One Arctic: U.S. Chairmanship of the Arctic Council

The World Policy Institute’s Arctic in Context initiative, in collaboration with Trent University, the University of Washington, and the Woodrow Wilson Center, hosted a two-day symposium exploring the concept of “One Arctic” from the point of view of the U.S. agenda, and how it fits into the more general work of the Arctic Council (AC).


Chair: Ambassador Kenneth Yalowitz, Georgetown University

What Does One Arctic Mean?

Julia Gourley, U.S. Department of State, described the U.S. chairmanship’s theme.  One Arctic—focusing on sustainable development—shows that many dimensions exist, but the Arctic is still a single cohesive region.  It has economic opportunity, but too few jobs at present.  The Arctic Investment Protocol was designed to address this by outlining infrastructure investment and development guidelines, based on climate resilience.

The Canadian Chairmanship and One Arctic

Susan Harper, Global Affairs Canada, said the Canadian Arctic is different from other countries’ Arctic regions.  Canada contains a lot of domestic interest in its Arctic.  Nunavut presents a lot of challenges.  It has an added special dimension as being an indigenous land claim in addition to its territorial status.

Three of the four pillars of the U.S. chairmanship priorities are complementary to Canada’s priorities during its chairmanship, she added.

Three Successive Chairmanships of the Arctic Council

Doug Nord, Umea University, Sweden said that representing the Arctic presents a dilemma.  Each approach on the Arctic offers a different understanding of the conditions.

Each country that has chaired the AC has had a tendency to choose the priority topics that are most pertinent to their country.  The chair’s style of leadership can also vary from professional to entrepreneurial to honest broker.

One Arctic?  Do One-Size-Fits-All Solutions Fit the Top of the World?

Drue Pearce, Crowell and Moring LLP, said the human dimension is becoming a key factor.  But, with a larger focus on environmental protection, the participants are less able to respond adequately to the human dimension factor.  She said people need to remember that the work conducted in the Arctic is actually for the people who live there.

One negative aspect of adding more observers to the AC is that the voices of the existing observers are being diluted, she added.  Another trend is that fewer and fewer Arctic meetings are actually being held in the Arctic.

Pearce offered suggestions for AC improvements:

  • Take on fewer projects and don’t approve projects unless they include the interests of at least two Arctic states.
  • Fully fund the permanent participants.
  • Use teleconferencing to make AC meetings more accessible for everyone, and allow public observation of the meetings.
  • Make the human dimension a stronger theme.
Audience questions

Erica Dingman, Discussant, World Policy Institute, prompted audience questions.

Q:  How can continuity be maintained when tension sometimes exists between leadership and continuity?

A: Dingman responded that the existing chairs have tried to raise issues that may become controversial in later chairmanships.

Q: How can the permanent participants (PP) adequately participate when they have limited resources?  This is a growing concern, especially in regard to increasing observer authority.

A: Harper responded that she led the AC on the discussion of PP capacity.  It made some headway, and some initiatives were undertaken.  If the money issue is removed, greater synergies can be achieved and more PP involvement can be facilitated.




Climate change and the inuit concept of one arctic

Rosemarie Kuptana, former chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, said the Inuit look at issues from a holistic, not reductionist point of view.  Additionally, in Canada, Inuit participation on any issue that impacts the Inuit is a fundamental aspect of the law.


Arctic 21 and the arctic council agenda

Laura Strickler, Garnet Strategies LLC in Washington, D.C., said the urgency of the climate situation in the Arctic needs to be better communicated.  Efforts are underway to get the press to cover the Arctic more often and in a more sophisticated manner.

Indigenous perspectives on building healthy communities

Andy Kliskey, University of Idaho, said that all aspects of the health of all communities need to be recognized.  This requires synthetic thinking – bringing together local science, anthropology, and hydrology; using various spatial and mapping approaches; and integrating social and environmental modeling.

In the context of the U.S. chairmanship, community-based observing needs to be incorporated because Arctic communities understand the environment better than the scientists who measure data.  A community-based observing network should be developed.

Another idea is to develop an Arctic water resources index, which would include a composite of the conventional physical water vulnerability index, along with a resilience index that includes various measurements and proxies for communities to use to respond to changing conditions.


One health project

Joshua Glasser, U.S. Department of State (One Health Project), said the One Health approach addresses complex health issues at the environment-human health interface.  It is not a foreign idea in the Arctic.  It derives from experience and relates to issues like climate resiliency.


Chair: Lassi Heininen, University of Lapland


Developing a North American Arctic Sustainable Economic Strategy and Development of the Arctic Council

Steve Myers, Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER), discussed Transport Canada’s 20-year review of its strategic vision for transportation planning.  From the review, several ideas put forward about northern corridors and the use of the corridors not just for resource development but to connect regional communities to each other.

In the Canadian Arctic, the corridors would cross multiple boundaries.  One of the biggest issues is the cost.  Because of pipeline transportation issues, a proposed rail line from British Columbia to Alaska is getting attention.

Myers said PNWER has looked at how the Alaska Industrial Development Exporting Authority might be able to work closer with the Yukon Territory.

PNWER is also looking at the new ARENA and AREA projects that the AC and working groups had focused on.  This is promoting renewable energy projects in the Arctic.

Another study area is the relocation of the coastal communities in Alaska.  The federal government estimates $150 million will be needed to move the threatened communities.  One argument is that the stakeholders—with firsthand knowledge of climate change impacts—would be able to make the best use of these funds.


Building the Permanent Participants’ Capacity

Jim Gamble, Aleut International Association, discussed the AC’s PPs, which tend to be lumped together by the mainstream media when they actually are very distinct organizations.

The first three PPs were established in the Ottawa Declaration that established the AC.  They were the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC), Saami Council (SC), and Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON).  These organizations existed long before the AC, and were involved in various international forums.

The Aleut International Association (AIA), Arctic Athabascan Council (AAC) and RAIPON were formulated specifically to be PPs, and as a result they are smaller and a little less organized.  The Indigenous Peoples Secretariat (IPS) supports the work of the PPs, and has tried to figure out how to improve the support.  This has manifested itself in virtually every AC declaration.

During the Canadian chairmanship, significant things happened.  For the first time, Senior Arctic Officials (SAO) devoted a meeting to a discussion about how to better support PP work.  The meeting led to an action-oriented three day workshop that looked at PP support and funding mechanisms.

IPS functions were also examined.  The IPS was moved from Copenhagen to Tromso so it could be in the same location as the AC secretariat and have more efficient AC-IPS interactions.

Gamble said the PPs have looked at co-locating meetings to lower travel costs and at creating a PP core capacity fund.  The idea was well received, but never got traction.  The fund would help pay for rent, staff support, and day to day operations.  Because of the absence of deliverables, most major funders don’t want to support these activities.

Reliable support is also needed for project oriented activities, Gamble said.  Major funders may want to support a separate project fund.

Raising money is one of many challenges.  The PPs are all very different, yet require equal support.  PP success could be measured by simple things such as the ability to have more staff and more access to the right expertise.


The Global Arctic?  World Economic Forum/ Arctic Initiative Protocol

Michael Perkinsons and Penny Zuckerwise, Guggenheim Partners, discussed two phenomena they observed while visiting Alaska.  The first is climate change, and the second is the need for Arctic infrastructure.

Almost five million people in the Arctic and they should have a voice on what happens there and how it’s done.  The Arctic Investment Protocol sets out six objectives for Arctic investments.  The next step is an Arctic infrastructure inventory.  Guggenheim partners has worked with regional and local development bureaus to compile a list of 600 investment infrastructure projects in the Arctic, totaling $1 trillion.  The list still needs criteria and review.

Environmental groups have been approached about a sustainability assessment program, but that tends to be limited to environmental remediation.  Perkinsons and Zuckerwise said that a genuine assessment needs to be environmentally sound, in harmony with local indigenous groups, economically and financially viable, and an actual job-producer (permanent positions, not seasonal).

Governments have a role, though they are now less inclined to provide funding.  Instead, a permanent capital vehicle could lead the way.  Potential investors have a modest perspective, looking at a seven or eight percent return over three to five decades.  Only this kind of long term vision will result in sustainable projects.


The Future of the Arctic Council: The Role of Indigenous and Subnational Participants


Chair: Jessica Shadian, The Bill Graham Centre, University of Torronto


Alaska arctic policy commission

Lesil McGuire, State Senator, State of Alaska, said that shaping the development of Arctic policy involves the views of the people who live and work in the Arctic.  Events at the local level are covered by local newspapers, radio shows, etc., but the Arctic is still not viewed as a regular topic.  Mainstream news sources may cover it now and then, but not regularly.


The success of the Alaska Arctic Policy Commission over the past few years was demonstrated by President Obama’s visit to Alaska last August, she said.  At the national level, most people weren’t talking about Arctic policy while dismissing what local policy leaders had to say.  However, local leaders had the most valid thoughts about what should happen.


Sen. McGuire said Alaska’s journey to determine local and regional Arctic policies and write them into state statutes began in 2013.  Each commission meeting started with a listening session.  The listening itself was the most important activity; new ideas are presented and the commission showed respect to the communities that hosted the meeting.


Indigenous people have a different values system, Sen. McGuire said.  Their important values include listening, respecting elders, and not being “a know it all.”


Alaska Arctic policy—articulating the state’s vision from the ground up—came from this process.  Its four main outcomes are:

  1. Valuing community sustainability and cultures.
  2. Ensuring public safety and security.
  3. Advancing economic development and in a healthy environment.
  4. Incorporating transparency and inclusion into decision making.


Alaska’s Arctic Policy shows that people can organize and act at the subnational level, she added.


The AC has done a good job of bringing Alaska to the table, she said.  While much time is spent debating whether or not more observers should be brought to the table, not enough time is given to discussing the participation of individual Arctic states or provinces.


This is where groups like PNWER—a policy making body that engages two countries, and the public and private sectors in issue discussions—can be helpful.


Alaska and the Arctic Council

Craig Fleener, Arctic Policy Advisor for the State of Alaska, said he is concerned about the people who want redirect the AC’s focus to purely environmental aspects.  In the minds of the unknowing, a picture is painted that the Arctic is being destroyed and outsiders need to intervene to help.  This is not the case, Fleener said, though the Arctic is dealing with climate change impacts.


The Ottawa Declaration does not say that the single principle is environmental protection.  However, it does say that protecting the environment and sustainable development is a means of improving the economic, social, and cultural wellbeing of the people in the north.  Furthermore, it states the reason for the international cooperation is to make a commitment to the wellbeing of the Arctic inhabitants.


What people have to be careful about, Fleener said, is to not make decisions about the Arctic in closed meetings with small groups of like-minded people.

The best tool that we all have is adaptation, he said.  The government should focus on this.


Issues to consider are adaptation to the changes that are coming, whether to create more marine protected areas without taking local concerns and practices into account, whether to tax nonrenewable resources at high rates that place Arctic peoples at even more of a disadvantage, and whether to force Alaskans to adapt without long term planning.


The One Arctic theme is great from a national and international perspective, Fleener said, because it reflects a great deal of cooperation, and supports the original declaration’s direction.  National and international bodies have a role in dealing with problems that cross international borders.  However, the AC has a fundamental flaw, which is the lack of subnational involvement in AC decision making.


Fleener endorsed a funding base for PPs.  He concluded with observations about unemployment in rural Alaska.  He said the region needs entrepreneurship.  Almost all of Alaska’s infrastructure has come from previous national security initiatives.


Subnational Participants and Nunavik’s Arctic Policy

Jean-Francois Arteau, Keeserwan Arteau, described his community, which can only be accessed by plane or boat.  Consideration is being given to building a north-south railway to serve a nearby mining project.


Nunavik’s governance structure contains a lot of organizations.  The Makivik Corporation represents the Inuit of Northern Quebec in their relations with the governments of Quebec and Canada.  It also promotes economic development, owns two airline companies, owns transportation companies, and operates a fashion design firm and geomatics.

As more mining occurs in Nunavik, the communities will gain wealth, and start to distance themselves from the Makivik Corporation.  This is happening with the Salluit community, in particular.


U.S. – Russian Relations and the Arctic Council Roundtable

Kenneth Yalowitz, Georgetown University, said that that the most serious complications in Russia’s interactions with other countries come from outside the Arctic.  Russia, most prominently, annexed Crimea and supports separatism in eastern Ukraine.  The west has responded with economic sanctions that directly affect Arctic oil and gas development and Russian icebreaker construction.

The size and scale of Russia’s military activities are a growing concern in the west.  Determining the extent of the tensions, Western authorities are monitoring Russia’s development and deployment of new weapons, monitoring systems, new military bases, and new ground forces.

The Russians argue that this build-up is defensive in nature and that their armed forces are small in number.  They posit that their activities are prudent given Russia’s Arctic development plans, the increased commercial shipping on the Northern Sea Route, and the increased permeability of Russia’s vast northern border, now ice-free for months at a time.

The Arctic situation itself is not threatening, Yalowitz said.  The Arctic countries are clearly working together on search and rescue and oil spill response plans, and a very important final agreement on scientific cooperation.  Russia isn’t engaging in serious land grabs in the Arctic, and is playing by the rules by submitting claims for the outer continental shelf under the procedures in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).  Because the U.S. has so far failed to ratify that treaty, it is unable to submit or oppose any formal continental shelf claims.

The Arctic is rich in oil and gas and all of the known reserves exist within each country’s 200-mile limits, however, so ownership is not disputed.

The current natural gas market glut has also slowed energy projects, though we know those projects will ultimately be developed, Yalowitz said.

Despite the melting ice, Arctic sea routes are not likely to replace the Panama Canal.  Because of floating ice chunks and bad weather conditions even in summer, Arctic seas will remain precarious.  Container shipping, dependent on strict schedules, will be deterred by these factors.

Neither the U.S. nor Russia have any interest in undermining their joint interest in the Arctic.  Russia’s best course of action at present would be to increase its transparency about northern military activities and try to allay the suspicions that threaten cooperation.

U.S. economic sanctions will remain in place until overall relations with the west improve.  Restoring Arctic military cooperation—along with discussing plans to chart the Arctic Ocean and research ice conditions—should not be considered acceptance of Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

Jim Gamble, Aleut International Association, said he is encouraged by recent positive developments.  He would like to work on the Beringia Program, which would link together a cross-border Russia-U.S. parks system in the Bering Straits region.  One part of the program is an agreement that allows the Inuit people to travel across the border without visas.  This has allowed indigenous people on the Russian side to reestablish their whaling culture.

Gamble said he would like the agreement to be expanded include the Aleutian Islands.  Because this was part of a congressionally mandated program, the Congress would need to act on its expansion.

Regarding the geopolitical situation, Russia’s participation in AC has changed a bit.  Because of the Ukrainian situation, the number of meetings in Russia has dropped and Russian attendance at Arctic events is lower, Gamble said.  Instead of people and representatives from the Russian Federation, now only embassy personnel attend.

One situation that manifested itself well before the Ukrainian tensions was the reorganization of RAIPON.  It occurred during Sweden’s AC chairmanship and had repercussions such that no from RAIPON attended the AC ministerial meeting in Iqaluit, Canada in 2015.

Vincent Gallucci, University of Washington, spoke about the role of the indigenous population in AC.

RAIPON-represented indigenous people in Russia probably make up one to two percent of the entire population, Gallucci said.  The Russian Arctic is highly urbanized with most people—including the indigenous population—living in very distinct urban communities.  One factor that’s not well understood from the U.S. perspective is that Russia has the longest Arctic boundary and a lot of neighbors.  This doesn’t create opportunities for Russia.  It’s also reasonable for them to be investing a lot in Arctic infrastructure.  Offering his perspective as an American who has traveled through Russia, Gallucci said the system works on the local level.  However, the intergovernmental structures are stuck in place.

David Biette, the Wilson Center, said peaceful cooperation is used to work on issues through the AC.  However, the U.S. knowledge of Russia is terrible, and has been for a long time.

The Northern Sea Route is international, Biette said, but we forget that it’s also a domestic transportation system, connecting all of the Russian ports.  An audience member commented that Russia wants stability in the Arctic.  When President Vladimir Putin started his first term, he wanted to build economic stability in order to have political stability.  And, this is exactly what we are doing in the west.  Geopolitics is not a new development in the Arctic, it has been present all of this time.

Another audience member said both sides have shielded areas of the Arctic.  During the Cold War, for example, the Northern Sea Route and Soviet Union coastal areas were off limits completely to the west.  Now, a scenario similar to the Cold War may be developing.

Because of continental shelf shallowness and extended deep water sea ice, the area is extremely important for submarine operations.  Mapping polynyas, an area of open water surrounded by sea ice, are critical as surfacing locations for submarine operations.  The unknown undersea terrain can present a “valley of death” problem for submarine captains.  Using science to solve these problems might actually reactive geopolitics.

Yalowitz commented that, since the end of the Cold War, the Arctic hasn’t been a source of significant geopolitical tensions, but that is what is at risk now.  In Syria, rules of engagement are in place to some extent, but there’s little agreement beyond that.

Another panelist mentioned that good long term examples exist for the Russian and American militaries working together in the Pacific Ocean.  The respective Coast Guards also have excellent cooperative relationships.  This wouldn’t have happened if only the military leadership was making decisions.  Good cooperation with Russian local and regional authorities has also been a factor.


The Future of the Arctic Council: The Role of Indigenous and Sub-National Actors


Is a Melting Arctic Making the Arctic Council Too Cool?

Jennifer Spence, Carleton University, said the Arctic Council is at a crossroads.  While there are different visions of what AC should look like, no one has given up on it yet.  That doesn’t mean that anyone can take for granted AC’s transition from its past purpose to future goals.  Spence said her contribution to the discussion is in the form of public policy and administration.  She looks at AC’s organizational design and its significance.

She said AC’s original institutional design contributed to its success

The variables that impact institutional effectiveness were key factors.  In the literature about institutional effectiveness, different components stand out:

  1. The nature of the issue and the tasks an organization has been asked to address.
  2. The design that the institution has established for itself.
  3. The governance environment.
  4. Effectiveness measurements.

Focusing on AC’s initial design, the issues that brought the council into fruition were pollution control, environmental protection, and sustainable development.  The underlying goal was to bring together the Arctic states to build trust and to have a conversation.

The AC’s unique attribute is its ability to unite stakeholders from the indigenous, scientific and political communities, and then internalize the negotiation process for their different worldviews.  Through AC’s established governance mechanisms, space was created for mutual understanding and knowledge co-creation.

AC’s unique features include the involvement of participants from multiple social worlds and the role of permanent participants.  The PPs give the AC legitimacy and credibility when it addresses Arctic policy.

Groups can work within the system, still have different worldviews, and also maintain lines of responsibility within their own communities of knowledge.  An AC strength is its ability to internalize its program—with scientists able to distinguish between science and non-science, and politics and non-politics–and still coproduce documents that that have credibility with the public.

With technical expertise, indigenous participation and policy-maker guidance, distinctive work can be produced.

Currently, the governance environment contains much more pressure with a heavier emphasis on results.  The AC has changed from a small family to a global congregation.  Different people are at the table.  The heavy environmental protection focus has turned into a preeminent policy forum.  A once informal governance structure is now much more formal, which risks compromising AC’s benefits.

The growing gap between the AC working groups and the Senior Arctic Officials on understanding the AC’s functions can’t be ignored and must be addressed, Spence said.  Status quo doesn’t exist within the council.

It all comes back to aligning AC with governance and measuring its effectiveness, Spence concluded.  Addressing those aspects ensures that the council can move forward effectively.


U.S. Foreign policy toward the Arctic Region

Joel Plouffe, École national d’administration publique, said that as a French Canadian studying U.S. foreign policy, Plouffe said the goal of his presentation was to examine U.S. foreign policy in the Arctic, and how it has been framed and formed over the last four years.

The U.S. approach in the Arctic has changed, he said.  The change, running from the 1970’s to the present, contains a lot of continuity.  The U.S. is the most understudied Arctic state.  Arctic diplomacy has gone through different historical cycles.

At the end of the Cold War, for example, other countries put multilateral pressure on the U.S. to have a bigger role in the Arctic, emphasizing cooperation.

New information was given incrementally to U.S. foreign policy makers, leading to today where the Arctic is on the Presidential agenda.  President Obama’s approach is different from previous presidents because, for the first time, the U.S. has an Arctic policy implementation strategy.  Human and economic resources are available to implement the president’s agenda.

Another cycle is framed around two major issues—climate change impacts, and global mitigation and reduction efforts—that guide U.S. foreign policy in the Arctic.  Climate change is also an issue at the local and regional level.  Regional cooperation and multilateral agreement is important as well.

The U.S. started to create its Arctic identity in the 1970’s.  In 1983, the multilateralism narrative started to take form with the bipartisan recognition that the Arctic contains economic opportunities.

When the Regan administration created new institutions to address current problems, security started to be viewed differently.  Military and defense security concerns displaced environmental security.

In 2009, the aftereffects of 9/11 impacted U.S. foreign policy in the Arctic.  Policy documents included traditional security along with scientific cooperation and indigenous affairs.


Assessing environmental and energy security in the arctic

William Greaves, University of Toronto, discussed how Arctic security issues fit in with security threats elsewhere.  He observed that the Arctic is not an island.  It contributes to global phenomena and can be affected by events that occur far from the Arctic.

Climate change, as documented by changes observed across the polar region, has been successfully constructed as an issue of national, global and local importance, or, in other words, securitized.  The securitization of environmental change has been underway for a long time, accelerating during the Clinton administration, deemphasized during the Bush administration, and renewed with significant action and rhetoric during the Obama administration, particularly in the second term.

During the Bush administration, energy security—energy available at a safe and affordable prices—was the priority.  The source of energy was unequivocally fossil fuels.  The fossil fuels focus complicated the analysis reductively, but that’s not surprising because people continue to live in a hydrocarbon society.  Greaves argued that an emphasis on energy security—securing access to fossil fuels—creates a policy dilemma in terms of mitigating against climate change causes.  The security framework priority threatens the climate security framework.

Even though President Obama has made climate change a centerpiece of his presidency, the climate security versus energy security paradox is reflected within many of his administration’s highest profile policies.

As examples of its signature achievements, the Obama administration has both promoted energy security in its “all of the above” energy policy and has participated in or been a leader in the global fight against climate change.

The administration has also expanded its understanding of energy security to include renewables and nonhydrocarbon energy sources, Greaves said.  However, renewable energy remains a small part of the overall U.S. energy mix, which is dominated by hydrocarbons.

U.S. energy security is now focused on expanding domestic oil and gas production through shale oil development.

Shale production was only one percent of total U.S. production in 2000 and is expected to rise to 46 percent by 2035, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

U.S. energy security intersects most prominently with the Arctic is in the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimates that the circumpolar Arctic region contains approximately 90 billion barrels of oil.  This has spurred industry interest and motivated other entities involved in Arctic resources extraction and development.

Current administration climate change and energy policies continue the paradox.  Overall, American GHG emissions have declined nine percent from 2005 to 2013.  This still represents a six percent increase from the 1990 level, which is the Kyoto Protocols baseline.

Highlighting the policy implications, Greaves said, President Obama issued a 2012 executive order that supported the safe and responsible development of unconventional domestic natural gas resources.  In other words, the order articulated widespread federal support for hydraulic fracturing as a means to increase domestic energy independence and reduce dependence on foreign oil.

In contrast, in September 2013, the administration introduced new carbon emission standards for new power plants and in 2015 imposed new carbon standards for existing power plants.

In Canada, policy discussions were dominated by the proposal to build the Keystone XL pipeline from the Alberta tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico.  The U.S. decision was delayed until last November when approval was denied on the grounds that the pipeline would transport a dirtier source of oil and undercut U.S. credibility on climate change in the lead up to COP21 in Paris.

Days after the decision, however, President Obama signed a legislative package into law that lifted the 40-year ban on crude oil exports, opening another source of hydrocarbons for global consumption.  Most recently, in March 2016, the administration removed the U.S. Atlantic coast from its offshore leasing schedule, but left in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas in U.S. Arctic waters.  This decision was justified in reference to energy security.  Also in March 2016, President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released the U.S.-Canada Joint Statement on Climate, Energy, and Arctic Leadership, where they tried to address the two security concerns in a single document and, in some cases, in single sentence.

The question that is left, Greaves said, is how can the climate and environmental goals—which have been explicitly stated and exhaustively discussed—be reconciled with continued and expanded fossil fuel extraction, and what would a scientific basis for such a policy suggest.

This discussion invites serious questioning by the circumpolar states and others about how global resource extraction can somehow be compatible with the Arctic ecology.  Promises have also been made that energy extraction is the ticket to Arctic community survival and wellbeing.

Arctic communities have been placed in a truly thankless position, Greaves said.  They are heavily dependent on fossil fuels for their own energy needs, for local and regional transportation, and for obtaining food supplies and other essential products.

The question for Arctic peoples and communities is whether they are more secure at the extreme vulnerable end of hydrocarbon-based global commodity production and consumer shipping chains.  Or, whether they would have greater security, more resiliency and more autonomy by transitioning away from hydrocarbon energy.

These questions allow us to assess and choose between the competing meanings of security.  Climate security and energy security are fundamentally incompatible, Greaves concluded.


Maritime Security and Arctic Circumpolar Agendas

Adam Lajeunesse, St. Jerome’s University, viewed Arctic maritime security from both conventional and unconventional perspectives.

For the Russians, a military attack from the south would be just as easy, so there is no power projection.  Because the Russians have more troops in the Arctic, danger is perceived.  But, this is an incorrect perception.

Russia’s strategic resource basins in the Arctic are important.  For North America, Arctic oil and gas is a luxury.  While its development would provide added energy security, other sources are available.  But, for Russia, development is essential.

Russia is a petroleum state.  Production has been maintained over the past 10 years by importing western technology.  Because of sanctions, the technology was cut off.  The Russians are essentially running out of oil in the south, while the cost of developing less accessible oil has tripled.  The U.S. has maintained it Arctic military presence.  Obviously, the potential exists for disputes over continental shelf claims.  But, for right now, the shelf is being managed cooperatively, so long as the U.S. participates.

AC does not work on maritime security, and it would be counterproductive for the council to become involved because it represents a point of cooperation.  Uncomfortable dispute would damage AC’s ability to be a bridging institution.  Injecting security matters into AC activities will only ensure that council won’t be able to accomplish anything, Lajeunesse concluded.



Jessica Shadian, Bill Graham Centre for Contemporary International History, said the AC has never been a multilateral institution.

It has always been a little ahead of its time in terms of trying to understand global governance.  In terms of changing and diverging expectations, AC is now at a crossroads.  As the Arctic becomes more important globally, the Arctic states are asserting their responsibilities in different ways.

A task force has been looking at creating a marine governance system from the perspective of ecosystems based management.  The conversation is not just about states, it is also about the permanent participants, private interests, subnational interests, and science.

The difference between outcome and performance based measures has made AC a success.  What overlays it now is being translated into more action oriented government.