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Arctic Yearbook 2012
The Arctic Environment – From Low to High Politics
European Union (Heininen, 2011: 74). The social dimension is captured in what Heininen refers to
as regional development, including attention to the potential for new resources to contribute to
regional economic growth and employment. However, the economic value of developing Arctic
natural resources is not only, or necessarily, related to the region itself. National interests are equally
important, in particular for countries with large reserves of oil and gas, such as Russia (Solanko 2011;
Glomsrød & Aslaksen, 2008).
The environment is still a major theme in all Arctic policies. Huebert et al. (2012: 2) discuss it
through the lens of environmental security, defined as “avoiding or mitigating acts leading to
environmental damage or deterioration that could violate the interests of states and their
populations, in particular their northern and northern indigenous peoples”. Also addressed is the
“need to maintain the region’s environmental integrity in the face of increased economic activity”.
Thus, environmental protection is framed in relation to exploiting the region’s resources, that is, at
the very heart of conflicts built into the concept of sustainable development. In the Arctic Council,
the mitigation of climate change has yet to be addressed by any common initiatives for limiting
emissions of greenhouse gases. The major initiatives so far aim at gaining a better understanding and
mapping of the sources of so-called short-lived climate forcers, such as soot. The major mitigation
initiative on soot – the Climate and Clean Air Coalition launched in 2012 – is not under the auspices
of the Arctic Council, and is global rather than regional in its ambitions (US State Department,
2012). However, adaptation to climate change is being promoted as an area of common interest for
Arctic international cooperation, for example through the newly launched initiative Adaptation
Action for a Changing Arctic. Neither does the Arctic Resilience Report explicitly address the
mitigation of global drivers of change; its main aims are to better understand change itself and
associated risks.
Security and National Interest
When looking at the security dimension, the shift in political climate in the Arctic is even more
notable, and security appears as a new catchword in several of the national Arctic policy statements
(e.g. energy security). Interestingly, environmental change has also become framed as a security
concern (Huebert et al., 2012), for example with calls for more civil and military surveillance in areas
that were previously protected by the sea ice. The formal cooperative agreements discussed in the
Arctic Council deal with such issues as search and rescue, and response to oil spills in the Arctic,
which link civil and military security operations. By contrast, the human security issues that are