The Arctic Climate Change and Security Policy Conference: Final Report and Findings
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The environment and the management of natural resources are the most pressing security issue in the North. States are committed to addressing issues of boundaries and Arctic Ocean access through existing institutions, principally UNCLOS. Large-scale damage to the Arctic environment from transportation accidents, energy development, fishing, tourism, and the long-range transport of pollutants from the South pose greater immediate threats than classic security issues. Emergency response systems and contingency plans for the North are needed to respond to possible ship disasters, industrial pollution, oil spills, etc. Such a response system is currently non-existent or not up to the task. Given the increased shipping activity in the Arctic and the lack of ports and rescue capability, the need is growing. This should be a task for the Arctic Council in cooperation with existing specialized bodies such the International Maritime Organization.
The need for large-scale ecosystem-based management regimes to pro- tect the integrity of the Arctic Ocean is receiving increasing attention, including proposals for an Arctic Treaty or Park to manage and protect the Arctic Ocean as a commons. These proposals underlie the need for a strong Arctic Council and U.S. participation in UNCLOS in order to provide institutional protection for the Arctic Ocean.
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The main economic prizes in the Arctic are oil and gas and mineral resources. The primary reserves belong to Russia, and the major exploration activity also is theirs. Recent estimates from the U.S. Geological Survey are that 30% of the remaining world reserves of natural gas and some 10% of the oil are in the Arctic. To date, unresolved issues involving demarcation of sea beds under the UNCLOS are not a major issue in the pace of energy development; rather, the key factors are costs of development and the price cycle of oil and gas. Offshore projects are the most costly and environmentally dangerous, and most of the known reserves of oil and gas are within national Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs), which extend 200 nautical miles from the coastline. Thus, immediate prospects for interstate conflict over oil and gas reserves appear small.