Arctic powers duel for potential energy wealth

arcticmay27

In what some experts are calling the next battleground for energy resources, the top envoys from five nations bordering the Arctic Ocean began meetings in Greenland on Tuesday. Russia, Norway, Canada, the United States and Greenland all border the Arctic Ocean. Scientists say up to a quarter of the world’s untapped oil and gas stocks could lie under the sea bed. Much of the Arctic Ocean could soon be free of ice during the summer due to global warming. At present the Arctic Ocean is governed by the Law of the Sea Treaty under which coastal states have the rights to energy resources up to 230 miles out to sea. If that is part of a continental shelf the rights go further. Raising the possibility of competing claims to the Arctic sea bed, Professor Marianne Stenbaek of McGill University states that the issue of arctic sovereignty has military, socio-cultural, and environmental implications, and that "we could see real conflict [over this issue] in the years to come."

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Story Transcript

VOICE OF ZAA NKWETA, PRODUCER/PRESENTER: In what some experts are calling the next battleground for energy resources, the top envoys from five nations bordering the Arctic Ocean began meetings in Greenland today. Russia, Norway, Canada, the US, and Denmark and its self-governing province of Greenland all border the Arctic Ocean. Scientific consensus confirms a large wealth of untapped mineral resources beneath the Arctic sea bed.

PROF. DUNCAN WINGHAM, CENTER FOR POLAR OBSERVATION AND MODELLING: I’ve heard of considerable estimates. I’ve even heard that maybe there’s a quarter of the world’s unrealized resource up there.

NKWETA: At present, the Arctic Ocean is governed by the Law of the Sea Treaty, under which coastal states have rights to energy resources up to 230 miles out to sea. Not a signatory to this treaty, the US sees the strategic Northwest Passage as international waters—a point of contention with Canada and Russia, who both see it as sovereign waters.

PROF. MARIANNE STENBAEK, MCGILL UNIVERSITY: This is being disputed by countries such as the US, but certainly also European countries and so on, who says that the Northwest Passage is international waters, and that therefore they’re free to sail back and forth as they want. It opens up, potentially, the windows to a lot of pollution, of filth in the Northwest Passage. But of course also it would have military implications. It would have implications for the Inuit and other people who live in the area. We tend to think of the Arctic as this uninhabited area, and that of course is not true. There are Arctic communities with Inuit and with non-Inuit, and they want to keep sovereignty over the lands and the areas in which they have always lived. The Northwest Passage will be a major controversial issue, because it does decrease the sailing time significantly, so a lot of commercial traffic potentially will want to sail through the Northwest Passage.

NKWETA: With the advent of global warming allowing for greater access to oil and gas, the issue of sovereignty is becoming increasingly urgent.

VIKTOR KREMENYUK, DEPUTY DIRECTOR US-CANADA INSTITUTE: And today, simply what we are watching or observing is the beginnings of some future conflict over the deposits or the resources of the Arctic area. That would be, of course, pitiful, because big nations are involved, and they will be capable to fight each other.

STENBAEK: I think this has a real potential of becoming a major, major conflict. Who owns the oil? Who can explore it? Arctic sovereignty. I mean, we could see real, real serious conflict in the years to come.

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Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.