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Polar Geopolitics?

Polar Geopolitics?

Knowledges, Resources and Legal Regimes

Edited by Richard C. Powell and Klaus Dodds

The polar regions (the Arctic and Antarctic) have enjoyed widespread public attention in recent years, as issues of conservation, sustainability, resource speculation and geopolitical manoeuvring have all garnered considerable international media interest. This critical collection of new and original papers – the first of its kind – offers a comprehensive exploration of these and other topics, consolidating the emergent field of polar geopolitics.

Chapter 5: Adapting governance and regulation of the marine Arctic

Erik J. Molenaar

Subjects: environment, environmental law, law - academic, environmental law, politics and public policy, international politics, international relations


The Arctic is currently undergoing change at a pace many would not have considered possible just a decade or so ago. It is therefore reasonable to argue that while the international law and policy regime for the governance and regulation of the marine Arctic may have been adequate for an ice-dominated environment that allows very little human activity for most of the year, once the marine Arctic becomes increasingly similar to regional seas in other parts of the world for ever longer parts of the year, the adequacy of the old regime can no longer be assumed. The need for adapting the international regime for the governance and regulation of the marine Arctic to the rapidly changing reality is not really questioned; not even by the Arctic Ocean coastal states. Views diverge, however, on the most suitable pathway for adaptation and its final outcomes. This is at least in part caused by diverging views on the future of the Arctic. While some have advocated more ambitious future change (for example a new overarching Arctic treaty), the Arctic Council argues for incremental change by means of developing the so-called ëArctic Council Systemí (ACS). These forward-looking issues are examined in this chapter. After outlining broad support for the need for change in Arctic marine governance and regulation, the chapter discusses evidence that adaptation of governance and regulatory mechanisms is actually already underway.

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