Arctic Yearbook 2015 - Page 20

20 Arctic Yearbook 2015 Speaking of UNCLOS, the past year saw official submissions for extended continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean from both Kingdom of Denmark and Russia (Norway’s claim was accepted by UNCLOS’ Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) in 2009, Canada is preparing the Arctic portion of its claim, and the United States is still not a signatory to UNCLOS). While these events sparked headlines about who owns the North Pole, the real story is in the manner in which the Arctic states have chosen to follow a rules based, legal and scientific approach to make their claims to vast new swathes of territory, as was promised at Ilulissat in 2008 (i.e. a recognized extended continental shelf offers coastal states exclusive rights to extract the natural resources of the seabed and subsoil of the extended continental shelf beyond the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of an Arctic state). Bolstering the case that the Arctic is insulated from the geopolitical tensions that affect RussianWestern relations elsewhere, the Arctic Five – the five states bordering the Central Arctic Ocean, including Canada, Denmark/Greenland, Norway, Russia and the United States – signed in July a preemptive ban on fishing in the Central Arctic’s international waters until regulations are in place, applying the precautionary principle. Although applauded in political, media and environmental circles, Iceland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs took exception to the exclusive discussions and called in the Arctic Five Ambassadors in Reykjavik for a scolding. Who could have predicted a year ago that the most contentious event in Arctic politics in 2015 would feature Iceland, over a fishing moratorium where no fishing heretofore has taken place? Adding to the environment of progressive Arctic cooperation in 2015 is the establishment of an Arctic Coast Guard Forum, to take place in New London, Connecticut as this issue of the Arctic Yearbook goes to press. The eight Arctic military Chiefs of Staff have previously met in an effort to promote confidence building in the region, but these meetings have been deferred since Russia invaded Crimea in March 2014. The launch of a new forum, appropriately involving the constabulary forces of the Arctic states who have much ground to cover in the vast Arctic Ocean and much benefit in doing so cooperatively, is welcome news for a variety of reasons. Finally, 2015 saw the handover of the Arctic Council Chairmanship from Canada to the United States, in April in Iqaluit, Nunavut. Politically, the Canadian Chairmanship was difficult relative to its predecessors, and the American Chairmanship promises to generate new momentum and interest in the work of the Council. But it remains to be seen whether issues of human and sustainable development, which Canada pushed against significant resistance, will be granted the attention they deserve amidst the Obama Administration’s single-minded association of the Arctic with climate change. This brings us finally to mention the COP21 meeting taking place in December 2015 in Paris where climate change impacts in the Arctic will be a dominating theme serving various interest groups. The final outcomes and results of this meeting remain to be seen. The Arctic Yearbook 2015 Local, sub-national and national governance The many scholarly articles and commentaries of this year’s Arctic Yearbook address these and many other contemporary regional governance issues. Several articles address issues of practical governance Heininen, Exner-Pirot & Plouffe