Environmental Security in the Arctic Ocean: Promoting Co-operation and Preventing Conflict (WHP 75)
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Environmental Security in the Arctic Ocean: Promoting Co-operation and Preventing Conflict (WHP 75)

Whitehall Paper, 30 Sep 2010 By Paul Arthur Berkman

The North Pole is being transformed from a sea-ice cap to a seasonally ice-free sea. With the diminishing ice cover, there is new global interest in the extensive energy, shipping, fishing and tourism prospects in the Arctic Ocean. A range of states, including the major Arctic powers, are increasingly asserting their sovereignty seawards.

National security policies are being declared and nuclear-capable states are adjusting their strategic deployments in the Arctic Ocean. There are forums for international co-operation in the Arctic, most notably the Arctic Council, but peace in the Arctic Ocean has yet to be explicitly established as a common interest. Risks of political, economic and cultural instabilities are inherent consequences.

Environmental security provides a holistic framework to assess these security risks. Only after shared risk assessment and understanding of the appropriate responses will there be sufficient clarity about the governance paths to pursue within the international legal framework of the law of the sea.

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Paul Arthur Berkman is Head of the Arctic Ocean Geopolitics Programme at the Scott Polar Research Institute at the University of Cambridge, and a Research Professor at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

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