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Arctic Yearbook 2012
The Arctic Environment – From Low to High Politics
2000: 616). Moreover, they note that the move towards the broader goal of sustainable development
implied that “Foreign Ministers saw the Council as a mechanism to reassert their control over Arctic
cooperation” (ibid, 615).
Nevertheless, environmental security, in particular in relation to people in the region, became an
important part of the Arctic Council agenda. For example, the impacts of pollutants on human
health were highlighted in AMAP’s assessment of pollution issues in the Arctic (AMAP; 2002, 2009),
while the impacts of climate change were described in the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA,
2005). The Arctic Council took on some responsibility for addressing the causes of pressures on the
environment, e.g. the new working group Arctic Contaminants Action Program (ACAP). However,
responsibilities were also placed elsewhere, mainly at the global level.
During the 1996–2007 period, Arctic cooperation also moved into areas where shared interests
among the Arctic states could not be taken for granted. These included the assessments of the
impacts of climate change and of oil and gas activities in the Arctic. As described in detail by Nilsson
(2007), the political negotiations connected to the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment were very
contentious, and included compromises that were at least partly motivated by a desire to ensure the
continued existence of the Arctic Council (Nilsson, 2007: 140). It was also clear that the differences
between states were directly linked to their respective stands in relation to the global climate regime.
Arctic environmental politics were becoming subsumed under global environmental politics, as
opposed to being a regional concern. One interpretation of the contentious nature of the ACIA
policy discussion is that state interest in environmental security for people living in the Arctic was a
legitimate field of activity for the circumpolar international cooperation only so long as these goals
did not conflict with other state security interests, in particular that of energy security linked to the
continued use of fossil fuels.
Continued Consensus – At What Cost?
The rhetorically explicit security dimension is most notable in the exclusion of military security from
the Arctic Council mandate, where the Ottawa Declaration in a footnote states that the Arctic
Council “should not deal with matters related to military security” (Arctic Council Ottawa
Declaration, 1996). The focus of the Arctic Council has been on cooperation, and the assumption
appears to have been that any diverging interests could be resolved with consensus-building
processes. The fact that the Arctic Council is a typical ‘soft-law’ regime further accentuates