Arctic policy under microscope at workshop
UAF is hosting experts from 12 nations July 24-27 for a workshop examining international policy issues involving the Arctic Ocean.
The workshop, “The Arctic Ocean Beyond National Jurisdiction,” drew about 60 arctic experts and policymakers from around the world.
“We will consider the politics, economics, legal frameworks and use of resources in the Arctic Ocean outside the bounds of national arctic nation jurisdiction,” said UAF professor Lawson Brigham, who is leading the workshop with UAF Vice Chancellor Mike Sfraga.
The workshop is an outgrowth of Chancellor Brian Rogers’ goal to position UAF as a leader in arctic policy issues.
The workshop highlights UAF’s unique role in discussions about the Arctic and ways in which these discussions affect the state of Alaska, Sfraga said.
Workshop speakers include U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, U.S. Arctic Research Commission chairwoman Fran Ulmer and Canadian Polar Commission chairman Bernie Funston. Three working groups will focus on living resources and scientific research, marine navigation and security, and international seabed and extended Continental Shelf.
The workshop is jointly hosted by the UAF School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences and the UA Geography Program and Dalhousie University, one of Canada’s leading universities emphasizing marine research. PEW Charitable Trusts is the workshop’s primary sponsor. Other sponsors include Total Foundation of France, the Canadian Consulate of Anchorage and the Natural Resources Defense Council. The workshop is not open to the public, however, the final workshop report will be publicly available.
On Monday, Sen. Mark Begich joined the group via a video teleconference. He shared the steps the U.S. must take in response to a warming and rapidly changing Arctic.
“The coming years bring great challenges and opportunities to the Arctic. The U.S. has a major role to play along with other Arctic nations,” Sen. Begich told the workshop. “To fulfill that role and responsibility, we must address the broader policy implications of an ice-diminishing Arctic on the diplomatic, scientific and national security fronts. We must make the needed investments to maintain leadership at the top of our globe.”
In his remarks, Sen. Begich outlined steps the U.S. must take in order to embrace its role as an Arctic nation including:
- Ensure sustainable fish stocks and properly research and protect the Arctic ecosystem.
- Develop an international protocol on Arctic oil spill prevention and response.
- Expand Coast Guard and NOAA presence in the Arctic.
- Fund research ships, aircraft support on the North Slope and scientific instrumentation.
- Increase Arctic oil spill prevention and response capacity and research.
- Appoint an Arctic ambassador to represent the U.S. on equal footing with other nations.
- Ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty.
Sen. Begich is working to accomplish several of these steps by introducing legislation to improve research and infrastructure improvement related to development on Alaska’s outer-continental shelf.
During Monday's luncheon address, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell said, "The Arctic is no longer an optional ocean." Increased access to the ocean because of receding ice will bring with it fiscal, legal, intellectual and capital issues to address, he said.
As for fishing he said, "If you do a moratorium and don't do the science you're faking it." He also noted shipping, security and sovereignty, common mapping and military issues.
Treadwell said the eight nations of the Arctic Council should think like a circle of friends. "When Arctic shipping reaches its height it will be because the nations got together. We have to determine what we need and ask for global help to get the investments."