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Arctic Yearbook 2012
Collaborative Infrastructures: A Roadmap for International Cooperation in the Arctic
both physical (facilities, equipment) and human (expertise, legal and business frameworks)
infrastructure implemented jointly.
This latter type of infrastructure comprising human practices is central to the collaborative work
currently being done in the Arctic. U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar pointed out the need for
international oil and gas standards at the May 2011 Arctic Council ministerial meeting: “At a
minimum what we can probably do is to aim at getting to a set of best practices that can be used in
oil and gas exploration and production in the Arctic region” (Quinn, 2011). Other efforts are
currently underway. For example, a pan-Arctic team of shipping experts at the International
Maritime Organization (IMO) is working to devise a ‘Polar Code,’ a set of standards intended to
harmonize the many national systems of requirements for building polar vessels (Transport Canada,
2009b). The specialized expertise needed to create this regulatory framework represents a type of
human infrastructure essential to streamlining and maintaining safety in a rapidly expanding shipping
sector. Governments and industry are working together to advance this goal through the Barents
2020 project, which established a dialogue between Russian and Norwegian experts to harmonize
industry standards for disaster prevention in the Barents Sea (Det Norske Veritas, 2009). Industry
recognizes that cross-border cooperation is an essential element of oil spill prevention and response,
particularly in the Arctic where the environmental consequences of an oil spill may be particularly
severe (S
, 2011). The success of Barents 2020 led to greater international participation among
various companies operating in the Arctic, giving rise to further projects developing new techniques
to model, monitor, and respond to oil spills (Mairs, 2011). Thus, collaborative infrastructures may
proceed as joint industry projects with potential to respond to regulatory needs faster than
government-initiated legislation.
Current infrastructural improvements also hold promise for potential future collaborative
infrastructures. Canada recently set aside nearly $35 million US to improve Arctic weather and
navigation systems over the next five years (Environment Canada, 2011). The coverage area includes
the western coast of Greenland, an area with rich petroleum reserves and considerable hazard
potential due to sea ice import from the central Arctic Ocean into Baffin Bay. The key to
Greenland’s full independence from Denmark may lie in its oil reserves (Nuttall, 2008), but
Greenland’s infrastructure is among the least developed in the region, and has already opened its
offshore fields to foreign interests (Izundu, 2010). Safe development of Greenland’s oil fields will
require close monitoring of weather and ice conditions, which Canada will be poised to provide.