Sovereign states, international governmental organizations and the maritime industry should help prepare a uniform policy to regulate shipping in the Arctic region and engage with native populations while doing so, according to a report released by the University of Alaska Fairbanks in collaboration with Dartmouth and the University of the Arctic’s Institute for Applied Circumpolar Policy last month.
The report, “Considering a Roadmap Forward: The Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment,” called for a “Polar Code” that would present guidelines to protect the Arctic region from the adverse ecological, social and economic impacts of increased shipping and commercial marine activity. The threats to the Arctic have grown recently because receding ice cover is opening up access to mineral resources in the area, jeopardizing the region’s ecosystem and native populations, according to Kenneth Yalowitz, the director of the Dickey Center for International Understanding. Yalowitz is the co-chairman of the IACP.
Excessive mining can lead to pollution from oil spills and harm public health, Yalowitz added.
Political disputes over who owns the valuable natural resources now available because of the glacial melt are another problem that the report hoped to address, said Yalowitz, a former ambassador to Belarus and Georgia.
“There are conflicts over these resources between countries of the north, such as Denmark and Russia,” he said.
The action plan deals with three critical areas of the problems faced by the Arctic region — enhancing arctic marine life, building the arctic marine infrastructure and protecting Arctic people and the environment.
The report, which was developed by experts from over 70 countries, also focuses on the issue of funding theses recommendations and focuses on three areas that need near-term funding — preliminary surveying, infrastructural support and compensation for victims of oil spills.
“Funding is obviously a problem, so you need to focus attention on policy makers,” Yalowitz said. “This report has very solid recommendations and policy makers will pay attention to a report that is this cogent, well-written, organized and timely.”
Yalowitz also stressed that “a combination of diplomacy and [international] conventions will help resolve these issues,” and added that reports like this are a stepping stone toward solutions.
“The report was very comprehensive, very important, practical and doable,” Yalowitz said. “I am delighted that Dartmouth and University of Alaska are cooperating and studying some of the most important issues resulting from climate change.”
Experts representing universities, governmental departments and non-governmental organizations collaborated at a workshop last October to make executable recommendations dealing with these problems.
This was the third in a series of workshops on the Arctic held by the IACP.