Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Protection in the tropics, conquest in the Arctic?

Apparently we were quibbling about sea ice trends, the fading Bush Administration was preparing for a fight over the spoils left by our disappearing cryosphere. According to the CBC News, the new "Arctic policy" is "forthright about U.S. intentions to protect its security and remain a major player in the Arctic without regard to Canadian or other international sensitivities."

That breeze you felt was the passing good will from the creation of the three new marine national monuments.

You can read the full policy on the White House website. There are some nice bits on encouraging conservation of the marine environment, working with indigenous peoples, scientific cooperation and working with existing international policies on the Arctic. Then again, there are these choice selections:

4. The United States exercises authority in accordance with lawful claims of United States sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction in the Arctic region, including sovereignty within the territorial sea, sovereign rights and jurisdiction within the United States exclusive economic zone and on the continental shelf, and appropriate control in the United States contiguous zone.

Seems reasonable. Grant each country has rights to its territorial seas.

5. Freedom of the seas is a top national priority. The Northwest Passage is a strait used for international navigation, and the Northern Sea Route includes straits used for international navigation; the regime of transit passage applies to passage through those straits. Preserving the rights and duties relating to navigation and overflight in the Arctic region supports our ability to exercise these rights throughout the world, including through strategic straits.

Umm. Isn't most of the Northwest Passage within Canadian territorial seas? [feel free to correct me here]

The Senate should act favorably on U.S. accession to the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea promptly, to protect and advance U.S. interests, including with respect to the Arctic.

Fair, logical. It's about time it signed the Law of the Sea.

Joining will serve the national security interests of the United States, including the maritime mobility of our Armed Forces worldwide. It will secure U.S. sovereign rights over extensive marine areas, including the valuable natural resources they contain. Accession will promote U.S. interests in the environmental health of the oceans. And it will give the United States a seat at the table when the rights that are vital to our interests are debated and interpreted.

Ah, right.

In carrying out this policy as it relates to international governance, the Secretary of State, in coordination with heads of other relevant executive departments and agencies, shall:
  1. Continue to cooperate with other countries on Arctic issues through the United Nations (U.N.) and its specialized agencies, as well as through treaties such as the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change,

I'm not sure other countries can take much more US cooperation on the UNFCCC. But this document isn't really about governance and climate change, is it?

Energy development in the Arctic region will play an important role in meeting growing global energy demand as the area is thought to contain a substantial portion of the world's undiscovered energy resources. The United States seeks to ensure that energy development throughout the Arctic occurs in an environmentally sound manner, taking into account the interests of indigenous and local communities, as well as open and transparent market principles. The United States seeks to balance access to, and development of, energy and other natural resources with the protection of the Arctic environment by ensuring that continental shelf resources are managed in a responsible manner and by continuing to work closely with other Arctic nations.

No comments: