Gao Tianming & Vasilii Erokhin

With the progressing exploration of the Arctic as a resource base and trade corridor between the continents, the region is experiencing changes that fundamentally affect the environment, biodiversity, and people. The once established patterns are transforming and bringing new potential risks to the sustainable development of the region. Due to the industrialization in many northern territories, air, water, and soil pollution have been emerging as threats to ecosystems and public health. For those countries that now launch industrial projects in the Arctic, there is a challenge of how to converge the economic benefits with the urgent need for environmental protection. In this chapter, the authors review current policies and potential responses to environmental challenges contained in the national development strategies of Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the USA. Among non-Arctic countries, China has emerged as one of the prominent actors in the region, including in the spheres of industrial development and shipping. Other countries also show ever-deeper environmental concerns, but progressing climate change in the High North is not an issue to be solved by any country acting alone. It is of emerging global concern with the broader community of Arctic and non-Arctic countries having a mutual interest in cooperation to ensure the protection of fragile ecosystems and sustainable development of the region. Using China as an example, the authors discuss how non-Arctic states may contribute to the solution of environmental problems in the High North. The study analyses existing international and national approaches to environmental protection and climate change issues in the Arctic. It discusses how varying interests of Arctic states, from one side, and China, from the other, could be translated into effective international policies for the benefit of sustainable development of the region.

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Dorothea Wehrmann

In times of rapid global changes, agreements such as the Paris Climate Agreement illustrate the growing need for transnational cooperation to solve complex and interrelated challenges that affect humanity at large. In past decades, a number of forums and institutions formed to enhance cooperation and coordinate different approaches and policies transnationally. Not all of them have been assessed to be a success. The Arctic Council is a forum that is widely perceived as facilitating transnational cooperation – also in times of rapid global changes. This article explores systematically in how far the Arctic Council can be considered an example to learn from and identifies useful “ingredients” for strengthening transnational cooperation more generally. First, by drawing on global governance research this study shows that in the literature, very different perspectives consider similar factors as strengthening transnational cooperation. Second, it outlines how the AC has adhered to various factors identified in the literature but also recognises the need to improve its process management. The concluding section argues that particularly the Arctic Council’s focus on knowledge generation and expertise has encouraged the maintenance of robust transnational cooperation.1

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Volker Roeben & Smith I. Azubuike

The Arctic is experiencing what is understood to be the impact of climate change. As a global environmental challenge, climate change mitigation ideally requires a comprehensive solution. However, when a global agreement is difficult to realise, regional cooperation may be useful to accomplish global mitigation objectives, at least in part, and to enable individuals to adapt to changing climatic conditions. Human rights law reinforces the international law of climate action. It imposes the responsibility on states individually and collectively to respect, fulfil and protect rights concerning the impact of climate change. In carrying out this responsibility, states are to cooperate through appropriate regional fora and to use the potential of these fora to the utmost. International environmental governance underscores the benefits of shared objectives, common historical backgrounds, geographical proximity, and a smaller number of negotiating parties, which make it easier to come to an agreement and to synchronise mitigation effort; the Arctic region benefits from these views. The article first establishes the intersection between climate change and human rights and emphasises the responsibility of states to cooperate. It then identifies and discusses the suitability of the Arctic Council as a forum for their cooperation. It finally examines possible areas of collaboration which include the slowdown of hydrocarbon exploration in the region, utilising offshore off-grid initiatives, and the opening of the North-East Passage to reduce vessel travel time and cut down on CO2 emission. The article concludes that regional coalition formation is crucial for effective climate change mitigation and adaptation in the Arctic region.

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Derek Moscato

Climate change discourses loom large over the Arctic even as the growth of energy, mining, and transportation opportunities align with growing demand for global commodities. A prominent forum for mediating these conversations to stakeholders and publics has been the Arctic Council. This article examines the emergence of Arctic Council dialogue as a global intergovernmental forum in the Arctic and a conduit for economic-ecological communication. A textual analysis of the forum’s declarations over two decades analyzes the relationships between stakeholders in the Arctic and emergent discourse frameworks. As a vehicle for analysis, it helps to identify the embedded or proclaimed interests of government and markets—and the relationship between climate change with political, social, and cultural forms. Analyzing Arctic Council Declarations from annual meetings also highlights the mediatization of political action and the trajectory of the organization’s environmental mandate over the past quarter-century.

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Tuuli Kuusama

Profound changes are taking place in the Arctic, and a central driver is climate change. It is rapidly occurring in the Arctic, melting sea ice and reshaping the social and political environment into a landscape of new challenges and opportunities. As a result, the Arctic Council, the region’s preeminent high-level forum, is evolving and reassessing its focus.

According to an agenda-setting perspective, the hierarchy of different issues on political agendas varies over time. Agenda-setting is a political process where stakeholders compete for the attention of decision-makers and media. Agenda-setting explains how growing public awareness helps elevate issues to the top of the political agenda. The Arctic Council is an environmental regime and an international regional institution which provides added value by producing information about significant environmental challenges. The evolution of the Arctic Council can be mostly explained by its growing understanding about the state of the Arctic environment and the most salient phenomena facing the region. This development can be analyzed in Arctic Council deliverables. The primary sources for these include the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS) and Arctic Council ministerial meeting Declarations (1991-2019) and selected scientific reports produced by the Arctic Council Working Groups. In this article I analyze how environmental questions were adopted into Arctic politics, concentrating on how climate change was incorporated into the agenda of the Arctic Council.

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