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Thirteen Arctic Trends to Watch in 2013


(real or aspirational) the Institute of the North is watching in 2013

1.  Interest in the Arctic expressed by non-Arctic states – The primary decision in 2013 will be the Observer status question, which should be addressed by the Arctic Council at the May Ministerial. At the same time, watch for bi-lateral partnership-building between non-Arctic states (markets) and Arctic states (e.g., Iceland-China, Greenland-South Korea).

2.  Growing awareness of the Arctic within and outside the Arctic states – Popular opinion will continue to mature in its understanding of circumpolar Arctic issues, and why the Arctic matters. Especially in the United States, public education will need to occur to foster realistic awareness of the Arctic.

3.  Partnership-building between and within Arctic states – The Arctic as a model of collaboration will continue, through the work of the Arctic Council, but also watch for bi-lateral agreements between northern nations. At the same time, increasingly active independent and academic sectors will collaborate for combined impact, a reduction in duplicative efforts and efficient delivery of services.

4.  Progress will be made toward IMO Polar Code completion – Completion and implementation dates range from 2013 to 2015. The complexity of the issue calls for careful planning, while the increasing traffic in the area necessitates urgency for many. Additionally, 2013 will see the implementation of a 2012 IMO resolution on mandatory vessel reporting in the Barents Sea. More at the IMO website.

5.  Increased shipping vessel traffic – Marine traffic in the Arctic, which has increased by 60% since 2008, will only continue to do so. The Northern Sea Route traffic, especially, will increase, with additional use by LNG tankers and others as part of the prioritization of this route by the Russian government. At the same time, watch for increasing trans-Arctic voyages as nations prepare for potential future scenarios.

6.  Icebreakers – Calls for increased response infrastructure will be coupled with demands for response assets, including additional icebreakers. Arctic nations will be examining new funding mechanisms and investment opportunities, balanced against declining federal budgets in many instances. Trends for both infrastructure and assets are moving toward public-private partnerships, and perhaps sub-national investment. More on Arctic transportation infrastructure here.

7.  UNCLOS ratification in U.S. – As other nations (including Russia and Canada) submit their claims to their Outer Continental Shelf as required under UNCLOS, the U.S. will have to reconsider its untenable position of non-ratification. A new Secretary of State who is a vocal proponent of ratification may help shift this issue, at the same time that geopolitics in the North force the U.S. Congress to act. 

8.  Offshore oil and gas exploration – In Alaska, after a slow start and a number of setbacks, there’s a lot riding on a successful Shell season in 2013. Iceland has opened leases in its waters, and Greenland continues to hope for success in its lease areas. The Norwegian/Russian collaboration in the Barents Sea continues to make the High North a huge priority in the region.

9.  Arctic Council SAR and Oil Spill Response mechanisms – Increased attention will be paid to the recently negotiated SAR agreement, and stakeholders will have to reflect carefully as this is implemented and the Marine Oil Pollution, Prevention and Response instrument is negotiated and signed (hopefully) at the May Ministerial of the Arctic Council. Both will undergo scrutiny in the years ahead as implementation impacts domestic decision-making.   

10.  Sub-national participation – With Canada’s Arctic Council chairmanship highlighting the needs of its territories, one of the big challenges to be addressed is how to support the peoples of the North and ensure their priorities are reflected in national and international fora. Is there a new – or a reinvigorated – model for the Northern Forum?

11.  Industry participation – Calls for corporate social responsibility in the Arctic will be met with a need for additional arenas for public-private sector interaction, where the private sector is valued as a partner in the sustainable development of the Arctic.  Shared research agendas and data, open dialogue, and investment partnerships will be a demonstration of goodwill in this effort.

12.  Indigenous participation – The question of RAIPON’s participation as a recognized body in Arctic affairs and in the Arctic Council will have to be addressed. More broadly, Permanent Participant funding and support should be taken up as one way to increase indigenous participation.

13.  We’re pretty sure its unlucky to have a 13th trend, but… the narrative around the Arctic will shift – and has been shifting – from environmental assessment to putting in place the necessary framework for future, sustainable development. This includes hard infrastructure; a stable legal and regulatory environment; a competitive investment climate; healthy ecosystems; vibrant cultures; an able workforce; and remembering that people, not just polar bears, live in the Arctic. The varying levels of development in each of the Arctic nations will make it challenging to address this question in unison, though a common vision and strategy is possible and hoped for.

Copyright © 2013 Institute of the North, All rights reserved.

SOURCE: Top of the World Telegraph, Jan. 3, 2013

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