Sébastien Duyck

During the two first weeks of December 2015, the UN Climate Conference in Paris will put climate change back at the center of the agenda of the international community. Six years after the breakdown of the Copenhagen climate conference, the international community is once again aiming at finalizing and adopting a new legally-binding instrument to address climate change.

Just as the climate negotiations ramp up in the lead up to this event, climate change has also emerged as a major theme of the ongoing US chairmanship of the Arctic Council. The country has not only committed to work through the Council and its Working Groups towards better addressing climate impacts across the circumpolar world, but mindful of the upcoming Paris conference, President Obama also conveyed an unprecedented intergovernmental conference in the Arctic to highlight the regional implications of climate change and to raise awareness.

Hyo-Sun Kim

The Arctic is a prism to display history of the earth, interaction of global economy, and integration of cross-cutting issues in sustainability. In a broad context of social policy, the nexus of climate and energy security is critical to develop policy mix for the transition to the green economy and sustainable development. The social dimensions of green economy require changes in patterns of investment, technology, production associated with sustainable development.

Figure 1 displays a comparison between social indices among Arctic Council member countries, when we set the case of US equals 1. Compared to US, Russia spends more on military expenditure and less on health care. Canada and Norway outperform US, in terms of mitigation policy and economic growth, respectively. However, an economic slowdown is remarkable, especially in Nordic countries and Russia due to the low price of oil and global recession.

Erik J. Molenaar

On 16 July 2015, in Oslo, the coastal states of the Arctic Ocean – Canada, Denmark, Norway, the Russian Federation and the United States (Arctic Five) – took a long-awaited further step in the international regulation of Arctic Ocean fisheries by signing the ‘Declaration Concerning the Prevention of Unregulated High Seas Fishing in the Central Arctic Ocean’ (Oslo Declaration). Key features of the Declaration are that it contains various political commitments, rather than international obligations; it relates exclusively to fishing in the high seas portion of the central Arctic Ocean; it is different than a ‘moratorium’, ‘ban’ or ‘freeze of fishing effort’; and it applies only to the Arctic Five.

Adam Stępień & Andreas Raspotnik

The European Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) are, at the time of publishing of this year’s Arctic Yearbook, working on a new policy statement concerning the EU’s Arctic policy. The new communication, requested by the Council of the European Union, is likely to surface in the first half of 2016, slightly passing the original 2015 deadline (EU-Council 2014). In this Briefing Note, we focus on the formulation of the EU Arctic policy as an overarching framework, which so far has found its expression in declaratory statements (communications) from the Commission and the Union’s High Representative. Two main questions shine out: Why has it been so difficult to formulate a statement that meets expectations of analysts and Arctic actors and are we likely to see it finally occurring in 2016?

Malgorzata Smieszek

The Arctic Council (AC) is generally considered the primary circumpolar forum for international cooperation in the region (Graczyk 2012; Koivurova 2009). This view is reflected in the increasing interest that the Council has attracted over the last couple of years – both from the non-Arctic states and actors as well as from Arctic nations, in particular the United States which holds the AC Chairmanship from 2015 to 2017. Yet, while the Arctic Council is coming to its 20th anniversary in 2016, another body established by the eight Arctic states celebrates this year twenty-five years of its operation.

The International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) founded in 1990 is a non-governmental international scientific organization, which today encompasses national science organizations from 23 countries conducting research in and on the Arctic. Over the past 25 years IASC has evolved into the leading international science entity focused on the North and thus the anniversary provides an excellent opportunity to recall its beginnings and to reflect upon its evolution, achievements made to date and challenges that lay ahead of it in future.

Philip Steinberg & Kate Coddington

This briefing note reports and reflects on the ICE LAW Project (the Project on Indeterminate and Changing Environments: Law, the Anthropocene, and the World), a venture convened by IBRU, the Centre for Borders Research at Durham University with the support of the UArctic Thematic Network on Arctic Law. In June 2014, twenty-two scholars with expertise in cultural anthropology, state theory, political geography, and legal studies gathered to consider the challenges that ice – and particularly the sea ice of the polar regions – poses to regulatory norms and political institutions based on a Western legal framework that assumes a clear, permanent, and experienced division between solid land and liquid water. In this briefing note, we describe the process of constructing an interdisciplinary research project based on the geophysical complexities of ice, report on the results of the 2014 workshop, describe the interdisciplinary methodological approach constructed, and outline further research endeavours. In addition, we reflect on a number of research challenges posed by the project: How can one examine general characteristics of polar environments while acknowledging the specificity of inhabited (i.e. Arctic) regions? How can a research focus on one element (sea ice) be paired with acknowledgment of the complex ways in which livelihoods cross between polar surfaces? How can one identify regulatory gaps and inform practical solutions while advancing conceptual understanding? How can a focus on the Arctic be used to address broader global challenges amidst unprecedented anthropogenic transformation of the global environment?

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