The protection of the Arctic environment was one of the main motivations for establishing the Arctic Council. In the past, the Arctic nations have played a pivotal role for several agreements on environmental protection, such as the Stockholm Convention, which can be considered as a positive example of Arctic cooperation and targeted action. However, not all Arctic States have ratified the Convention and its amendments, which regularly add pollutants to the scope of the Convention. Thus, the environmental legislation in the Arctic states does not catch up with the scientific findings and recognition of these threats.
This paper examines the efforts of the Arctic nations towards circumpolar governance and international legislation on pollutants, as well as the consequences and effectiveness of these efforts. A brief comparison of policy initiatives, in particular through a look at U.S. legislation, will serve as an illustration of the development of Arctic environmental governance over time and shed light on differences between Arctic states. An effective governance on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) requires a precautionary approach and the regular adaptation to emerging chemicals of concern. While national initiatives have achieved some success in reducing the production and use of POPs, a more comprehensive approach encompassing a list of pollutants corresponding to state-of-the-art research within a global legislative framework is needed.
Inuuteq Holm Olsen & Jessica Shadian
In recent years renewed global interest in the Arctic and the Arctic Council, in particular, has led to what can be called a ‘Westphalianisation’ of Arctic politics. This Westphalianisation can be found in the increasing number of globally powerful states including China, Japan, and India as well as the European Union which have all sought a formal role in Arctic policymaking (specifically by seeking observer status on the Arctic Council – the most significant fully circumpolar intergovernmental regime). The Arctic Council itself has shifted from a high level forum to an intergovernmental regime which has begun to produce a number of binging agreements under its auspice. At the same, over the past thirty years subnational regions around the world have become powerful global actors. This is due in part to the strength of certain subnational economies, the inability for states and the intergovernmental system (e.g. UN) to meet the challenges facing subnational regions, as well as a broader reconceptualization of sovereignty; namely the decentralisation of traditional governance. Subnational regions, subsequently, are increasingly finding or seeking a greater voice in global politics.
In the Arctic, unlike earlier periods of history when global powers arrived and were met with little if any political resistance, in today’s Arctic subnational entities from Greenland to Nunavut and Alaska have all attained the legitimacy and the agency to engage in global politics on their own accord. This chapter will focus on the future of the Arctic Council in light of this renewed global interest in the Arctic alongside the rise of globally situated subnational Arctic regions. In particular this chapter will focus on a global Greenland as a window into the incongruent forces between the Westphalianisation of the Arctic Council and the growing power of Arctic subnational regions. At the very time that Greenland is gaining its greatest strength on its path towards greater self-determination its role on the Arctic Council is being diminished. Borrowing from IR and political geography literatures this chapter will look at the implications of these tensions for the future of Arctic governance and within this the future efficacy of the Arctic Council.
This article explores the difficulties of governing solid waste management practices in Nunavut, Canada’s Arctic territory. The governing framework of solid waste management practices is compared with the actual state of landfills in Nunavut, by analyzing inspection reports of three communities in Nunavut (Baker Lake, Gjoa Haven, and Iqaluit) for ten years. This analysis confirms that communities consistently fail to meet waste management standards set by Nunavut’s legal framework. These waste management issues are reflective of larger systemic issues of governance in Nunavut, relating to infrastructure and funding. With the settlement of a recent litigation over treaty implementation problems, and a renewed commitment to the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, it is hoped that these challenges will be overcome. Various measures are suggested, including strengthening the legal framework, providing adequate personnel and training, and including the participation of the public. It is time to shift our conceptualization of the Arctic and its residents from merely viewing them as passive victims of environmental harm, to recognizing that northerners can also be actors with the agency to cause environmental harm. This conceptual shift is necessary in order to better prioritize the governance of solid waste management in the North.
The Arctic Council (AC) is a stabilized and consolidated intergovernmental regional body created in 1996. It has deployed a consistent work on environment issues and produced key documents such as the Agreement on Search and Rescue (SAR) reached in 2011. In the context of the Barents region, the Arctic Council is not the core of the regional dynamics as other regional institutions emerged earlier in the 1990s. Meanwhile, the establishment of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC) in 1993, and then the Barents Regional Council (BRC), has underlined the willingness to encourage the neighboring cooperation and coordination, it marks the openness process between the Russian Federation and Western countries, and particularly the Northern European countries. Far from being competing, these organizations according to their nature and functioning are complementing each other in some way. The lack of legal framework in the area for over two decades is substantially moving forward as concrete steps on both environmental issues and social and economic projects are further interlocked than ever. Adding that the Barents region is unique in the Arctic context for its evolving neighboring policy between Nordic countries and the Russian Federation. Despite the tumult of the geopolitical tensions, the Barents institutions followed by the support of the Arctic Council has demonstrated its ability to be resilient and bargain for further development. As a result, the Barents region converts itself as a major core for shaping Arctic governance.
Frédéric Lasserre & Pierre-Louis Têtu
Western, and especially Canadian media reported, especially during the period 2007-2011, a significant number of Russian air patrols in the Arctic. These patrols were often described as potential threats for the Canadian security and sovereignty. However, a comparative analysis of the frequency of Russian air patrols in the Arctic and in other areas of operation attest to the rather low level of activity of the Russian air force. This suggests the narrative about the would-be Russian air threat reflects either misinformation or an oriented political discourse.
If there is a place of common ground between the European Union and Russia, it is on the fields of energy, environment and migration. The Arctic binds together the EU with its two major energy suppliers, Norway and Russia. In 2014 the EU imported almost 70% of its total natural gas from Norway and Russia and 44% of its crude oil. The EU, Norway and Russia are also bound together by common efforts to protect the Arctic environment. Moreover, the recent migration crisis in Europe not only rattled the foundations of the Schengen treaty but also raised tensions between Norway and Russia especially at their borders. After two world wars, Europe has sought for stability. Moving forward from the difficult past, geopolitical issues were put to the side, but it was Ukraine that violently reintroduced geopolitics in European international relations. This paper seeks to analyse the common – and not so common – ground of these three major actors on contemporary Arctic issues. Energy exploitation and distribution, environmental protection and migration flows are the new geopolitical elements of the “European” Arctic. With my research, I want to present the Arctic as an example of cooperation and mutual understanding rather than a boiling pot. I am going to argue that violence is not inherent to geopolitics but, as the name itself implies, geopolitics explain how politics and international relations are affected by both human and physical geographical factors. The last point that I will make is that geopolitical analysis is crucial for identifying important underlying issues that could lead to political, military or economic destabilisation if disregarded.