U.S. participation in UNCLOS key to strengthening environmental protections for Arctic region
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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.