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Arctic Yearbook 2012
concern. If northern areas are to be the next “Saudi Arabia” or “Middle East” in terms of
energy production,
avoiding any ecological disaster seems obvious for local, national and
international stakeholders. The images produced by the 2010 BP/Deepwater Horizon oil
spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico surely overshadow TNC activities around the world and
probably more severely when it comes to the Arctic. Therefore France considers that work
on universal oil and gas regulations for extractive activities is lacking or not progressing
rapidly enough. Michel Rocard observed that,
If such a trivial spill like the one in the Gulf of Mexico should happen in the
Arctic, the difference is that in the North, it is so cold that the chemical
products used in the South to clear up the oil do not work. It is so cold that we
cannot work underwater like in the South to close and seal the well. Therefore, if
there is an accident similar to the one of the Gulf of Mexico in the Arctic, it will
be a disaster infinitely considerable to any others ever known and probably
unsolvable (SRC, 2010).
Such a message comes with no surprise, as any environmental disaster would be felt on
Arctic socio-economic activities, future commercial fishing, tourism or other unwarranted
effects on the entire European periphery. Nevertheless, the AC had agreed in 2011 to
further talks on possible international measures for oil spill preparedness and response
throughout the circumpolar north. Furthermore, an initiative led by the United States and
Norway has produced international dialogue supporting an “oil pollution preparedness and
response instrument built on the momentum of the Search and Rescue agreement and
strengthens the Arctic Council as a high-level forum” (Salazar, 2010). An agreement on this
issue could be reached by 2013. There is no doubt that France will monitor these talks and
try to gain influence to establish rules and regulations that reflect their interests (while
keeping in mind its TNCs major activities in the Arctic). Indeed, since talks on oil and gas
measures will take place inside a new task force on Arctic marine oil pollution, the French
would seek greater participation in the AC EPPR.
On other environmental concerns, further research should be focused on how France is
dealing with IMO allies in the process of establishing a ‘polar code’ for Arctic shipping and
navigation. While France has vested interests in having proper transportation regulations in
the Arctic, little information on this issue was made available at the time of writing this