In many areas of the Russian Arctic, the silent witnesses of the Soviet era are waiting for their removal. Thousands of tons of junk are still strewn all over the region of Murmansk. In a recent meeting, which was held in Murmansk the regional Parliament’s Ecology Committee has raised the discussion about state funding to remove this hazardous materials.
During WWII and the Cold War era, Greenland was in the focus of western military strategists due to its proximity to Russia. Agreements between Denmark and the USA allowed the establishment of US military bases on the world’s largest island, even under the icecap. At the end of the conflicts, most of the base were abandoned but not cleaned up which led to a debate between the Danish and the Greenlandic governments. Now, the two parties signed an agreement to finally conclude the quarrel.
While the Trump administration is currently trying very hard to undo the protection measurements in its Arctic areas, Canada goes the other way. Last year, on December 21, the Federal government announced the establishment of seven new marine refuges along the coast of Nunavut and Newfoundland. Altogether, the marine refuges will be more than 145’000 km2 of ocean and will increase add another 2.53 percent to the Canadian protected areas.
The Arctic Institute (TAI) is a renowned non-profit US organization that covers very complex and diverse Arctic policy and security. It also acts as an information platform on Arctic issues. To this end, it has set up a broad and large network of researchers and other experts on various Arctic topics. However, since the inauguration of the new US administration under President Trump, this network has experienced a surge of data disappearance on US Arctic policy and climate issues and it all points to the US administration as the culprit. Victoria Herrmann, president and managing director of the TAI, has now published an open letter in the British newspaper The Guardian.
The Arctic Council was established by Arctic nations as forum to discuss and decide Arctic issues which overlap national boundaries. The chairmanship rotates every two years and now, it is Finland’s turn to chair the council. At the next council meeting in Fairbanks, it will take over the Arctic council as well as the climate leadership from the currently presiding United States.
Since the annexion of the Crimean peninsula in 2014, Norwegian-Russian relations became more and more freezing, unlike the winter climate in the high north. And while the ice in the Arctic melted faster and faster, high-level talks between politicians froze in almost completely. But now with spring coming to the Arctic, it seems as if the neighbors also start thawing as well. Both foreign ministers have agreed to meet in March at the Arctic conference in Arkhangelsk.
The Arctic regions are considered to be the most prominent resource for fossil fuels. Up to 1/3 of the world’s remaining sources of oil and gas are thought to be hidden under the Arctic Oceans. Therefore, a large dispute about the exploitation of those resources had been ignited between environmental groups and exploration companies. Especially in the US and Canadian parts of the Arctic, the dispute became a major political issue. Now, both US president Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have acted and have declared large areas as protective zones, thus banning all exploration activities.
The receding sea ice of the Arctic Ocean opens new possibilities for exploitation of natural resources. Not only fossil fuels but also fisheries stands very high up on the agenda of Arctic nations. However, no proper data on fish stocks exist for the central Arctic Ocean. Arctic nations now have agreed to halt all fisheries themselves until more and better data will be available. They are also discuss now an international ban on fisheries in the central Arctic Ocean.
The opening of the Arctic Ocean due to climate change will also open the race for the presumed resources. Next to minerals and fossil fuels, fisheries will play an important role in the considerations of governments. However, an important step to protect the marine environment from overexploitation has now been taken.
Despite growing numbers of tourism in Svalbard, coal mining still takes the lions share in revenues of the archipelago. The Norwegian government has now decided to continue the financial subsidiaries for this controversial production of raw materials. It seems as if this decision has been taken rather by arguments in terms of security policy than in economical terms.