Earlier, on October 6, Lavrov expressed concerns over frequent arrests of Russian vessels off the island in a phone talk with his Norway’s counterpart Jonas Støre. He urged Oslo for cooperation within the 1920 treaty which puts Spitsbergen under Norwegian jurisdiction but allows Russia to do business and research in the area.
Posted 21 October 2011; 12:14:08 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
(IceNews, 9 September 2011) -- A declaration of co-operation will be signed tomorrow for the construction of a 66,000 tonne/year silicone factory planned for Bakki near the north-eastern Icelandic town of Husavik by the German company PCC. Negotiations are ongoing with Landsvirkjun about the provision of electricity to the proposed new plant from a geothermal field at Theistareykir. PCC is the only company which submitted a formal proposal for the industrial lot at Bakki and negotiations between the company and the Nordurthing local government have been taking place over the last month. The Nordurthing council yesterday received an application from PCC to begin formal co-operation on preparing the project and bringing it to fruition. The application includes a request for a long-term lease on the 20-hectare plot; which is one tenth the total area of land at Bakki which has been zoned for energy intensive industrial development. PCC representatives will arrive in North Iceland tomorrow to sign the declaration of co-operation.
Posted 9 September 2011; 4:51:25 PM. Permalink
(Editorial/Globe and Mail, 28 August 2011) -- Statements by France’s ambassador for the polar regions, Michel Rocard, that Canada appears to have given up on competing with Russia for Arctic commercial shipping traffic, should serve as a wake up call for Canadians. It may be that the country prefers the Northwest Passage as it is, a slightly-used backwater that best protects the fragile Arctic ecosystem and the traditional Inuit way of life. But if Canadians favour sustainable development in the north, and jobs for northerners, then they are in danger of missing the boat. A study by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program, released in May, revealed the cover of sea ice on the Arctic Ocean is shrinking faster than projected by the U.N.’s expert panel on climate change. It predicts that the Arctic Ocean itself will be virtually free of ice in summer within 30-40 years. The Northwest Passage is forecast to be free of ice earlier than that, in perhaps 20 years. ... Yet Canada, despite having a federal government committed to its own Arctic strategy and sustainable development in that largely untapped region, is unprepared for commercial shipping in the Northwest Passage. The infrastructure needed to support such activity does not exist, and there is little sign that will change. Mr. Rochard, a former French prime minister, said he has the “impression that Canada has given up on the competition to attract a large part of the (shipping) traffic in 25 or 30 years.” Russia, by contrast, is actively pursuing the opportunity. It may be that Canadians are content with this situation, as the costs would be substantial and such development would alter the fundamental nature of Canada’s North. But isn’t it at least a discussion we should be having?
Posted 29 August 2011; 1:33:42 PM. Permalink
(Arctic Council News, 23 August 2011) -- Monday 22 August 2011 Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lene Espersen, the Prime Minister of the Faroe Islands, Kaj Leo Johannesen, and Premier for the Government of Greenland, Kuupik Kleist, presented Denmark's strategy for the Arctic from 2011 to 2020. It has been elaborated by Denmark, Greenland and the Faroe Islands. Minister Lene Espersen said, "I am delighted that Denmark has developed an Arctic Strategy 2011-2020 in a good and constructive cooperation with Greenland and the Faroe Islands for the Kingdom of Denmark. A strategy is needed in a time with great changes in the Arctic. Not least because of climate change and ice that melts. We are facing new challenges but also new opportunities and we want to strengthen our common commitment to the development in the Arctic." Read the press release from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Denmark (in English)
Posted 26 August 2011; 4:06:04 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
(Iceland Review, 15 July 2011) -- The representatives of Iceland, Norway and Japan walked out of a meeting at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) yesterday along with representatives of other states who approve of whaling. Tómas H. Heidar, Iceland’s main representative on the IWC, told visir.is that the purpose of this move was to prevent the meeting from being legally constituted; a voting on Argentina and Brazil’s suggestion on founding a whale reserve in the South Atlantic Ocean was about to start. For IWC meetings to be legally constituted in the case of a proposal like this, representatives of at least half of all IWC members states have to be present and to be approved, 75 percent of those present have to vote in favor of it. Heidar said he believes the proposal would not have been approved but the pro-whaling member states still wanted to prevent the voting as it might increase the split between processions and cause disputes within the IWC. “In the past months we have worked towards reaching a compromise between the followers and opponents of whaling within the IWC and the atmosphere has improved significantly,” Heidar stated. He added the foundation of the aforementioned whale reserve was part of the draft of a package solution which was submitted at the IWC’s general meeting last year but the South American states wouldn’t accept any package solutions and weren’t prepared to show any flexibility in regards to whaling. Heidar said it is absurd for the states to now submit a proposal on only the whale reserve and even more absurd that they have attempted to push it through on a vote. He pointed out that Iceland and other states that approve whaling are overall against the establishment of reserves in areas where whaling is banned, unless the need for reserves has been scientifically proven, adding no scientific evidence has been submitted to support a whale reserve in the South Atlantic. The 63rd annual meeting of the IWC, which opened in Jersey on Monday, ended yesterday.
Posted 15 July 2011; 1:42:49 PM. Permalink
(Dick Johnson/NBC Chicago, 12 July 2011) -- A Chicago architect and pilot is back home after receiving a letter threatening him with arrest and fines if he continued his exploration for the remains of Sir John Franklin and his two ships. Ron Carlson said he's always been fascinated with the Royal Navy officer and arctic explorer and wants to help solve the mystery of what happened to the expedition that ended in disaster near the Arctic Circle 165 years ago. The leader and 129 men aboard two ships were lost during an attempt to discover the Northwest Passage. "I think the grail of it would be to find the ship's logs because that would tell the entire story of what happened to these men," Carlson said Tuesday. His journey began at the end of May. He took off in his specially equipped, personally funded bush plane packed with state-of-the-art thermal imaging equipment, navigation gear and a survival suit, determined to find the British explorer's grave and his two lost ships, the HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror. Three weeks later, he arrived at his base camp, a cold, desolate Cambridge Bay. He eventually recorded aerial images of some of the expedition's already-discovered artifacts: the final resting place of the men in a rescue boat desperate for a way out of the ice flow that crippled their ships and killed their captain. "The bones of the 15 men were gathered by doctors about 20 years ago," said Carlson. "From the knife marks they determined they had cannibalized each other. When his permit to officially explore was suddenly denied by the Canadian government, he took off anyway and said he would just be acting as a tourist. All seemed fine, he said, until shortly after he posted video of his travels on his website. The Canadian government sent him a one-page letter last month. "You will be arrested. You will be fined and you can spend up to six months in jail. This is a warning," Carlson said the letter warned him. It cut short his long-planned summer adventure and diminished a dream of helping the Inuits showcase the ill-fated expedition witnessed by their forefathers. "I respect that. I'll try again next year," he said. Carlson's activities have sparked wider interest, especially among Canadian researchers. He now believes finding the rest of the Franklin expedition has a new challenge: territorial sovereignty.
Posted 13 July 2011; 5:03:51 PM. Permalink
(Thomas Grove/Reuters, 7 July 2011) -- Russia said Wednesday it would formally submit an application to the United Nations next year to redraw the map of the Arctic, giving itself a bigger share. The plan follows a pledge last week to send troops and weapons north to guarantee its Arctic interests. The formal application to the United Nations would change the region's borders and allow exploitation of energy-rich Arctic territory. Russia, Norway, the United States, Canada and Denmark are at odds over how to divide up the Arctic seabed, thought to hold 90 billion barrels of oil and 30 percent of the world's untapped gas resources, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. "I hope that next year we will present a formal, scientifically grounded application to the commission of the U.N.," state-run RIA news agency cited Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov as telling a government maritime board. Top energy producer Russia has said it will spend millions of dollars on studies to prove that an underwater mountain range-- rich in oil, natural gas and mineral deposits -- is part of its own Eurasian landmass. Canada and Denmark reject the claim, saying the geographical formation, known as the Lomonosov Ridge, which stretches across the Arctic Sea, is a geographical extension of their own land. Russian Navy Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky also warned on Wednesday that increased focus from NATO on the region was threatening Moscow's Arctic interests. "Recently, we have been receiving confirmations that NATO has marked the Arctic as a zone of its interests," RIA quoted the navy chief as saying at the same board meeting.
Posted 7 July 2011; 5:13:57 PM. 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
(UArctic News, 16 May 2011) -- In the Declaration following the Seventh Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic Council in Nuuk the Ministers and Permanent Participants recognized the importance of the work done by the University of the Arctic. In 'Science and Monitoring' section, the Nuuk Declaration dedicates a paragraph to the work conducted under the auspices of UArctic. The Ministers and Permanent Participants first congratulated the University of the Arctic for its 10th anniversary, being celebrated in Rovaniemi accompanying the UArctic Council meeting in June. Furthermore, the Declaration emphasizes the importance of the contributions of UArctic in the past, present and future for capacity-building in the Arctic, particularly by fostering traditional and scientific knowledge relevant for Arctic indigenous peoples as well as policy makers and Arctic communities. Continuous support for the work of UArctic is encouraged. In several previous Arctic Council declarations the work of UArctic has been recognized. The 2011 declaration constitutes an important step, however, in ensuring continuous endorsement of UArctic through the Arctic Council. The 2011 Nuuk Declaration can be accessed here. Please follow this link to see previous Arctic Council declarations.
Posted 16 May 2011; 12:48:45 PM. Permalink
(US Department of State, Office of the Spokesman press release, 12 May 2011) -- On May 12, 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton joined representatives of the other seven Member States of the Arctic Council (Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, and Sweden) in signing an Agreement on Cooperation on Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue (SAR) in the Arctic (Agreement). The Agreement is the first legally binding instrument negotiated under the auspices of the Arctic Council. It coordinates life-saving international maritime and aeronautical SAR coverage and response among the Arctic States across an area of about 13 million square miles in the Arctic. The SAR Agreement will improve search and rescue response in the Arctic by committing all Parties to coordinate appropriate assistance to those in distress and to cooperate with each other in undertaking SAR operations. For each Party, the Agreement defines an area of the Arctic in which it will have lead responsibility in organizing responses to SAR incidents, both large and small. Parties to the Agreement commit to provide SAR assistance regardless of the nationality or status of persons who may need it. The Arctic Council launched this initiative at its 2009 Ministerial Meeting in Tromsø, Norway, establishing a Task Force, co-chaired by the United States and the Russian Federation. The Task Force proceeded in a highly collaborative spirit, meeting five times (in Washington, Moscow, Oslo, Helsinki and Reykjavik). The signature of the SAR Agreement in Nuuk is a positive step toward building partnerships in the Arctic. In particular, it reflects the commitment of the Arctic Council States to enhance their cooperation and offer responsible assistance to those involved in accidents in one of the harshest environments on Earth. This Agreement illustrates one of the most successful negotiations to date to address emerging issues in the Arctic. Arctic Council participants approached SAR negotiations with collaboration and dedication to a positive outcome. The United States congratulates its colleagues in this effort and looks forward to further collaboration on the vital issues facing the rich but fragile Arctic region.
Posted 16 May 2011; 10:58:27 AM. Permalink
(AP via Anchorage Daily News, 13 May 2011) -- NUUK, Greenland - The United States, Russia and other nations agreed Thursday to coordinate Arctic search-and-rescue missions, a small step toward international cooperation in a fast-changing frontier threatened by looming fights over resources and military dominion. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the agreement among the eight-nation Arctic Council highlights the growing importance of the Arctic, where climate change is creating new shipping routes, fishing grounds and oil and gas drilling opportunities. Russia, which has laid disputed claim to much Arctic territory, participated in the very limited agreement to help stranded fishermen and the like. A warming planet could open up vast amounts of wealth to be exploited, but dramatically alter life as we know it. Over the coming decades, rising sea levels are expected to change coastlines and inundate small islands, while altering the habitats of plants and wildlife. Low-lying areas from Bangladesh to Florida could be among the hardest hit. Clinton said the U.S. and the other countries would pursue new tourism, shipping and industrial avenues "in a smart and sustainable way that preserves the Arctic environment and ecosystems." She said she looked forward to "continued collaboration in the years to come." The United States has said it wants the cooperation pact with Russia, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Iceland to be a template for agreement on more pressing national security issues. ... The biennial Arctic Council meeting is tiptoeing around the tougher questions of territorial claims, while looking at ways to lessen the effect of greenhouse gases that are making the Arctic region warm faster than the rest of the world.
Posted 16 May 2011; 10:52:14 AM. Permalink
(BBC News, 12 May 2011) -- Eight states with interests in the Arctic are meeting in Greenland to discuss management of natural resources and the impact of climate change. Rising temperatures threaten the livelihoods of traditional communities but are also set to create new openings for commercial exploitation. Experts believe the Arctic has more than a fifth of the world's undiscovered oil and gas reserves. A Wikileaks release has shed light on the race to carve up the region. The whistleblower website published secret US embassy cables which, among other things, suggest that Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller joked with the Americans, saying "if you stay out, then the rest of us will have more to carve up in the Arctic". US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who arrived in Greenland on Wednesday, said before the talks that the eight states were "going to raise the visibility of Arctic issues". She was speaking on a boat tour of a fjord in the Danish territory's capital, Nuuk, along with other foreign ministers. The US, Russia, Canada, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Sweden and Denmark are all attending the talks together with indigenous inhabitants of the region. They are due to sign an Arctic Search and Rescue Agreement, which the US state department says will be the first binding international agreement among the eight Arctic Council states. Mrs Clinton said she would tell the council that Washington's ratification of the law of the sea treaty was important, calling the move "way overdue".
Posted 16 May 2011; 10:37:34 AM. Permalink
(Sweden Ministry for Foreign Affairs press release, 12 May 2011) -- The Government adopted a Swedish strategy for policy in the Arctic region on Thursday, the same day that Sweden formally takes over the Chairmanship of the Arctic Council, a cooperation organisation for states with territory and borders north of the Arctic Circle. The Chairmanship runs for a two-year period. The purpose of the Government's Strategy for the Arctic region is to present Sweden's relationship with the Arctic, together with the current priorities and future outlook for Sweden's Arctic policy, proceeding from an international perspective. The strategy particularly concerns three areas: climate and the environment, economic development and living conditions for people in the region. This is the first strategy the Government of Sweden has adopted on the Arctic as a whole. The region is in a process of far-reaching change. Climate change is creating new challenges, but also opportunities, on which Sweden must take a position and exert an influence. New conditions are emerging for shipping, hunting, fishing, trade and energy extraction, and alongside this new needs are arising for an efficient infrastructure.
Posted 12 May 2011; 8:02:12 PM. Permalink
(Norden, 12 May 2011) -- A new report from the Nordic Council of Ministers looks at the long term development in the Arctic region. The report focuses on the current and the likely future situation in the Arctic by going through the challenges and tendencies at work in the region. The current pace of global change has already had a decisive impact on the Arctic. To understand the current and likely future situation in the Arctic it is important to acknowledge the pre-conditions, challenges and tendencies at work in the region. Some of these developments should be characterized as megatrends because they overarch and impact on everything else. They are trends deemed so powerful that they have the potential to transform society across social categories and at all levels, from individuals and local-level players to global structures, and eventually to change our ways of living and thinking. The report Megatrends in the Arctic looks at the development in the Arctic through this lens and presents a long-term perspective on this crucial region.
Posted 12 May 2011; 4:43:46 PM. Permalink
(Meirion Jones and Susan Watts/BBC News, 12 May 2011) -- Secret US embassy cables released by Wikileaks show nations are racing to "carve up" Arctic resources – oil, gas and even rubies – as the ice retreats. They suggest that Arctic states, including the US and Russia, are all pushing to stake a claim. The opportunity to exploit resources has come because of a dramatic fall in the amount of ice in the Arctic. The US Geological Survey estimates oil reserves off Greenland are as big as those in the North Sea. The cables were released by the Wikileaks whistleblower website as foreign ministers from the eight Arctic Council member states – Russia, the United States, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Iceland – met in Nuuk, Greenland on Thursday to sign a treaty on international search-and-rescue in the Arctic and discuss the region's future challenges. The cables claim the Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller joked with the Americans saying "if you stay out, then the rest of us will have more to carve up in the Arctic". Greenland is an autonomous Danish dependent territory with limited self-government however, the cables show that US diplomats believe Greenland "is on a clear track to independence" and see this as "a unique opportunity" for American gas and oil companies to get a foothold. The then-US Ambassador to Denmark James P Cain said in the cables that he introduced Greenland's government to New York financiers "to help the Greenlanders secure the investments needed for such exploitation".
Posted 12 May 2011; 12:29:23 PM. Permalink
(RAD, No. 96, 12 May 2011) -- Russia’s Northern Policy: Balancing an ‘Open’ and ‘Closed’ North, by Elana Wilson Rowe, Norway; The Demographic Challenges of Russia’s Arctic, by Marlene Laruelle, Washington; Russia’s Arctic Security Strategy, by Dmitry Gorenburg, Cambridge, MA. Also, Documentation: International Law of the Sea, Oil and Gas Resources of the Arctic, The Russian Flag Below the Arctic (2007). Download from here.
Posted 12 May 2011; 11:07:56 AM. 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.