Posts Tagged ‘resources’

Retreating Arctic ice opens way to resources

May 24, 2011
By Joby Warrick and Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post
Updated: 05/21/2011 10:01:51 PM CDT
Original article here

Retreating Arctic ice has made Greenland's western coast accessible for oil exploration and drilling, which has created competition among rival nations. (Washington Post: Joby Warrick)

NUUK, Greenland – Here, just south of the Arctic Circle, where the sea ice is vanishing like dew on a July morning, the temperature isn’t the only thing that’s heating up.

Across the region, a warming Arctic is opening up new competition for resources that until recently were out of reach, protected under a thick layer of ice. As glaciers defrost and ice floes diminish, the North is being viewed as a source of not only great wealth but also conflict, diplomats and policy experts say.

In recent months, oil companies have begun lining up for exploration rights to Baffin Bay, a hydrocarbon-rich region on Greenland’s western coast that until recently was too ice-choked for drilling. U.S. and Canadian diplomats have reopened a spat over navigation rights to a sea route through the Canadian Arctic that could cut shipping time and costs for long-haul tankers.

Even ownership of the North Pole has come into dispute, as Russia and Denmark pursue rival claims to the underlying seabed in hopes of locking up access to everything from fisheries to natural-gas deposits.

The intense rivalry over Arctic development was highlighted in diplomatic cables released recently by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. Messages between U.S. diplomats revealed how northern nations, including the United States and Russia, have been maneuvering to ensure access to shipping lanes as well as undersea oil and gas deposits that are estimated to contain up to 25 percent of the world’s untapped reserves.

In the cables, U.S. officials worried that bickering over resources might even lead to an arming of the Arctic.

“While in the Arctic there is peace and stability, however, one cannot exclude that in the future there will be a redistribution of power, up to armed intervention,” a 2009 State Department cable quoted a Russian ambassador as saying.

Concern over competition in the Arctic was partly behind an extraordinary diplomatic gathering recently in Greenland’s tiny capital Nuuk. This year’s meeting of the eight-nation Arctic Council drew seven foreign ministers, including Russia’s Sergey Lavrov and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the highest-ranking U.S. diplomat to attend an Arctic Council session. Accompanying Clinton was a second U.S. Cabinet member, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

Clinton and her aides sought to call attention to climate change during the visit, highlighting new studies that show Arctic ice melting far more rapidly than scientists had believed. But Clinton also promoted a message of international cooperation in the Arctic.

“The challenges in the region are not just environmental,” Clinton said in Nuuk following talks with her Danish counterpart, Lene Espersen. “The melting of sea ice, for example, will result in more shipping, fishing and tourism, and the possibility to develop newly accessible oil and gas reserves. We seek to pursue these opportunities in a smart, sustainable way that preserves the Arctic environment and ecosystem.”

Clinton’s presence at the Nuuk meeting was intended to show U.S. support for the Arctic Council as a critical forum for cooperation and to resolve conflicts. With strong backing from the Obama administration, the council approved the first legally binding treaty in its history, a pact that sets the rules for maritime search and rescue in the region. Although modest in scope, the treaty, authored mainly by Russia and the United States, was hailed as a template for future agreements on issues ranging from oil-spill cleanup to territorial disputes.

Significantly, the eight member nations voted to establish a permanent secretariat to the council, to be located in Tronso, Norway. Clinton asserted that the region’s powers must recognize the council as the “preeminent intergovernmental body, where we can solve shared problems and pursue shared opportunities.”

“The opportunities for economic development in the Arctic must be weighed against the need to protect its environment and ecosystems. And governments will not always see eye to eye on how to achieve this balance,” Clinton said. “That’s why this council is so important.”

In the diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks, there was no dispute about rapid warming under way. The predominant questions revolved around how the region’s newly accessible resources would be carved up.

Canada Opens Arctic To NATO, Plans Massive Weapons Buildup

August 29, 2010

Global Research, August 29, 2010
The government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently concluded the largest of a series of so-called Canadian sovereignty exercises in the Arctic, Operation Nanook, which ran from August 6-26.

Harper, Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay and Chief of the Defence Staff of the Canadian Forces General Walter Natynczyk visited the nation’s 900 troops participating in the “Canadian Forces’ largest annual demonstration of Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic” [1] which included “Canada’s air force, navy, coast guard…testing their combat capabilities in the frigid cold.” [2]

Nanook military exercises were commenced in 2007 when Russia renewed its claims to parts of the Arctic and resumed air patrols in the region after an almost twenty year hiatus. They are complemented by two other Canadian military drills in the region, Operation Nunalivut in the High Arctic and Operation Nunakput in the western Arctic.

Canada is formally involved in territorial disputes with two other Arctic claimants: The United States over the Beaufort Sea lying between Canada’s Northwest Territories and Yukon Territory and the American state of Alaska, and Denmark over the Hans Island between Canada’s Ellesmere Island and Denmark’s Greenland possession on the other end of the Arctic.

Four of the five nations with Arctic claims, all except Russia, are founders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization whose charter commits member states to mutual military assistance.

With the melting of the polar ice cap and the opening of the fabled Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans for the first time in recorded history, the scramble for the Arctic – reported to contain 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered natural gas and 13 percent of undiscovered oil according to last year’s U.S. Geological Survey – is under way in earnest. The military value of the navigability of the passage is of even greater and more pressing significance.

The George W. Bush administration’s National Security Presidential Directive 66 of January 12, 2009 states:

“The United States has broad and fundamental national security interests in the Arctic region and is prepared to operate either independently or in conjunction with other states to safeguard these interests. These interests include such matters as missile defense and early warning; deployment of sea and air systems for strategic sealift, strategic deterrence, maritime presence, and maritime security operations; and ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight.” [3]

The U.S. insists that the Northwest Passage is open to international navigation while Canada claims it as solely its own. Yet Ottawa has accommodated Washington at every turn while persisting in saber-rattling comments and actions alike vis-a-vis Russia.

Sixteen days after the release of the White House’s Arctic directive of last year NATO conducted a two-day Seminar on Security Prospects in the High North in Iceland attended by the military bloc’s secretary general, its two top military commanders and the chairman of its Military Committee, and stated that “Clearly, the High North is a region that is of strategic interest to the Alliance.” [4]

Although Canada’s territorial disputes in the Arctic are with fellow NATO members the U.S. and Denmark, the three nations have recently coordinated their strategies and in this year’s Operation Nanook have for the first time collectively participated in military exercises in the Arctic region.

In mid-July NATO’s chief European military commanders, Admiral James Stavridis, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, and General Sir John McColl, Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe, arrived in the Canadian capital at the invitation of the nation’s military chief, General Walter Natynczyk. The three consulted on “how to take the Alliance forward” and Stavridis “conveyed his latest appraisal of NATO’s progress in Afghanistan and commended Canada on its contributions to NATO’s efforts around the world.” [5]

Canadian Defence Minister MacKay stated almost two years ago: “We are concerned about not just Russia’s claims through the international process, but Russia’s testing of Canadian airspace and other indications…(of) some desire to work outside of the international framework. That is obviously why we are taking a range of measures, including military measures, to strengthen our sovereignty in the North.” [6]

A year ago Canada and the U.S. conducted a 42-day joint Arctic expedition to survey the continental shelf for future bilateral demarcation, following a more modest effort along the same lines in 2008 and followed this year by one with U.S. and Canadian ships from August 7 to September 3. The latter was announced two weeks after a Russian research vessel left St. Petersburg on a mission to delimit the borders of Russia’s Arctic continental shelf.

The U.S. State Department described the purpose of this year’s expedition: “The mission will help delineate the outer limits of the continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean for the U.S. and Canada, and will also include the collection of data in the disputed area where the U.S. and Canada have not agreed to a maritime boundary.” [7] It is being held in the Canada Basin, the Beaufort Shelf, and the Alpha Mendeleev Ridge. The last, along with the Lomonosov Ridge, is the basis of Russian Arctic claims.

On May 14 Canada and Denmark signed a military agreement, a memorandum of understanding pledging to collaborate more closely in the Arctic “through enhanced consultation, information exchange, visits, and exercises,” according to the Canadian Forces. [8] The preceding month Denmark deployed a unit to participate in the Operation Nunalivut exercise in the High Arctic.

The Royal Danish Navy sent the HDMS Vaedderen ocean patrol vessel and the HDMS Knud Rasmussen offshore patrol vessel to join the recently concluded Nanook 10 exercises, where they were joined by the U.S. Second Fleet’s naval destroyer USS Porter and the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Alder “for the purpose of exercising and increasing…interoperability with Arctic allies.”

As for the Canadian contribution, “The Air Force [provided] air movement and mission support through the CC-177 Globemaster III, CC-130 Hercules, CP-140 Aurora, CH-146 Griffon, and CC-138 Twin Otter aircraft.

“The maritime component [included] Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships (HMCS) Montreal, Glace Bay and Goose Bay; and Canadian Coast Guard Ships CCGS Des Groseilliers and CCGS Henry Larsen.” [9]

Military personnel involved included “About 900 Canadian troops [who patrolled] parts of the Eastern and Northern Arctic by air, land and sea.” Another “600 military personnel from the Danish Royal Navy, the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard are also [took] part in the operation.” [10]

In the words of Lieutenant Commander Albert Wong of Canada Command, “They’re our allies. Collaboration is part of what Canada does.” [11]

This year’s exercise was based in Resolute Bay in the Nunavut federal territory where the Harper government is building a new army Arctic warfare training center in Resolute and a deep-sea port for the Nanisivik Naval Facility to be constructed on Baffin Island. Canadian Navy Lieutenant Commander Robert Houle said before the event that “2010’s military operation will push further north than in past years.” [12] That is, north of the Arctic Circle for the first time.

“The US Navy 2nd Fleet, the US Coast Guard and the Royal Danish Navy…joined in the war games in an effort to enhance the allies’ capabilities to cooperate in Arctic waters.” [13]

In fact the NATO allies collaborated to an unprecedented degree, as “Danish and American vessels” conducted “ocean exercises throughout eastern Nunavut.” [14]

After visits by Canada’s defense and military chiefs to inspect the multinational war games, Prime Minister Harper arrived in Resolute on August 25, the penultimate day of the 20-day military maneuvers, to – in the words of one of the nation’s main news agencies – rally the 1,500 Canadian, American and Danish troops present. [15]

Harper’s visit to inspect the exercise occurred only hours after another – potentially dangerous – publicity stunt by his government: Dispatching CF-18 fighter jets (variants of the American F/A-18 Hornet) to allegedly ward off two Russian Tupolev Tu-95 (Bear) strategic bombers patrolling off Canada’s northern border, “something the Russian military does frequently.” [16]

Harper’s press secretary, Dimitri Soudas, “said the two CF-18 Hornet fighters visually identified the two Russian aircraft approximately 120 nautical miles north of Inuvik in Northwest Territories,” [17] over international waters.

The timing of the Canadian action, as that of its announcement, was calculated. As was a comparable incident in February of 2009 when then recently installed U.S. President Barack Obama paid his first visit abroad to Ottawa, to meet with Harper, and his host scrambled warplanes to intercept a Russian Tu-95 bomber – on a routine mission thousands of kilometers from the Canadian capital – in a show of bravado and of loyalty to his ally south of the border.

“The Russians said then the plane never encroached on Canadian airspace and that Canada had been told about the flight beforehand.” [18]

Last year Canada’s prime minister and defence minister made the following comments:

Harper: “We have scrambled F-18 [CF-18] jets in the past, and they’ll always be there to meet them.”

MacKay: “When we see a Russian Bear [Tu-95] approaching Canadian air space, we meet them with an F-18.” [19]

A few days before Operation Nanook began, July 28, Canada also deployed CF-18 fighters against Russian Tu-95 bombers “as debate rage[d] over whether Canada needs the next generation of fighter jets to replace the nearly 30-year-old CF 18s. The Harper government has committed to buying 65 F-35 stealth fighters at a cost of $9 billion. Critics have said such Cold War-type jets are no longer needed.” [20]

The same source provided background information concerning what is being fought over:

“Canada is in a race with Russia and other Arctic nations to lay claim to the frozen territory that may hold untold treasures.

“Geologists believe the Arctic shelf holds vast stores of oil, natural gas, diamonds, gold and minerals. A 2007 Russian intelligence report predicted that conflict with other Arctic nations is a distinct possibility, including military action ‘in a competition for resources.'” [21]

Regarding the later occurrence on August 24, “The Prime Minister’s Office used the incident to promote Ottawa’s plan to buy 65 stealth fighter jets for $16 billion.” [22]

The discrepancy in (Canadian) dollar amounts is attributable to Ottawa’s attempt in May to underestimate the actual cost of the purchase when Defence Minister MacKay said “There is eye-watering technology now available, and a fifth-generation fighter aircraft will be brought to Canada after the year 2017.” [23], but failed to disclose the total cost.

When in-service support and other additional outlays are included, the total package will be $16 billion, according to a major Canadian newspaper “one of the most expensive military equipment purchases ever.” [24]

In fact the F-35 Lightning II fifth generation stealth fighter project also has been estimated to be “the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons program” at a  cost of $323 billion for 2,443 of the warplanes. [25]

Last month Defence Minister MacKay confirmed that Canada will buy 65 of the Joint Strike Fighters. At the same time Ottawa announced that the $3 billion Joint Support Ship project will be restarted, as “the military [wants] Joint Supply Ships to be capable of carrying army vehicles and to provide support to ground forces ashore. The ships would also have an air-force element on board, having helicopters and repair facilities for those aircraft. A hospital would also be included on the vessels.” [26]

On August 25 Dmitri Soudas, Harper’s director of communications, trumpeted the news of the non-encounter between Canadian and Russian military aircraft and laid the bravado on thickly – and not without a purpose. His comments included:

“Thanks to the rapid response of the Canadian Forces, at no time did the Russian aircraft enter sovereign Canadian airspace.

“The Harper Government has ensured our Forces have the tools, the readiness and the personnel to continue to meet any challenges to Canadian sovereignty with a robust response.

“This is true today, it will be true tomorrow and it will be true well into the future.

“The CF-18 is an incredible aircraft that enables our Forces to meet Russian challenges in our North. That proud tradition will continue after the retirement of the CF-18 fleet as the new, highly capable and technologically-advanced F-35 comes into service. It is the best plane our Government could provide our Forces, and when you are a pilot staring down Russian long range bombers, that’s an important fact to remember.” [27]

The Associated Press reported on the above statement that “Soudas noted…Canada’s recent purchase of 65 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets from U.S. aerospace giant Lockheed Martin Corp. The $8.5 billion purchase, one of the biggest military equipment purchases in the country’s history, was due to be debated at a parliamentary defense committee hearing on Wednesday. [August 25, the date of Soudas’ comments]. The jets will replace the Air Force’s aging fleet of CF-18s.” [28]

According to a Canadian journalist:

“This week…we learned that the Cold War is not, in fact, over and that Russia remains an active threat in the north….Harper’s press spokesman, noted Sovietologist Dimitri Soudas, explicitly turned the Russian flyby into an argument for a $16-billion, sole-sourced upgrade of Canada’s fighter-plane fleet.” [29]

Canada requires an adversary to justify large-scale arms acquisitions. In the past three years it has bought and leased 120 Leopard tanks from Germany and the Netherlands for the war in Afghanistan. It has purchased and used Israeli-made Heron drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) for the same war theater and beyond, one of which crashed near a military base in Alberta last month knocking out power lines.

It has also acquired Chinook, Griffon and Mi-8 helicopters for NATO’s war in South Asia, where it has deployed 2,830 troops and where 151 of its soldiers have been killed.

The Polar Epsilon spaced-based satellite project is being developed for the Arctic, and while in Resolute Bay on Wednesday Prime Minister Harper reiterated that the RADARSAT Constellation Mission, a three-spacecraft fleet of satellites that is the centerpiece of Polar Epsilon, “will provide the Canadian military with daily coverage of Canada’s land mass and ocean approaches ‘from coast-to-coast-to-coast, especially in the Arctic.'” [30]

In June defense chief MacKay disclosed that Canada will spend over $30 billion “to build 28 large vessels for the Canadian Coast Guard and navy, as well as 100 smaller ships.” [31]

Canada is, as NATO’s top military commander Admiral Stavridis remarked in Ottawa last month, providing the Western military bloc and the Pentagon indispensable services around the world. In the Arctic as much as if not more than anywhere else.

Related articles:

Canada: Battle Line In East-West Conflict Over The Arctic
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/08/31/canada-battle-line-in-east-west-conflict-over-the-arctic

Encroachment From All Compass Points: Canada Leads NATO Confrontation With Russia In North
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/09/01/encroachment-from-all-compass-points-canada-leads-nato-confrontation-with-russia-in-north

Loose Cannon And Nuclear Submarines: West Prepares For Arctic Warfare
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/12/01/loose-cannon-and-nuclear-submarines-west-prepares-for-arctic-warfare

Canada: In Service To The Pentagon And NATO At Home And Abroad
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/08/28/canada-in-service-to-the-pentagon-and-nato-at-home-and-abroad

Notes

1) Xinhua News Agency, August 7, 2010
2) Agence France-Presse, August 25, 2010
3) NATO’s, Pentagon’s New Strategic Battleground: The Arctic
Stop NATO, February 2, 2009
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/08/26/natos-pentagons-new-strategic-battleground-the-arctic
4) Ibid
5) North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe
July 11, 2010
6) Canwest News Service, September 12, 2008
7) Russian Information Agency Novosti, July 27, 2010
8) Nunatsiaq News, May 24, 2010
9) Xinhua News Agency, August 7, 2010
10) CTV, August 25, 2010
11) Nunatsiaq News, June 16, 2010
12) CBC News, August 3, 2010
13) Agence France-Presse, August 25, 2010
14) CBC News, August 18, 2010
15) Canadian Press, August 25, 2010
16) CTV, August 25, 2010
17) Xinhua News Agency, August 25, 2010
18) Associated Press, August 25, 2010
19) Encroachment From All Compass Points: Canada Leads NATO Confrontation With
Russia In North
Stop NATO, August 5, 2009
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/09/01/encroachment-from-all-compass-points-canada-leads-nato-confrontation-with-russia-in-north
20) Toronto Sun
Quebec Media, Inc. Agency
July 30, 2010
21) Ibid
22) CTV, August 25, 2010
23) Canwest News Service, May 28, 2010
24) Ottawa Citizen, July 12, 2010
25) PBS Newshour, April 21, 2010
26) Ottawa Citizen, July 12, 2010
27) CBC News, August 25, 2010
28) Associated Press, August 25, 2010
29) Susan Riley, The Russians aren’t coming
Ottawa Citizen, August 27, 2010
30) Agence France-Presse, August 25, 2010
31) Xinhua News Agency, June 4, 2010

Stop NATO
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Blog site:
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/

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Original article here

Arctic is suffering from ‘governance gaps’

May 26, 2010

Maritime Journal, 26 May 2010

The legal instruments relevant to protecting the Arctic’s marine environment are numerous, yet also incoherent and incomplete say the World Wildlife Fund.

The Arctic is suffering from a fractured approach to governance of its resources. Photo: WWF

The environmental organisation considers the existing framework to be too focused either on individual issues or individual places to adequately cover the entire region. It also fails to take into account the cumulative effects of different offshore activities, such as fishing and oil and gas extraction.

A number of gaps appear to have emerged. These include the fact that the Arctic Council cannot impose legally binding obligations on its members, permanent participants or observers and it is not an operational body. It does not systematically evaluate whether its guidelines are being followed. It also has no independent funding and no permanent secretariat.

In short, the legal instruments do not provide sufficient protection for the arctic marine environment and do not provide for sustainable ecosystem based management of the Arctic Ocean. Also, every Arctic state just does its own thing, which has led to inconsistency of the national legislation, according to Dr Tatiana Saksina of the WWF.

However, the corrective options so far appear to be either sectoral based improvements such as adjusting existing fisheries agreements, adjusting existing international frameworks such as the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic, or reforming the Arctic Council, a meeting place for the eight arctic states and indigenous peoples of the Arctic.

In WWF’s view, all these options either fall short of providing adequate protection for the arctic marine environment or are difficult to achieve.

The WWF commissioned three reports by international legal experts Timo Koivurova and Erik Molenaar. These say that given the pace of change, it is difficult to see how the Arctic and its ocean could be sustainably and coherently managed without an institution with the legal and political mandate to carry out the necessary changes to ensure the arctic ecosystem is protected. Rules alone, especially non-legally binding ones, are hardly enough to govern the new sea emerging from the sea ice. Therefore the authors conclude that one of the best options is to adopt a new multilateral agreement for the protection of the arctic marine environment and ecosystem based management of its resources.

A new, legally binding international framework agreement covering the entire marine Arctic across all sectors would allow for management on an ecosystem level, which is the best tool for ensuring sustainable management of marine resources.

Such an agreement should ensure protection and preservation of the ecological processes in the arctic marine environment, long term conservation and sustainable and equitable use of marine resources, socio-economic benefits for present and future generations, in particular for indigenous peoples, and action to address the unprecedented changes the Arctic is facing.

Indeed, the new Arctic Sea emerging from the melting ice urgently needs a regional regime tailor made for arctic conditions developed under the overarching framework of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

China prepares for an ice-free Arctic

May 6, 2010

Climate change is expected to transform the geography – and geopolitical weight – of the polar regions. In the first instalment of a three-part article, Linda Jakobson explores China’s growing interest in the thawing north.

“To date, China has adopted a wait-and-see approach to Arctic developments, wary that active overtures would cause alarm in other countries.”

China is paying increasing attention to the melting of the ice in the Arctic Ocean as a result of climate change. The prospect of the Arctic being navigable during summer months, leading to both shorter shipping routes and access to untapped energy resources, has impelled the government to allocate more resources to Arctic research. Chinese officials have also started to think about what kind of policies would help the country to benefit from an ice-free Arctic environment.

China is at a disadvantage because it is neither an Arctic littoral state – it has no Arctic coast and so no sovereign rights to underwater continental shelves – nor an Arctic Council member state with the right to participate in the discussion of regional policies. Despite its seemingly weak position, China can be expected to seek a role in determining the political framework and legal foundation for future Arctic activities.

The formerly ice-covered Arctic is undergoing an extraordinary transformation as a result of the unprecedented rate at which the ice is diminishing. According to one report, the annual average extent of Arctic Ocean ice has shrunk by 2.7% per decade, with a decrease of 7.4% per decade during the summer months since 1979. Estimates about when the Arctic Ocean could be consistently ice-free during the summer season vary greatly, ranging from 2013 to 2060.

The melting of the Arctic ice poses economic, military and environmental challenges to the governance of the region. In 2008 the five littoral states, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States, committed themselves to the existing legal framework of the Arctic and the “orderly settlement of possible overlapping claims”. Despite these assurances, the evolving situation in the Arctic could potentially lead to new geopolitical disputes, also involving non-littoral states, especially regarding issues related to free passage and resource-extraction rights. Consequently, policymakers – not only in China but across Asia, Europe and North America – are turning their attention to the region in order to assess this transformation and its economic, territorial and geopolitical implications.

To date, China has adopted a wait-and-see approach to Arctic developments, wary that active overtures would cause alarm in other countries due to its size and status as a rising global power. Chinese officials and researchers have told me privately that they are very cautious when formulating their views on the country’s interests in the Arctic. They stress that China’s Arctic research activities remain primarily focused on the climatic and environmental consequences of the ice melting. However, in recent years, the academic and policymaking communities have also started to assess the commercial, political and security implications of a seasonally ice-free Arctic region.

China has one of the world’s strongest polar research capabilities. Since 1984, the country has organised 26 expeditions and established three research stations in the Antarctic. The Arctic became a focus from 1995, when a group of Chinese scientists and journalists travelled to the North Pole on foot and conducted research on the Arctic Ocean’s ice cover, climate and environment. China’s first Arctic research expedition by sea took place in 1999 and, since then, it has carried out two more expeditions, in 2003 and 2008, with a fourth planned for the summer of 2010.

China’s first Arctic research station, Huanghe (Yellow River), was founded at Ny-Ålesund in Norway’s Svalbard archipelago in July, 2004. Since 1994, China has conducted polar exploration onboard the research vessel Xue Long (Snow Dragon), which was purchased from Ukraine in 1993.

The 163-metre-long vessel, with a displacement of 21,000 tonnes, is the world’s largest, non-nuclear icebreaker. However, in October 2009, the State Council (the Chinese cabinet) decided that Xue Long alone no longer met the demand of the country’s expanding polar research activities and needed “brothers and sisters”. After months of deliberating between purchasing a second-hand foreign vessel and building a Chinese one, the government approved the building of a new high-tech ice-breaker. Preliminary plans to order a Chinese-built ice-breaker at a cost of 2 billion yuan (US$300 million) had been under way within the Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration (CAA) since at least early 2009. The new vessel, expected to become operational in 2013, will be co-designed by Chinese and foreign partners and built in China. It will be smaller than Xue Long, with a displacement of only 8000 tonnes.

Besides its own scientific expeditions, China has collaborated with international partners to monitor the Arctic’s environmental changes. In 1997, China joined the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC), a nongovernmental organisation that aims to facilitate multidisciplinary research on the Arctic region and its role in the earth system. At the 2005 Arctic Science Summit Week, held at Kunming, in China’s south-western Yunnan Province, China was also invited to join the Ny-Ålesund Science Managers Committee, which was established in 1994 to enhance cooperation among the research centres at Ny-Ålesund.

China has several Arctic-focused research institutions of its own. The primary ones are: the Shanghai-based Polar Research Institute of China (PRIC), which is in charge of polar expeditions on Xue Long and conducts comprehensive studies of the polar regions; the China Institute for Marine Affairs, the research department within the State Oceanic Administration (SOA) in Beijing, which concentrates on international maritime law and China’s ocean-development strategy; and the Institute of Oceanology, a multidisciplinary marine science research and development institute within the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Other organisations conducting Arctic-related research include: the Ocean University of China, Dalian Maritime University, Xiamen University, Tongji University, the Chinese Antarctic Centre of Surveying and Mapping and the Research Centre for Marine Developments of China.

Although there is no Chinese institution devoted specifically to research on Arctic politics, there are a handful of individuals who have published articles and book chapters that focus on Arctic strategies and geopolitics. Since the mid-2000s, Chinese researchers and officials have expanded their participation in international seminars focusing on commercial, legal and geopolitical Arctic issues.

In a major step to enhance China’s understanding of the political, legal and military dimensions of the Arctic, in September 2007 the Chinese government launched a project entitled Arctic Issues Research, which involved scholars and officials from around China and included such research topics as “Arctic resources and their exploitation”, “Arctic scientific research”, “Arctic transportation”, “Arctic law” and “military factors in the Arctic”. The research project, organised by the CAA, was completed by 2009, but the reports were not made public.


Linda Jakobson is the director of the
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) China and Global Security Programme.

Original article here

Norway to halve Lofoten oil/gas resource view (NRK)

April 17, 2010

OSLO, April 16 (Reuters) – The Norwegian government has slashed the resource estimate for the Lofoten and Vesteraalen region to some 1.2 billion barrels of oil equivalent, nearly half of their estimate a year ago, broadcaster NRK said on Friday.

Energy

The government is due to hold a news conference on the expected oil and gas deposits to be found in the Lofoten region in the Arctic later on Friday.

The pristine archipelago remains closed to oil activities but Norway’s powerful oil industry, led by national champion Statoil (STL.OL), has said it needs access to the region to continue the North Sea state’s oil boom.

Environmentalists argue that keeping the Lofotens free from drilling is the only way to avoid accidents that may irreparably damage its eco-system, rich fishing waters and image as one of Europe’s last tourist destinations unspoiled by modern industry.

Norway is the world’s No. 5 oil exporter and No. 3 in natural gas, but its oil output peaked in 2001 and has been declining faster than expected as North Sea fields mature. (Reporting by Wojciech Moskwa and Camilla Bergsli; Editing by Kim Coghill)

Original article here