UNCLOS plays a prominent role in protecting fragile Arctic environment
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No nation, including the United States, disputes the moral and economic imperative to protect the Arctic’s pristine environment. The United States understands the fragility of the region and the need to practice responsible stewardship while pursuing its Arctic interests.39 UNCLOS plays a prominent but not exclusive role in this regard.
UNCLOS creates an obligation to “protect and preserve the marine environment.”40 However, it avoids specific rules or standards in favor of creating zones of regulatory competence and providing a framework of principles designed to encourage the creation of more specific rules and standards through domestic regulation and separate international agreements.
UNCLOS provides states with exclusive, sovereign jurisdiction to regulate the environment within their territorial sea.41 States also have sovereign rights “for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources . . . of the waters superjacent to the seabed and of the seabed and its subsoil,”42 and “jurisdiction . . . with regard to . . . the protection and preservation of the marine environment” in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ).43 In exercising rights and performing duties in the EEZ, coastal states must do so with “due regard” for the rights and duties of other states,44 not the least of which is freedom of navigation.