For Arctic states across the globe, the accessible Arctic Ocean poses the opportunity of a lifetime.
Consider the following: the U.S. Geological Survey estimates that 13% of the world's undiscovered oil and 30% of its undiscovered gas will be found in the Arctic, and six of the eight Arctic nations are already engaging in offshore energy exploration. Sea ice retreat has beckoned major new shipping in the North. This year, about 1.5 million tons of cargo will be transported through the Northern Sea Route, compared with nothing five years ago. Gas condensate, liquefied natural gas, and consumer goods are passing right past Alaska's front door to our traditional customers in Japan. In preparation for this huge opportunity in energy transit, Russia, China, Sweden, Finland, Canada, the European Union, Japan and Korea are beefing up their icebreaker fleets.
The Arctic is undergoing a period of severe changes; rising temperatures and sea levels as a result of retreating snow and ice coverage are heavily impacting on both its delicate marine ecosystems and its human communities. By the same token, the region now attracts significant political and economic interest as melting ice also opens possibilities for the exploitation of natural resources and access to new trade routes. As a main result, an increasing number of states and non-state actors target the Arctic region in their foreign policy making.
At the same time and despite these current challenges and different interests, the Arctic has proven to be a region devoted to cooperation, coordination and peaceful interaction among different stakeholders, mostly thanks to the longstanding and crucial work of the Arctic Council.